Thursday, March 9, 2017

Finding Fun

My daughter is getting better and more confidant in her riding by leaps and bounds. She's almost 9, and finally physically ready to tackle the finer points of horsemanship. I teach her what I can, but I'm not really good with beginners. She also expressed an interest in jumping, a skill I never learned, so I decided to haul her over to a friend so she could learn to jump.

My friend has an army of school ponies at her Hunter training barn, all of them veterans of teaching squealing little girls the finer arts of patience, stubbornness, and pulling a pony's head up out of the grass. It was an eye opening experience for my daughter. Up to this point in her life, she had only ever ridden my trained dressage horses and her pony that I train for her twice a week. She had never experienced the humiliation of coasting aimlessly around an arena on a been-there-done-that lesson pony who is not interested in your subtle dressage cues. Not gonna lie, I may have laughed at her. But, it was totally in an understanding way.... hey, I've been there!

After a few lessons she got the hang of it, and is starting to learn how to convince a disinterested lesson pony to pay attention. It's a "must-have" experience for anyone who wants to learn to ride and train horses well.

I was talking to my own trainer about it, and sharing a laugh about mutual experiences getting drug off into the weeds by surly lesson ponies, when he made a very good point. "You just have to make sure it's fun. Don't worry about the frame and the position right now, that will come with experience. She has to have fun."

One of the things I struggle with the most in teaching her myself is that I don't really know what 9 year olds are capable of in terms of horsemanship. I look at the pony and think, "Dammit, the reins are too long and he's not on the bit. She's got her hands all over the place and he's moving at half the speed of snails. Gotta fix that." Then I tell her to fix it and it devolves into a shouting match between us and nobody is having fun anymore.

Watching my friend teach her, I realize that much of what I expect from her she just isn't capable of yet. It will come with time and experience. And the only way for her to gain experience is for me to step back and let her have it. So for now, I sit on the mounting block outside the arena and let her meander and figure things out for herself. When she has a question, she asks it. Nobody yells, everybody has fun.

My eyelid only twitches a little when his head is in the air.


  1. Been there with the ponies haha! This is sort of why I don't really want to teach my husband to ride... I don't think it'd be fun for either of us.

  2. It's hard with kids- especially your own. Think of her like a 3 yr old horse :)

  3. Aw it sounds like she's on track to be a wonderful horsewoman !!

  4. My parents were not horsey (thank cod) but so many horsey parents make horses this unfun fight with their kids and then the kids hate it. Good on you for taking a step back and letting her ride those silly lesson ponies.


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