Sunday, December 20, 2009

Its a Damn Shame

I work with school horses that are more than obliging when it comes to slowing down. They may not be refined and athletic movers, but they're more than happy to walk and stop when asked... until now. I noticed this issue when some of the best school horses wouldn't halt at X when my students were preparing for a dressage show. It got to the point where I had to tell my student K to start thinking about the halt at A, when she entered the arena. Yeah, it's that bad. They still missed X at the show, and I could not figure out why. At home, several other horses have been plowing through the bit, taking half the arena, sometimes more, to stop. From a walk, mind you.

I took over the Wednesday night lessons because B* is pregnant. On Wednesday, I spent a lot of time getting to know what my new students know, where the holes are, what their goals are, etc. That night, one of my students demonstrated her "emergency stop."

"You mean 'emergency dismount', right?"

"No. The emergency STOP."

"Okay, show me this emergency stop."

My new student trotted a few steps, viciously ripped the reins back over her thighs and stood up in her stirrups. The horse, an old veteran named Tilly, gaped her mouth open and continued walking through the rider's heavy hand.

Sigh. I have discovered the reason why the schoolies are not stopping, and I'm once again appalled by the piss-poor riding instruction that is allowed at the barn. I hope B never comes back!

Needless to say, my new students took turns on the lounge line riding without reins. When not on the line, they were told to practice the following: SIT down in your saddle, EXHALE, light REIN pressure. I also had to re-teach how to turn because I can't stand it when riders haphazardly rip their horses heads away: LOOK, LEG, light HAND.

These kids are cantering. B allowed them to jump 18" and barrel race at what they called "full speed." (For me, "full speed" is sixteen seconds, and I doubt that any schoolie can pull that off, plus the kids have no clue what a lead is or how to change it.) What that reall means is, B told them to go as fast as they could, which usually ends up being a painful extended trot that is heavy on the forehead and poorly-balanced.

I don't blame the kids. I blame B and I blame my boss for hiring her on her sunny personality alone without testing her equine background. Someone whose claim to fame is showing 4H in high school is not riding instructor quality! I'm ARIA certified with a degree in equine studies and I take joy in riding some of the rankest, most misunderstood and aerodynamic horses in the barn, but I consider myself to be a beginner instructor. I'm not dissing 4H either; its a great program and I was once a member myself, but I would hope that an instructor would ride at a level that is higher than her students.

I do feel bad for my students though. They're going to have to re-learn everything from lesson one. That means no cantering for a while, and now that they've learned it they don't want to do anything else. However, with their riding as shaky as it is, I feel that I must put them through the basics before they can go on. The rider that deomonstrated her "emergency stop" has been B's student for eighteen months! That's a lot of time and money wasted. Its a damn shame.


  1. There are a lot of really useless and many less than useless (harmful) riding instructors out there. Good luck with that batch - perhaps you can teach them to think about the horse, too!

  2. I feel your anger...there are so many unqualified instructors that bring up a whole bunch of unqualified young riders and ruin horses in the process...barn owners need to be really discriminatory when choosing instructors...

  3. It is so depressing to me that people don't take the thoughts and feelings of the horses into account. Of course riders need to learn the pulley rein - sometimes horses really do take off bucking - but they don't need to be practicing it on a poor innocent schoolie!

    If anyone can take those kids and teach them some empathy for their horses, though, it's you. I'm glad you got the opportunity to put right the wrongs!