Friday, October 21, 2011


Here is a practical note for everyone involved in trying to teach kids to ride. The biggest problem that kids face in learning to ride is fear. Unfortunately modern society and the modern parenting model does nothing to help a kid overcome fear and instead encourages kids, especially boys, to admit fear and give in quickly. I suspect that one day we will find that this is one of the major causes of our epidemic of anxiety disorder among young adults.

Success trumps fear. However, if a kid only rides weekly it takes a long time to ring up enough successful, safe rides to over come that fear. I am in the early stage of a new scheduling system for young riders that is really encouraging so far.

I am working on a new model in which the kids ride as often as possible for a three week period so that the skill and confidence needed to become a safe rider falls into place in a month instead of nearly a year. So far I am seeing dramatic increases in skill level by riding several times a week. I am only in the first week of this experiment and if it continues to pan out I will use it for all new students.

The simple reality is that riding is very easy to learn. Heels lower than toes, toes in front of knees, sitting on your pockets, arms relaxed and not bent, back slouching and sagging, eyes focused on where you want to go, not where you are afraid that you will end up, escalate pressure until the horse responds then immediately release pressure, never pull both reins at the same time, "whoa" is produced by exhaling and gently pulling the left rein toward the left knee.

Visualize the perfect outline of a rider--an exhausted, chain smoking, alcoholic, old cowboy with tuberculosis is the outline that your horse prefers. Sitting up straight and rigid is for horse shows. Riding like we do is how horse show riders would look if the horses wrote the rules.

It is that simple--but nothing can be achieved while the kid is locked in terror. I may be on a path that unlocks the door for modern kids.

The methods used to motivate boys when I was little seem a bit out of place now. I cannot just say, "Shut up whining. If you think this is bad wait until you get bigger and the Viet Cong are pumping bullets at you."

(Raising boys was much simpler in the days before Phil Donahue and soccer).


Vicki said...

I was wondering what on earth you could possibly say about this picture of Annie. Ping! You hit it right on the head. More riding (not less) equals more confidence in riding. I keep saying that I am going to ride. Truth is that I haven't been in the saddle really since last year at this time, and I was getting confidence from doing it daily. Why did I stop? I don't know. I'm hoping to get going again in a few weeks, but this picture just gives me a little push to get on with it.

Steve Edwards said...

Well get back in that saddle. I hear that the Viet Cong have been sighted up around Goochland

Vicki said...

I've got Annie loading on the trailer now (once again) as well as Nellie. Dennis & I might just have to surprise you and come on a trail ride. That is....if the Viet Cong start closing in. At least we know where to go! :-)

Anonymous said...

The ponies were out in the pasture by the barn when I was on the campus @ Boys' Home today....looking good!