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  1. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by stoneymeadow View Post
    I would advise the same thing but with both parents involved. We set it up in a private setting where no one else from the barn was involved, knew about it or could interject themselves. I asked her to lunch at a small place. you might ask the parents if you could do it at their home.
    ...
    but I told her we had to go beyond that and set a plan for the next time she felt so much anger that she would repeatedly hit her horse. We talked through situations and appropriate responses. We talked through how not to let her temper escalate. We talked through that there were just some times she needed to just not even ride. Just hand graze and enjoy her horse. I then told her we were going to put it in a contract that we both would sign.....a contract committed to her horse. We wrote up a contract a few days later and both signed it.
    I dunno ... this sounds pretty carefully thought out and expertly crafted to me. If you were able to help her see that there were alternatives to lashing out and give her some options ... and help support an environment in which she quickly took an option rather than her default behavior, you can be my therapist any time.

    Really, it's one thing to intellectually "know" she's not doing the right thing and quite another to change that behavior. Especially if she's ashamed of it.

    I've known a number of adult riders that were inappropriately hard on their horses. I always thought that it was a reflection of how they treated themselves inside. Being a younger person at the time, I kept my opinions to myself and my horse on the other side of the arena ... but should I have a chance to help now, I sure would.

    Best wishes that the situation has a good outcome.
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  2. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by WhiteCamry View Post
    Get these violent outbursts on video; then she can see for herself what she looks like when you show them to her.
    As a former angry teen, this was exactly what I was going to suggest.


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  3. #23
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    Please describe what you are calling abuse so we all have the same point of reference. The response should match the transgression and we do not really know what that is.
    "Relinquish your whip!!"



  4. #24
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    This has been going on for 8 months and the OP has yet to talk to the parents ??

    After the second or third incident, there should have been a Come to Jesus meeting.
    -Amor vincit omnia-


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  5. #25
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    I think you've gotten some excellent advice here. Regardless, she has to stop the behavior, that is the first order of business. Sometimes it is hard for a child or teenager, or adult, for that matter to realize when they are becoming angry or frustrated. They suppress it and shove it into the background and continue to increase that pressure until they suddenly are overwhelmed and "lose it".

    If she has powerful motivations to recognize when she is becoming angry before she gets too angry, that will help a lot. Consistent consequences as others have suggested should help with that. It's like any kind of training - the negatives must NEVER be missed, the positives are a little more flexible.

    For example, if your dog messes in the house you must catch it every time, but, if your dog goes to the bathroom outside in the appropriate place the positive reinforcement can be a little less strict. I believe intermittent positive reinforcement can be even more powerful in certain training situations.

    So, the poster who said to make sure she is always supervised is right on. You can't miss a single one of her outbursts. I think it would be good to set up a system of strict consequences, combined with positive rewards for working through difficult and trying situations without losing her patience. Other poster's suggestions have been great. If you catch her mishandling her horse, she can agree to get off immediately and clean ten stalls or something along those lines.

    Then, make sure you catch her and praise her when you see her keeping her patience when you know it's difficult. Think of certain exercises that she can do in front of you that require persistence and patience, then increase the length of time she must persist in order to attain her goal. Trying to put a horse on the bit under your trainer's supervision is a good one - although, if her horse is a gem it might be too easy. Maybe a younger horse for her to practice on. Anyway, make it all about patience, persitence, and recognizing when she is frustrated early before it all becomes too much.

    I think it's best to address that immediately. But also, I agree that there has got to be something else going on in her life. I agree with other smart people's opinions that she doesn't sound like a brat or a bully. Based on personal experience, there is something else going on.

    When I was a child, I started to realize I had a problem being patient with my dogs. I found myself one day wanting to hit my dog, and I actually did hit her. I was filled with horror afterwards, and vowed never to do it again, and I didn't. My dog training improved so much I couldn't believe it when I became focused on patience above all.

    Later, as a young adult, I realized I was having trouble with just being angry in general. I never abused a horse or pet, yet I had trouble with people. I didn't "suffer fools gladly", and it was unlike me. Instead of handling things calmly, I had started yelling at people (which really doesn't do any good, they don't hear you anyway).

    Much later, as an adult, I realized that the reason I had the problem with my dog was that I was bullied very badly by my older brothers. One of my brothers in particular would terrorize me especially when my parents weren't home. He would still do it when they were home but busy with other things and they wouldn't stand up for me. It wasn't the healthiest family.

    The reason I started having problems as an adult was that I had a stalker. I could not get rid of this person. Every time I told him to go away, there he was. In fact, he had a thing for showing up at the stable especially when I had told him, again, to leave me alone.

    He was someone I had gone out with, and realized he was violent and told him I never wanted to see him again. Not a chance. It went all the way to being about as bad as it can get, absolutely terrifying. In retrospect, I was severely affected by Post Traumatic Stress. I did visit a psychologist who helped me with it. But, the point here is that the issues were not easily solved, by anyone, and were ongoing and very severe. It spilled over into everything. So I'm with others who believe this girl has some serious issues going on in her life that probably are not easily solved.


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  6. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by rabicon View Post
    Stick with her. I would tell her exactly how she looks in these episodes. I would let her know that it looks very childish and she is going to ruin her horse if she keeps it up. I have seen this happening a few times to the point that one horse was almost unrideable. You are an adult that maybe she will confide in. Most teenagers don't want to talk about things with their parents. Maybe tell her how this makes her look and ask her if she is having issues elsewhere that has put a lot of stress on her. Maybe she will open up to you. You don't have to be a shrink but a supportive adult that maybe she can come to and you can help her along. I'm more of the honest truth type of person and I'm not one that will baby much because life is hard and not always fair and I believe kids should learn this as they grow and not be babied their whole life. Sometimes the hard truth can make someone open their eyes to what they are doing and ow they look. I would wait until she has an episode with the horse and stop it. No matter how loud you may have to get for her to hear you. I'd immediately tell her this is not going to happen in my barn and to stop her childish behavior now.
    This^^
    Start by speaking to the teen before a lesson. Explain what will happen if she loses her temper, such as you will make her dismount and get away from the horse. Once she regains some composure, find out what made her angry. Was the horse not 'listening", then run thru the aids she was giving - make corrections and try it again. In short she loses her temper, she goes into time out. Once the temper is resolved, then the reason why can resolved, at least horse related. You will also be helping her to use those same tools in life outside of the barn.

    Set a goals and a time frame, maybe even write up an agreement between you two. If she doesn't improve in that time period, then include the parents to discuss the next step.

    Good luck and kudos to you for caring for both the kid and the horse.
    "Never do anything that you have to explain twice to the paramedics."
    Courtesy my cousin Tim


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  7. #27
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    Thanks for all the great advise.


    I would talk to her parents about psychiatric help, I'm betting there is something much deeper going on with her than what you can see to cause these issues.

    I feel this is probably true and I would like to suggest this to them, but I don't know how comfortable I am suggesting to parents that I think their kid needs therapy.

    I would protect the mare and call the sheriff.

    I don't think this is a solution – it would just alienate the parents and they would just move the horse, and then I would not be able to help. And there is nothing authorities could do the laws are not strict enough in my area to protect a horse from this type of abuse (it would need to be severely bloodied and/or damaged before the law would step in).


    I think making the daughter do some physical labor as a result of her actions

    Actually she would enjoy that so it would not make a very good punishment. She likes helping out at the barn – often she will clean stalls or tack for me while she waits for her parents, and she helps with painting jumps, putting up hay, grooming horses, etc. Like I said under normal circumstances she is a pretty good kid. The “please and thank-you” sort of kid. Which is why I agree with many who had responded that this is not a bad kid issue – but a kid with a problem.


    I have worked with lots of students who disciplined their horses too harshly or not harshly enough. Learning when to correct and when not to is just par for the course when teaching horsemanship. But in the past I have never had a student get angry with their horse (perhaps I have just been lucky). I teach to never correct an animal in anger. It is the anger I am at a loss with because I can't reason with that. Because the kid feels remorse I know that she “knows” better – she is a different person when she gets frustrated (I feel I can see her mentally check out when she gets angry).


    while anger can not be avoided

    This may be another reason why I am having a hard time relating to her because I can honestly say I do not remember a time in my life that I have ever been mad at an animal (lots of people yes – but never an animal) – I figure being mad at an animal for not doing what you want is about as productive as being mad at the sky for being blue. Perhaps I need to find someone who could relate to her problem more to help her.


    Typically those who call their horses crazy/stupid are call that themselves.

    Actually I her parents did tell me that she had had “some trouble” with other girls at her last barn and that she has some self esteem issues. I think she may have a bit of a learning problem when it comes to taking oral direction. She comes off as being a bit slow and spacy – but she is actually quite bright (she can memorize a jump pattern in just a couple of minutes and has excellent grades). But if you try to explain something verbally to her it just goes over her head. I believe the coach she had before me would loose patience with her a lot and was quite harsh with her (which is why they begged to come to my barn – even though I told them jumping is not my specialty). I have gotten into the practice of writing down the information we cover in lessons so that she can read the material. I discovered this trick after sending her an email explaining long and low to her and telling her that I wanted her to work on it with her horse while I was away. The next lesson I was surprised to find out she actually understood and retained the information – so I now send her articles to read all the time.


    What I really need is to know how to deal with her when she is angry – and you all have given me some good advice so far. I can teach her all I want about proper horse discipline but if it all goes out the window when she is in a rage it will do no good.


    I am NOT a disciplinarian – I am a person who avoids conflict at all costs – so this is a tough one for me. I live my life in my happy little bubble so I will freely admit that I am also just a bit put out that I have to deal with someone else's problems and, if not for the horse, I would probably just wash my hands of the whole mess (I am no saint and I don't pretend to be).


    Please describe what you are calling abuse
    Beating the horse in the face with reins (repeatedly for an extended time) while in its stall after a disappointing ride.

    This has been going on for 8 months and the OP has yet to talk to the parents ??

    Like I said before this is the first time I have caught her out right beat the horse. Up until now it has just been what I can best describe as “angry riding” - aggressive aids, jerking the reins very hard, etc. - not necessarily abuse – but something that will eventually sour the horse. I have spent eight months trying to get through to her – it just took this incident to open my eyes that I may be dealing with a bigger problem. And I definitely should have said something to the parents before now ... I will refer back to the part where I admit to avoiding conflict at all cost.


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  8. #28
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    Usually it isn't the kids that need the therapy, it is the parents. Yes, the kid is acting out, but why, and where have her parents been? Surely she doesn't just save all of her misplaced anger to vent on her horse?


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  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lauralyn View Post
    What I really need is to know how to deal with her when she is angry – and you all have given me some good advice so far. I can teach her all I want about proper horse discipline but if it all goes out the window when she is in a rage it will do no good...




    Beating the horse in the face with reins (repeatedly for an extended time) while in its stall after a disappointing ride.
    The last part is a problem. Anger in general is not, IMO. I'm with RAyers here. Everyone feels anger or frustration at some point. The trick is to know what to do with it. Also, I think we spend a lot of time trying to get people-- girls and women in particular-- to never convey anger. That's not possible and also no good for them.

    The key thing is to take the kid out of the situation when she's over the edge and in a blind rage. You guys can talk about what to do instead later. She needs to know that it's not a deep criticism of her that you do this; it's a matter of doing what you think is right, as the professional horse trainer, and giving her *a chance* to have a non-fried horse to come back to later.

    You say that you can't ever remember being angry at an animal yourself and also that you like to avoid conflict. That will make this bit of child-raising harder for you than for someone else. But are you sure you haven't ever felt anything like her frustration and been even slightly unfair to a horse? I don't think there are very many horsemen who can say that. Also, I'll bet that somewhere in the past, you *have* had a conflict with a horse that made you feel powerless or frustrated with the animal. But you learned to channel that into a positive resolution. The kid just hasn't learned to do that yet. She should and will be much happier after she does. As I said before, you'd be doing this kid a great favor if you taught her how to use anger in a positive way.
    The armchair saddler
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  10. #30
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    Oh, and beating a horse in the face with the reins could put the horse's eye out if the buckle accidently hits the eyeball.

    I bet she'll make a charming mother.


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  11. #31
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    I am a teacher in a high school for children with behavioral/pshyciatric issues. What Stonymeadow recommends to you is exactly what any counselor would have you do. It is the absolute perfect response to this situation in every way. Caring approach with a plan for behavior modification and very real consequences. I think I would take a 3 strikes and you're out approach myself, but I love everything from the caring approach, planning alternate behaviors and planning what to do if the kid's having a bad day...to the contract and accountability. Well done Stoneymeadow! If you're not a counselor...you should be


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  12. #32
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    Ok so I can't read through all the responses, some people I just so firmly disagree with that it bothers me.

    This kid does need help, and please remember she is just a kid. She knows what she is doing is wrong, probably even as she is doing it. But she likely doesn't know or understand what is happening and it scares her. You need to be firm and assertive if she is angry, but you can't just punish her as so many are suggesting, that will only initiate more anger and teach her that her anger is something to be hidden, that she should act when she won't be seen. Don't drive her underground like that.

    I'd sit her down with her parents and lay it all on the table. Tell her that you see violence in her and is scares you. Its unfair to the horse and you will not tolerate it under any circumstance. Tell the parents that you think there is more to it and recommend they consider options. Ask her how she feels about it. Does she know she's hurting the horse? Is she willing to admit she has a problem (yes its a cliche, but if it works for AA...). If she admits she has a problem then you can work with her. It sounds like she's ready to admit it since you said she is remorseful. Sitting with her parents, plan out a reaction strategy. If you and the parents react the same to her anger you will all move ahead faster.

    I recommend a full stop. If you, parents, or her feel/see the anger rising, fully stop anything. Get off the horse or walk away in the barn. Start talking. Ask her, what is making you angry? Just get her talking, get her crying, anything. What is making you feel this way? Control? Fear? Frustration? Step one has to be identifying and naming what it is. Then if she can name it, see it coming, look at it head on, she can start to talk coping mechanisms. Anger is like fear, you have to understand it if you want to conquer it. Until she starts to understand what she is feeling, then she can't deal with it.

    Someone said it already: the anger and abuse is a symptom. You need to address the root emotion or trama that is causing the symptom. You need the parents help, and I don't blame you for being intimidated by this. Good for you for trying your best.


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  13. #33
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    Did you describe that behavior to the parents yet? I'm unclear on that. Meaning, beating the horse in the face with the reins?

    I can tell you what I did once. There was a teenager, who had temper problems as you describe, who was being taught by another trainer at our stable. She rode western. Her trainer taught her to "bump" the horse in the mouth to get it to overbend. (I'm sure you get my meaning). She would get into a temper and jerk the horse in the mouth. It escalated.

    One night, she escalated to severely jerking the horse in the mouth with a spade bit because she was frustrated. So, even though she wasn't my student, I went over to her, took her horse by the reins and ordered her off the horse.

    When she dismounted, I took the horse, walked it a while, then untacked and put the horse in it's stall with one of my combination locks on it. I then wrote the combination on a note I slid under the stable office door with an explanation of the situation. She screamed, yelled, and threatened me but I would not relent.

    The next month, I was persona non grata at that stable due to gossip by the girl's "trainer". I went and tried to explain my actions to him only to be rudely rebuffed. (A few of my friends had been present at the incident and remained by my side).

    About a month later, I arrived at the stable about the same time in the evening to a huge ruckus. The horse ambulance was just leaving. I asked what was going on when the panic died down. Guess what? The girl had jerked the horse's tongue in half. It was hanging by a thread out of the side of the horse's mouth. They were rushing it to the best hospital in the county hoping it could be sewn back on.

    After about another month I received an abject apology from the "trainer".

    It was really a pyrrhic victory I wouldn't wish on anyone.

    I never saw the teenager again and I don't know what happened to her. The horse's tongue was sewn back on, but I don't know if he ever got feeling back in his tongue, could taste anything with it, or whether he could be ridden with a bit again. He disappeared also, I don't know where.

    I don't blame you for not wanting to get into it. It is a real sacrifice on your part to even try to deal with it; she has some serious problems. I just hope that she gets real help before something terrible happens. I've seen more than a few terrible things happen to horses by people with anger problems.


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  14. #34
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    Who would be liable if the mare decided to defend herself and the teen or someone else got hurt?



  15. #35
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    I would talk to the parents privately, and mention what you've seen and propose how you'd like to handle it, and ask for suggestions.

    With their blessing, I would have a one-on-one chat with the girl, and make it clear that you know she feels bad after, and so you'd like to help her in the moment when it's happening. Be sympathetic/empathetic and understanding, but hardline firm. That if she starts getting frustrated again, at all, she immediately drops the whip and she takes a few minutes break from the mare until she's calm again. The girl sounds like she cares about the horse, but is just overcome with frustration. Talk to her about how her frustration only makes the horse go less nicely, and exacerbates the problem. From now on, anytime the ride isn't going nicely and she feels herself getting frustrated, she either goes to a loose rein walk, or gets off, until she feels calm again. If she can't do that, she puts the horse away or hands the reins over to someone else immediately. Unless she agrees to those terms, she will. not. ride.

    The girl is young enough that her parents have final say on her moving barns or not, so if they're on board then either the kid plays ball with you and behaves, or she doesn't ride. I'd be careful not to approach too accusingly or angrily, as it will alienate her and make her defensive. You still have to be firm on the boundaries of what's acceptable, but compassionate to get her on your side.

    Also, find out specifically what things set her off (the horse not being forward, soft in the mouth, etc), and give her some very baseline exercises she can do after she's done a loose rein walk break, particularly exercises that can be done at the walk or from the ground.


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  16. #36
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    If you say she's not as good at processing verbally, get good video of her when she's riding nicely, and then some of her when she's angry. Let her compare. It might really help her see how her anger affects the horse, and how it makes her rides worse.


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  17. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Corky View Post
    Ok so I can't read through all the responses, some people I just so firmly disagree with that it bothers me.

    This kid does need help, and please remember she is just a kid. She knows what she is doing is wrong, probably even as she is doing it. But she likely doesn't know or understand what is happening and it scares her. You need to be firm and assertive if she is angry, but you can't just punish her as so many are suggesting, that will only initiate more anger and teach her that her anger is something to be hidden, that she should act when she won't be seen. Don't drive her underground like that.

    I'd sit her down with her parents and lay it all on the table. Tell her that you see violence in her and is scares you. Its unfair to the horse and you will not tolerate it under any circumstance. Tell the parents that you think there is more to it and recommend they consider options. Ask her how she feels about it. Does she know she's hurting the horse? Is she willing to admit she has a problem (yes its a cliche, but if it works for AA...). If she admits she has a problem then you can work with her. It sounds like she's ready to admit it since you said she is remorseful. Sitting with her parents, plan out a reaction strategy. If you and the parents react the same to her anger you will all move ahead faster.

    I recommend a full stop. If you, parents, or her feel/see the anger rising, fully stop anything. Get off the horse or walk away in the barn. Start talking. Ask her, what is making you angry? Just get her talking, get her crying, anything. What is making you feel this way? Control? Fear? Frustration? Step one has to be identifying and naming what it is. Then if she can name it, see it coming, look at it head on, she can start to talk coping mechanisms. Anger is like fear, you have to understand it if you want to conquer it. Until she starts to understand what she is feeling, then she can't deal with it.

    Someone said it already: the anger and abuse is a symptom. You need to address the root emotion or trama that is causing the symptom. You need the parents help, and I don't blame you for being intimidated by this. Good for you for trying your best.
    As a mother to a child with anger issues much of this is great ...usually the anger scares the kids -many describe it like a switch was flip and rage starts. Be careful with the asking questions it can backfire if your not quick and skilled in responces.These kids are very receptive to phony answers. Work with parents on this first they might already have therapy plan in progress and have advice for you. They recommend talking with kid after rage subsided.

    Zero tolerance for the animal becoming a punching bag. No drama just remove animal quietly. They should always be consistant consequences for outbursts that are physical. Again get parents input.

    If parent not involved or resistent and you want to stay committed to her many great books The Explosive Child , The Bi-polar Child or ask local school conselor for book recommendations.

    You have heart for not just reacting without forethought and I love your method of helping her learn with the written instructions.
    The industry needs more trainers like you.


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  18. #38
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    She needs consequences and firmness, but kindness. It sounds like few adults outside her family have taken the time/initiative to be "mentors," and you have obviously got through to her better than the previous trainer did.

    Agree with most of the above - sit down with her parents, lay out a plan. If she is a "barn kid" it sounds like the most effective consequences will be to remove her from the barn. If her parents cant pick her up right away, have them drop of her homework with her so instead of lessoning/riding when you catch her abusing her horse, she has to sit in the office or somewhere and do her homework.

    Set dates with her and her parents - if her behavior escalates, or does not improve by x date, riding/horse privileges gets taken away until problem has been addressed, whether by psychiatrist or whatever measures her parents set.

    Good luck. Since she is a minor, your next step really needs to be to talk to her parents.
    "Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tides" - Garth Brooks
    "With your permission, dear, I'll take my fences one at a time" - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey


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  19. #39
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    I am a parent of two children. What you describe is abnormal behavior and if that was my child I would want to know about it. Processing anger is for some difficult but what better time than when they are young to find a way to deal with it.

    My son use to become depressed when he had a bad hockey game, both Mr. Stolen and I had to work with him to accept his failures and learn from them. He would refuse to go to school and socialize. We worked with him for awhile and now he accepts not only his failures but the teams. There was a short time when I just thought he did not have the emotional skill set to be an athlete.

    Children need to learn how to accept failure. We all fail, and we all move on and learn. The animal element in competition makes for a challenge. Both my children love our animals and I would hate to have my child have the knowledge of hurting their partner during their frustration of competition. I think your student needs help, whether it is you, parents, or a therapist they need to learn this life skill. Children are always worth the effort, and I am sorry but as a parent I need help. I need to know of these events at the very least.

    I really hope things improve for you, the child and of course the lovely mare.


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  20. #40
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    My son use to become depressed when he had a bad hockey game, both Mr. Stolen and I had to work with him to accept his failures
    This is very true of this girl - I have never worked with a kid who takes failure as hard as she does. I have had to reassure her so many times that it is okay to make mistakes - I constantly remind all my students that we are not performing brain surgery - no one is going to die if they don't get the lead change, transition, collection, etc. I find a lot of kids are very conscious of failure - I don't know if this is this generation or not because I can only compare my students to myself at their age - and I fell off my horses every day (every day!) as a kid and I don't remember ever being embarrassed or worried about it. I think the only failure I was actually ever truly embarrassed by is when my horse ran over the judge - but even that we got a good laugh over.

    But this girl takes criticism very hard - always deflecting it to the horse - I feel like I am always treading softly when I give critique. No matter how much praise I give - one "needs improvement" critique and I loose her. I have talked with her many times about how there is always going to be critique in riding because you can always do better - it doesn't mean you are not already doing well. I have a running joke with the kids that if I asked them to turn straw to gold and they eventually figured it out I would then expect them to make jewelry out of it. ;-)


    I do not put any performance pressure on any of my students. Good sportsmanship is the cornerstone of my program. I place having fun and being respectful to your horse, coach, fellow competitors and themselves over their actual performance in the show ring. I expect them to try their best and if that results in a ribbon so be it. But I am far more proud of a student who excepts failure gracefully than one who wins, but is a poor sport. And I know the parents could care less how she does at shows so long as she is safe. So all the pressure the girl feels has to be coming from herself (or some other outside source).



    I do have every intention of talking with the parents - I was just needing some advise on how to handle it (which you have all done a wonderful job of providing).


    2 members found this post helpful.

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