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5 year old afraid to ride

I have been searching your site. I have not found anything close to what I am about to ask. I hope you can help. My daughter is 5 years old. She has been riding/showing since she was 3. She has been doing leadline, and riding by herself at home. Last July, she took her first big fall, and has been scared ever since.

I couldn't help her without frustrating her, the horse, and myself. So I decided to get her riding lessons from someone other than myself. She was doing well in her lessons, but now has back tracked to being scared and not wanting to ride by herself. It is to the point she wants to quit riding, but not sell her pony. I don't know what to do. I am afraid if we let her quit on this note, she will be scared the rest of her life. Please let me know what you think.

Thank you, Brooke

Hi Brooke,

Riding lessons at three is fairly young. I have taught children down to four. Problem is, as you are experiencing, at that young age it is easy to get traumatized. You probably have a lot of knowledge about humans riding horses. Do you know much about the horse itself? How about allowing her some lessons in 'horse' as opposed to humans riding horses for a little while. There is a difference. You know, there is a world of horses that is never taught because it is always about riding lessons. I'll bet your daughter doesn't have a clue about the real nature of horses. She does not understand how to ask for and receive movement from the horse on the ground where she is leading the dance. I have done introductory programs to horses for children as young as 4 and they have received riding as the icing on the cake of a great 'RELATIONSHIP' first with their horses. The riding should be the last thing that gets taught and not the first. The first thing should be information about the horse itself and how to successfully and appropriately communicate and interact with the animal on the ground. Knowledge of it's psychology, language, specific tendencies being a prey animal and what that means, it's proclivity to fear and what causes it, how to help a horse overcome its fear and how to become a great leader for a horse, leading it to trust and feelings of safety. How to keep yourself safe around horses. Basic techniques for fending off a horse. I have taught 4 year old children how to appropriately ask for specific/ precise movement from a horse on the ground, get it, reward the horse for compliance and set up a winning cycle of interaction between that child and their horse which created a bond of trust between the species that was so much stronger than anything they had had while merely riding on the horse's back and taking a jump or two. They were able to take all sorts of falls and knocks and never got so traumatized that it caused them to even consider giving it up. That's how much they were into their horses. This is because they had some real knowledge of the horse itself and through that knowledge had gained an affinity for the animal that came from their knowledge. Something it seems your child has never been exposed to.

Let your child learn she can be the great leader for her horse and really exchange information and communicate successfully with it. That she is strong enough and big enough to lunge the animal over a low jump. That she can load and unload the horse and ask for side passes and two steps forward and two steps back, cha-cha-cha. That she can actually ground drive her horse through a simple course of twists and turns. If you do this your child will regain her confidence with horses, her desire to be with them and eventually want to ride again. But she needs more than you as her riding instructor, or another instructor, will ever think to give her ( because of lack of knowledge or lack of belief in the benefits of the knowledge, or has such a narrow agenda that its all about riding). At this juncture, your daughter needs to learn about HORSES much more than she needs to learn how to ride them. This is what will give her confidence, skill, trust, courage to try yet again and more. Can you see the common sense and logic in this? Your problem is so common and has such a simple solution actually. I actually have written on this topic a lot. Its called gaining the trust of a horse and overcoming fears. Do this, get her education and knowledge about horses and you will thank me forever. Allow your daughter to enter the real world of horses and then let her come to riding them. Its called putting the horse before the cart.

Sincerest regards, Franklin

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