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Old 09-21-2010, 12:06 PM
 
175 posts, read 654,600 times
Reputation: 319

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Hello parents,

First off, I am not a parent. I teach horseback riding lessons and would like some advice.

I will not teach children under the age of 5. Children that young do not have the attention span or the physical strength to control a horse by themselves. A pony ride where I am leading the horse is different. The child only has to sit there, and even then you wouldn't believe how many want to jump off when they are done or scream and yell because they are scared. I will not put a child on a horse that is screaming, but their own parents will-how do you explain to people that they are totally disregarding their childs safety by doing this? Keep in mind I have to do this quickly while leading/holding a horse and a parent shoving their screaming child on top.

I would like to note I use very suitable horses that are not bothered by childrens behavior, but anything could happen and I'm worried that if I pi** parents off, they are just going to find another place who may not have the exceptionally well behaved horses that I have.

Also, many times parents fib about how old there kids are, so I will teach them. How do I explain to people horses are not toys, or cars, or stuffed animals. They are 1000lb animals with a mind of their own and if your child throws a tantrum kicking and screaming, they are telling the horse (with cues he is trained to listen to) to run! Now granted, these are usually parents who wanted to ride when they were young but now their child has no interest in it. As someone without children I do not want to bash someone elses parenting skills, but if the kid doesn't want to do it then it can be dangerous especially if your child doesn't listen to me.

Please don't get me wrong, some kids love horses (I did-and now its my career) and will do anything to be around them and those kids are a joy to teach. My main problem is how do you tell a parent they are pushing their child to do something they have no interest in?

Last edited by lmabernathy; 09-21-2010 at 12:20 PM..
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Old 09-21-2010, 12:15 PM
 
Location: Silver Springs, FL
23,440 posts, read 30,636,463 times
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Just be up-front and honest about it.
Remember, you are the one in control here, you can always say no.
I grew up on the back of a horse, so I have seen what you have described many, many times.
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Old 09-21-2010, 12:18 PM
 
556 posts, read 672,457 times
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Probably in a very simple way. Something like "I'm sorry, but horseback riding doesn't seem to be working out for little Sally. Here's a refund for the remainder of lessons you paid for" OR "Sally doesn't seem to be ready for these lessons, for her own safety I think we should discontinue her lessons until she is ~insert age~. Here is a refund for the remaining classes you've paid for".
OR "Yo, your kid's an A-hole, don't bring her back. Buh-Bye" lol!
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Old 09-21-2010, 12:27 PM
 
Location: Nova
486 posts, read 1,456,996 times
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I have seen this in other activities/sports... It's tricky because you are trying to keep your reputation and business going as an instructor, plus you have juggle parents who clearly have an agenda for their kids. And you have to keep the kid's best safety and interest in mind. You might want to send around an email for "Riding Safety" to the parents or send it home as a flyer in which you point out the "dos and don'ts" for young children. Also, as an instructor for riding, you NEED liability insurance. Not sure if you are required to have it or have it anyway, but you need it.

A lot of places around here won't take kids to teach until they're 8 years old. Maybe you should consider raising the age since, to some degree, 5 year olds learning a new sport (horseback riding) might be scared and throw a fit at first. They're only 5. Maybe they're genuinely too young for classes.
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Old 09-21-2010, 12:34 PM
 
14,777 posts, read 34,525,274 times
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Might I suggest a slightly different tact than what others have offered. Given that you are dealing with horses and liability, would it be so bad to introduce an "introductory period". All new pupils would be placed on a 30, 60 or 90 day review (or a certain number of lessons). At the end of the review period it would be at your discretion whether or not the child could continue.

I think it's easy/direct enough to explain to a parent that injuries are a real possibility and if the child isn't quite ready yet, then they should hold off on lessons for a little while. Let everyone go into it knowing that it might not be the right time. Give the kid a chance and give yourself an out. If the kid isn't ready then, maybe allow them to come back after 6 months or a year and try again.

You could discount the introductory program so the parents think they are getting a deal and you could screen out the kids who don't get it. You may even attract more people with a lower intro rate.
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Old 09-21-2010, 12:56 PM
 
43,012 posts, read 89,033,856 times
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At the very first moment the parents inquire about having their child take horseback riding lessons, etc, I'd make it very clear that there is an AGE range and a MATURITY range requirement.

I like NJGOAT's idea of charging for a preliminary evaluation, but I wouldn't call it an "introductory program" because that implies all children can move forward.

I'd call it an "assessment period" instead. I'd make it very clear that only children who pass the "assessment period" are accepted.
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Old 09-21-2010, 01:37 PM
 
Location: maryland
3,967 posts, read 5,676,821 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lmabernathy View Post
Hello parents,

First off, I am not a parent. I teach horseback riding lessons and would like some advice.

I will not teach children under the age of 5. Children that young do not have the attention span or the physical strength to control a horse by themselves. A pony ride where I am leading the horse is different. The child only has to sit there, and even then you wouldn't believe how many want to jump off when they are done or scream and yell because they are scared. I will not put a child on a horse that is screaming, but their own parents will-how do you explain to people that they are totally disregarding their childs safety by doing this? Keep in mind I have to do this quickly while leading/holding a horse and a parent shoving their screaming child on top.

I would like to note I use very suitable horses that are not bothered by childrens behavior, but anything could happen and I'm worried that if I pi** parents off, they are just going to find another place who may not have the exceptionally well behaved horses that I have.

Also, many times parents fib about how old there kids are, so I will teach them. How do I explain to people horses are not toys, or cars, or stuffed animals. They are 1000lb animals with a mind of their own and if your child throws a tantrum kicking and screaming, they are telling the horse (with cues he is trained to listen to) to run! Now granted, these are usually parents who wanted to ride when they were young but now their child has no interest in it. As someone without children I do not want to bash someone elses parenting skills, but if the kid doesn't want to do it then it can be dangerous especially if your child doesn't listen to me.

Please don't get me wrong, some kids love horses (I did-and now its my career) and will do anything to be around them and those kids are a joy to teach. My main problem is how do you tell a parent they are pushing their child to do something they have no interest in?

Tell them for liability purposes you don't allow kids on who can't stay on or are making a fuss. Tell the parents that can spook the horses...so make sure johnny of jane wants to ride them.
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Old 09-21-2010, 01:53 PM
 
4,502 posts, read 11,665,930 times
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You can hold an "interview" with the parent(s) and child before signing up for any lessons or rides. In the interview, you can ask the parents what they are looking for in the lessons and you can ask the child what they expect out of the lessons and why they want to join. That alone will give you insight as to why the parent is signing the child up. At that time, you can also explain the safety issues, etc and, if you're "iffy" about it, you can say "okay, we'll do 4 weeks to see how it works out. If it's not working out, maybe you can bring ______ back when he/she's _____"

Equestrian is an extremely expensive sport. I looked into it when my daughter was younger and I couldn't believe the prices. Thankfully, she didn't have all that much interest in it and finally came to the conclusion that it's "not nice to make a horse have to carry people around". (HER opinion, not mine --- I explained to her that horses are beasts of burden and they were put on earth to help people)

Anyway......

I agree that 5 is too young unless the child is a "mature" 5 and is really into horseback riding. I think if a child is signed up for lessons and it's not working out, you can simply tell the parent "this sport may not be what is best suited for ___________. Have you thought about _______, _______, or _________? He/she may have a talent for that". or "______________" doesn't show much interest in horseback riding. Are there any other sports he/she is interested in?"

On the other hand, if the child really seems to love it but just isn't doing well, I would still work with the child and continue giving him/her tips and pointers, etc so he/she can improve.

You have to be very careful in how you word things. Most parents are very sensitive when it comes to their kids.
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Old 09-21-2010, 01:56 PM
 
2,159 posts, read 3,736,729 times
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I would definitely be up front with the parents as well. Horses are very powerful animals and they don't even need to hear a child scream (which you already know I am sure) but they can sense their feelings a few feet away. If a child is scared, the horse will sense that- even if they are well mannered horses. The well mannered horse will becoming even more gentle to try to calm the little brats...er, screaming kid or scared kid, but if the kid gets more scared and kicks or does something to spook the horse, it can be very dangerous.

You need to make parents aware of the dangers of what a 1K horse can do when/if they kick, bite of step on a child. Not to the point where you are scaring the parents, but they need to get their heads out of the clouds and realize these are strong animals and not some little toy.

Do you have the parents sign off on parental forms? A liability release form?

NJGoat gave a great suggestion- an introductory period but with Hopes idea of calling it an assessment period/evaluation, where you could state that after that X amount of days or lessons you could then hold a review session with parent and offer feedback where you then would decide if the lessons would continue of not.

Best of luck- you are so lucky to have a made a career out of working with horse- I wish you success
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Old 09-21-2010, 02:04 PM
 
2,514 posts, read 5,177,365 times
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My daughter rides and there are many younger children who also take lessons. I know firsthand the instructor puts the horse's needs first. Before lessons even begin, an application is filled out where proof of age can be obtained. All it would take is one time for my daughter's instructor to have a parent force a screaming child onto one of her horses for her to stop the lesson. What's the parent doing being w/ the child in the lesson anyway? If the child is so young he/she needs a sidewalker, it should not be the parent.

Don't worry about upsetting the parents. They'll be the first one coming after you w/ a lawsuit if their child is injured.
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