Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Teaching children to ride, riding schools, the book about hooves, the ESMA video and Upecss

I never thought I would say this but I've started to really enjoy teaching kids and teenagers to ride! If I had to chose I would still go for adults but I'm enjoying educating my little riders way more than I used to. When I say teaching children I mostly mean teaching them in a riding school environment. Freelancing at riding schools is my "safety belt". Horse owners are a great part of industry to be involved with but horses go lame, riders can't be bothered riding through the winter, or when it rains, or when they have a headache - you get the picture ;) And the bills have to be paid, sun no sun.
Riding schools are always there and as I've been teaching in most of "my" centres since 2007 I have a lovely group of very regular clients at all the places. Another thing about teaching at riding schools is that 'feel-good' factor when you know you can introduce more people into a lifetime hobby, sometimes passion and sport. There are of course many down sides but you can't argue with the fact than many London riders simply can't have horses and riding schools are their only option.

Children and teenagers make up about 60% of my riding schools teaching. Some I've been teaching since they were 6 or 7 years old and four years on they are still riding with me. Some come and go. Some I've only got to know recently. This varied bunch have one thing in common - they love the ponies and/or they want to be good riders.




The more I learn about how they learn to ride or learn the movement/skill (and I really think you get better only by observing a large number of different children, their particular problems, fears, balance issues and the way they develop coordination) the more patient I become. Several years ago I found it frustrating when they couldn't sit without bashing poor ponies in the back. Now, I have my own system of teaching them which is both fun and educational and as it works it makes both of us happy whilst the pony remains in its comfort zone. I learnt that it's possible to teach kids the seat aids and  correct rein aids even on some unruly/insufficiently schooled ponies.
Kids have the best stories to tell too and as they seem to like to chat with me I get to hear rather interesting things ;) They are also much more tune in into the ponies than adults are which makes teaching them about horse behaviour a really good fun.
The only time when I don't enjoy it now is when I have to teach little kids on unsuitable horses or large ponies.  To keep them safe they have to learn to be strong and fairly rough and I hate teaching this sort of riding.

The hoof book. I received the Feet First book last night (Thank you Nic!!) and I'm already well into it. I think it should be included on every BHS career student compulsory reading list and be on every horse owner bookshelf. Seriously. It's written in a very reader friendly way and is a great hoof care manual.
I've also heard that the Polish publisher went with my title suggestion for the Polish edition of the book :))
The especially intriguing parts I've read so far are the quotations from Farriery books and manuals which advise the farriers about the ill effect the shoes have on horses' feet. The Foreword to the book is also written by Mark Johnson Dip WCF, a Registered UK Farrier who says "[...] I would wish, that for the sake of equine welfare, barefoot movement continues to grow and takes its rightful place as one of the prime educators for domestic horse-keeping throughout the world [...], that my profession of farriery will move forward to embrace the information , which so generously available and so beneficial to the horse which we serve, as part of its training." Throughly recommend the read to anybody interested in horse husbandry, care  and management.

The Equestrian Social Media Awards. OK, I received an update email from ESMA that they send to all finalists (Aspire Equestrian being one of them in Cat 13).
Look what we have to do:

"As you may be aware, we'll be announcing the winners in a video
ceremony. To add to the sense of occasion please send us a couple of
videos - each no more than one minute in length. An acceptance speech
in case you win, and a general message of support to all participants
in case you don't. You can be as imaginative as you like, thanking
Mark Zuckerberg, your first pony, or even your granny - for making
this all possible - anything you like... surprise us! Make sure you
introduce yourself and your business at the start of each clip."

Now, this is almost a punishment to me! I don't mind being filmed ridden so I can improve my riding but I am not a big fan of being videoed otherwise.
Pauline and I spent an absolutely hilarious hour coming up with the footage for this video and neither of our ideas is suitable to be printed on this blog ;)
We also managed to conduct the most unproductive lesson ever as I was almost on the floor with laughter seeing her riding a new horse. This gelding is something we should charge more for people to ride and have a once-in-a-lifetime experience. He rides as if his breeders experimented with genus Camelus,Giraffa camelopardalis and possibly as if his early schooling was conducted with him wearing this piece of training aid.

I call him Upecss which stands for Unique Personal Extensive Core Stability Shock. If you think you have a strong core and want to test yourself - drop me an email ;)
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