Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Wreck in the Making


                                                by Laura Crum


           
            I ride several times a week with a group of horsemen at my uncle’s roping arena. Some of these folks rope; some, like me, are there just to gather and move cattle and ride and generally help out. There are four or five older (70’s and 80’s) ropers who have roped all their lives and some younger folks. My son is twelve and there is another teenage boy. Some of these people are pretty good horsemen, others not so much.
            I bring my son there because I want him to grow up knowing the camaraderie of cowboys on horseback working cattle, something that was very important and inspirational to me in my own childhood. And this has definitely happened and it’s been a good thing.
Getting ready to gather the cattle on Henry (you can see the herd if you look past Henry’s ears).


            Bringing the cattle up the alley.


            Herding a recalcitrant steer into the stripping chute with the gang.


            We have experienced a lot of very positive fun here. As I did when I was a child and a young woman, riding (and later roping) with this same group. But…there is a dark side. Sometimes people give advice—pretty forcefully. And sometimes this advice is not so good. In fact, sometimes it is downright detrimental. I suffered, due to this cause, as a young person, and I have pretty darn effectively prevented this crap from being visited on my son. But it’s still happening around us.
            Advice is a tricky thing. Lately I have bitten my tongue, both in real life and on the internet, on some advice I would like to give. I think the advice might save a kid’s life. But I also think perhaps the parent of said kid doesn’t want my advice. The other day at the arena, I did break down and shout some much needed advice. And that got me thinking about other situations, about advice in general, and the dilemma of whether to speak or not. So here’s my story.
           
            There is one individual at our local roping arena who often poses as a trainer and gives advice. Not just on horses, but on life in general. I have a hard time keeping my mouth shut when this happens, because this individual’s track record with both horses and life events is not one that most of us would want to emulate. And yet the sage advice (in a rather self-congratulatory tone) just keeps on coming. It’s hard to resist the comment “Don’t hurt your arm patting yourself on the back.”
            This person really likes to advise the one teenage boy who is learning to rope. The advice (and not particularly good advice, to be frank) comes thick and fast. It’s hard for me to keep my mouth shut, because I like this kid a lot, and the “trainer’s” advice is messing the kid’s horse up big time.
            The thing is, I am (to put it bluntly) as good or better at reading a horse and getting along with a horse than this “trainer.” My track record when it comes to having happy, healthy horses that worked well for me and lived on into a contented old age is MUCH better than this trainer individual’s particular history. I at one time allowed this person to dictate to me, and believe me, it didn’t work out to my advantage. Nowadays I no longer pay much attention to what this individual advises or thinks, and guess what? I pretty much have no problems with any of my horses.
            “Been there, done that” is what goes through my mind when the “trainer” begins to pontificate. And “You’re not going to mess me or my horse up ever again.”  But the teenage kid doesn’t have this background. He listens to the “trainer” and tries to do what the trainer tells him. And it is totally not working.
            I usually don’t give unsolicited advice. The exception is when I see someone headed for a wreck—I’ll try to help. I figure that if it saves their life it’s worth the fact that they might resent me. I don’t pose as an expert—ever. I’m just a sedate, middle-aged rider on a gentle horse, riding along with my kid on his gentle horse. I have spent most of my life with horses, and done a fair bit of training and competing, so I do know more than you might guess to look at me. But it’s fine with me if most horse people I meet just look right past me (in my Ugg boots and cargo pants, with my horse in his mechanical hackamore). I don’t look very impressive.
            Still, the other day I saved this teenage kid from what might have been a serious wreck. I only did what any experienced horseman could do—the thing was that I stepped up and did it. Essentially I shouted some much needed advice at the right moment.
            This teenage boy does need help. He’s learning to rope on a not very suitable horse—too hot and not very cooperative, willing to bolt and scatter. And though the boy is a good kid, he doesn’t really have a good intuitive understanding of his horse—he is apt to think the horse is rebelling or defiant when the horse is just upset and confused. I was the same way myself at his age. It is the commonest problem in the horse world. Rider gives cues that are confusing to the horse, horse doesn’t do what rider wants and rider punishes horse, convinced that horse is defiant. This makes the problem worse—horse is now MORE confused (not sure exactly what the punishment was for) and upset, and being confused and upset makes the horse almost unable to attend to even clear cues—which rider (also upset) is completely unable to give. A recipe for disaster.
            Anyway, the advice from the trainer person is actually making the kid and his horse more confused and upset than ever. Then “trainer” starts yelling at the kid, because things are getting worse. Everything is going backwards. It’s very frustrating to watch.
            So this teenager is giving his horse confusing cues in the box, due to bad advice. Rope horses find the box very stressful, anyway. It takes a good horseman to get along with a horse in the box. Despite the fact that the young boy is trying hard, what I can easily see is that he is more confusing his horse than helping him. So the horse either starts too soon or too late—because he doesn’t understand what is wanted. And then the horse is upset, and doesn’t check easily when the kid pulls on him, just basically runs through the bridle. The kid gets angry and begins jerking on the horse. The horse gets more upset—and everything just gets worse and worse, while the trainer keeps giving advice that isn’t helping. I can hardly stand it.
            Anyway, for about the tenth time the horse gets out late, runs hell for leather to catch the steer, and won’t rate off when the boy pulls on him. The boy starts jerking on the horse and backing him up to punish him. Relentlessly. The horse starts scrambling backward, with the boy still jerking. And all of a sudden I feel the wreck coming. Nobody is saying anything to the kid. Trainer guy is muttering to himself about the boy screwing up, but nobody says a word to the kid.
            I see the horse go down to his hocks, still scrambling backward—and I yell as loud as I can “Stop pulling on him!”
            The kid hears me (as he told me later) and gives the horse some slack. The horse staggers backward another stride, catches his balance and stops, still standing up. I am 100% sure if the kid had kept on pulling the horse would have gone over backward. The horse’s hocks were scraped up and bloody from being buried in the sand.
            Everybody looks at me—because I don’t usually yell at people. I shrug. “I didn’t want him to get hurt.”
            Inwardly I’m thinking, what the hell is wrong with these people? I know they’re mostly tough old cowboys, but why wait for the kid’s horse to go over backward? They give a lot of advice when it isn’t helpful and then just sit here watching as a wreck is about to happen?
            Anyway, the wreck was avoided, and the kid is fine—though still struggling with his horse, I’m afraid. For those who wonder why a thoughtful adult isn’t helping with this situation, it is because the kid’s dad is unequal to the task, and the person who poses as a trainer (with the less than helpful advice) is dominating everything to such a degree that the rest of us are mostly keeping our mouths shut because we don’t want to get into a shouting match with the “trainer.”. And no, it’s not a good situation. But I’ve sure seen it before.
            This got me thinking about other wrecks in the making that I’ve seen with other people’s kids and kept my mouth shut about (because I thought my advice wasn’t wanted), and I thought I’d put said advice here in this post. Ignore it if you aren’t interested. Maybe it will save someone’s life.


            1) Children under five years old should not be leading horses around without an adult right by their side, ready to take over if needed. Even saintly horses can spook, get stung…etc. A small child is very vulnerable to being knocked down or stepped on. And even saintly horses will learn to take advantage. It’s just not a smart thing to do.

            2) It is safer to put small children in the saddle in front of you while riding a gentle horse than it is to put them up on the horse and lead them around. I learned this many years ago with my young niece. The horse only has to spook a tiny bit, or stumble, or shake, and these little kids will come right off. Contrary to what some say, riding in the saddle in front of a competent rider on a gentle horse is the safest for the very young child.
            If you are not a competent rider or don’t have a gentle, reliable horse that will carry you and a child, the safest thing for the young child is to let him/her ride on a reliable small horse or pony and be led by one adult while another adult walks beside the horse ready to grab the kid (this won’t work with a big horse). Overkill, you say? I have personally known three very small children who tumbled off gentle horses while being led around. One horse spooked (a tiny little one step spook) and the other two shook themselves. The horses meant no harm. All three of these very young (less than 5 years) children were pretty traumatized by hitting the ground. (And yes, one of these three times it was my mistake—I was in my 20’s—leading my 3 year old niece around on a very sweet horse. I never made that mistake again.)
            If you don’t have a truly reliable horse of any kind, do NOT put a kid up on your horse (in any way shape or form)—no matter how hard the kid begs. It’s not worth the risk.

            3) Even competent teenagers need a LOT of supervision with horses. Trust me on this one. If you value your horses and your kids, keep an eye on them. Make sure things are done right. I have known SO many kids and horses that were hurt due to the teenager’s errors in judgment (my own teenage errors are large in my mind). It’s just not worth it. It sounds so wonderful to turn the horse and kid loose together, but it is not worth a dead kid or horse. And yes, I have known this to happen—more than once.

My cousin and I crippled one of the nicest horses I ever knew when we were about fourteen—catching him one day without adult supervision. We left the corral gate open when we went to get the horse and he ran from us, tried to make the hard turn to get out that open gate at a dead run, and hit his hip on the gatepost. He never really recovered from the resulting knocked down hip. Any horseman worth his salt would have seen that the horse meant to evade capture and made sure to shut the damn gate. But we were young and dumb and didn’t think of it.

            4) Its great to teach a kid to saddle and bridle and tie up his horse. But don’t assume he’s done it right. Check. Because the horse that gets away and out on the road because he wasn’t tied correctly, and the saddle that slips under the horse’s belly, and the sore back or sore mouth from the incorrectly adjusted tack are just too much of a downside.

            5) Don’t allow another person, trainer or not, advise/teach your kid unless you believe (with good reason) the trainer to be truly capable and kind and has your child’s best interests at heart. If you are not a horseman yourself, get an opinion from a knowledgeable horseman you trust on any given “trainer.” Try to remember that ANYONE, absolutely anyone, can call themselves a horse trainer. Many of them do not have much to offer. This goes for people who call themselves horse trainers on the internet, too. And for folks who give clinics. Including folks with a “big name.” It is really important to make a thoughtful judgment on whether any given “trainer” has knowledge and/or a teaching style that would benefit you/your child.  So much harm can be done by a poor trainer whose motivation is not the best. Horse trainers are motivated by ego and the desire for ego gratification just as often as they are motivated by the desire to do some real good. Many so-called horse trainers have never really had much success training horses. Others have found very cruel ways to become “successful.” This is sad, but absolutely true. Oftentimes a knowledgeable horseman who does not pose as a “trainer” will be far more helpful and far less motivated by ego when it comes to giving needed advice. See my post above.

If you have no knowledgeable horseman that you trust to help you choose a trainer--and sometimes we all need help from a trainer--here are some simple guidelines.

Do you feel comfortable talking to the trainer? Does he/she treat you like an equal? Or do you feel patronized and/or manipulated? Trust me, this is key. It will not work out in the end if the trainer has no respect for you as a person.

Are the trainer's own horses happy, healthy, mostly sound, mostly working well into old age? Does the trainer find good forever homes for or keep his retired horses? If you can't answer yes to all of this, avoid the trainer.

Does the trainer have clients who have been with him/her for years and who are happy and relaxed around the trainer and will give their good opinion of him/her readily? Again, if the answer is not yes, avoid the trainer.

Finally, does the trainer have clients like you? If you just want your child to learn to ride well in a supportive atmosphere and every other client is someone who competes avidly at reined cowhorse, say (insert other disciplines here), it is unlikely in the extreme that the trainer is a good match.



            6) Just because someone calls themselves a trainer or has a riding school or gives lessons doesn’t mean they have any real ability with horses. Nor does it mean they are trustworthy or have good judgment. Nor does it mean that their horses are reliably good kid’s horses. Do not allow anyone to put your child on any horse that you do not absolutely know is a reliable horse unless you have a good reason to trust this person (as in you actually know them, not because they have some sort of “trainer” title). The number of kids who I have known to be seriously injured (and yes once, killed) on “school riding horses” is significant. It is a very real danger.

            7) And finally, do NOT buy into the notion that helmets keep you safe. They don’t. Helmets protect your head in the case of a fall (sometimes). There are great many other ways besides a traumatic head injury to get injured or dead when you fall off a horse. Helmets are a good thing—don’t get me wrong. My kid wears one. So do I. But by far the most important thing you can do to keep a child safe while riding is to be sure he is mounted on a reliable horse and that the person supervising uses good judgment.

            The biggest problem I have seen lately concerns a local riding school where the ill broke horses have bucked off and injured numerous kids. But the parents still send their kids there to ride, thinking the kids are “safe” because they are wearing helmets. It really upsets me. (See my above point.) 

            I could think of lots more, but these are the ones I’ve seen lately—and kept my mouth shut in the interests of not offending. So I’m putting my advice out there in this post in the hope that it might help somebody. Everybody is welcome to ignore said advice. Please add your own thoughts/advice in the comments.


           
           

            

17 comments:

Francesca Prescott said...

Hi Laura, long time no comment (or so it seems to me!) I've been away a lot, then got hurt (torn ligament in my ankle, very boring). I agree with everything you mentioned, it's so frustrating, and maddening to watch people being given bad advice by people claiming to be Joe Pros. I've often had to bite my tongue to avoid saying stuff that would start a big stink, but then I feel like such a chicken for not saying what I think. A few weeks ago my friend was riding her new mare (the one we brought back from the south of France) in the outdoor arena. The mare is a sweetheart, but she's only five and with little training. There was another person riding a horse, someone who claims to be an expert on natural horsemanship and horse psychology who kept on getting in her way. That wasn't polite, but my friend is a good enough rider and could deal with it. What made my jaw drop was when this person left the arena at the far end (where nobody ever leaves, it just leads into open fields where you're not supposed to ride) and took off at full gallop! Of course my friend's horse got all excited! Luckily she's a sweet horse and soon calmed down, but I thought it if had been me a few years ago on Qrac, or another less experienced rider, it could have been a disaster! I mean, what the heck?! If this person hadn't been a so-called expert in NH, or clueless about how horses react, but they've been around horses most of their life! Is it cluelesness? Lack of respect? What? I'd NEVER behave like that, in fact when anyone is riding a green horse, or a horse new to the facilities I'd always ask them if it was ok for me to leave them alone in the arena before leaving with my horse. it's just common sense. Or maybe not!

I could write pages of other examples of idiotic behaviour, or bad advice, or cruelty, but I guess we know it's out there, and we just have to use our best judgment and know when to intervene and step up, and when it's ok (or in our own best interests) to let it go. Good post (again, my dear!!)

xx cesca

Bird said...

Yep, what a dilemma. I avoid as many "group" horse events as possible, aside from endurance rides, and I'll admit this kind of stuff is one of the reasons. Well let me clarify, the ridiculous rodeo/overridden/underridden/overhorsed, "trainers" etc you see in group, "trail," and event settings around here is just...wow. The gymkhana I didn't get to take my filly to this weekend is a prime example of pure asshattery and poor riding, parenting, and training. It's full of excitement though and good for desensitizing Arabs!

Good for you speaking up for that boy. Hopefully he and his horse can muddle through without damaging each other. I mostly bite my tongue in those situations too but have definitely yelled a few desperate suggestions in my time.

Dom said...

A post full of great advice. The situation with the teenager and the hot, confused horse scares me and I wasn't even there. I'm glad you shouted before anyone got hurt. That really is a wreck waiting to happen.

Laura Crum said...

Cesca--So sorry you hurt your ankle. I have to say that I am not a fan of NH in general, but whether someone is an NH practitioner or a traditional horseman, I agree with you that anyone with ANY experience with horses should have known better than to treat your friend that way. It amazes me how many experienced horsemen do incredibly insensitive things that put other horsemen at risk. The "trainer" at our own arena last year turned on a big agricultural sprinkler (to water the arena) without warning, right when my son and I were standing next to it--drenching both of us and our horses--not to mention the huge whoosh that it made when it went off. Both horses spooked a little, but they are solid and didn't do much. I would, not, however, have blamed them if they had tried to run off. It was quite alarming. I was furious and that time I did bawl the "trainer" out, feeling that he had put my son's life at risk. Such a stupid, thoughtless thing to do. You're so right about it being a fine line when to speak up and when to be quiet.

Bird--Yeah, gymkhanas are pretty much notorious for that. But as far as I can tell, you see it in every group horse event, to some degree. Reading endurance, dressage, jumping blogs...etc, I hear about the same crap--just like I have seen in cowhorse and roping. Like you, I mostly avoid group events, but I did want my son to know the fun of working cattle on horseback with a group of friends. There is good and bad about it--I guess everything is like that.

Marissa Rose said...

Oh my gosh. I went to a sorting last week, and there was a little girl on a horse. The little girl was probably 4 at the oldest. She was adorable and the horse was a saint. However, while the horse didn't do anything more than walk when the girl kicked, and seemed like the safest horse ever, it wasn't safe for anyone else. There was a warm up area and the girls parents let her walk around, they were both on horseback and didn't keep her close at all. Multiple times I was warming up and this little girl ended up STRAIGHT in my path and I had to swerve to try and avoid her. And other riders were having this problem too! That wasn't safe for that little girl or any of the other riders because while her horse was being safe, she didn't have any control over where she was...and the parents didn't make any attempt to keep her corralled!

Laura Crum said...

Thanks, Dom. I don't mean to bash all horse trainers, either. There are good ones and bad ones. It can be very hard for a beginner to sort out which is which. I know you know.

Laura Crum said...

Marissa Rose--I agree with you 100%. In that situation the girl should have been on the pony rope, with an experienced horseman ponying her horse. A child needs to be able to competently control his/her horse AND understand the etiquette involved when riding in a busy arena before they are turned loose like that. My son was at least seven or eight and could really control Henry and also understood how to stay out of the way and ride politely before I would let him warm up with the group. Its a skill that needs to be taken seriously--the risk of a horse kicking at a kid's horse that is in the wrong place and injuring the kid is a real problem--and the cause of one horseback fatality in my part of the world.

Allenspark Lodge said...

All of this is so true. We have great trail horses, all Mustangs, who tend to bond with their "person" so we don't let many others on them. However, mine have been used as 'school horses' for a clinic, yet we AVOID the group gatherings like the plague. Last fall, on our vacation, we horse-camped across KS and MO, staying at equestrian campgrounds. We had one night left at a particularly nice place. That morning Bill and I were sitting in a sunny spot with our morning coffee and tea, looking at maps and deciding which trails to ride that day, when a long line of horse rigs appeared on the highway where we could see them. I made some comment about where all those horses could be going, when we realized they were headed into our camp area. We just looked at each other and simultaneously said, "pack up!" Within 20 minutes, we had repacked our gear, cleared the campsite, loaded the horses and pulled out amidst a hollering bunch of 'horsemen' unloading and setting up portable pens all over the place. Not trying to be unfriendly, but we just didn't see a lot of good coming from that type of commotion! Happily found a quiet spot many hours down the road. I hope they all had a good time; I know we did. Thanks for your insights.
Bionic Cowgirl

FD said...

Can't disagree with any of this. Like you I mostly keep my mouth shut, but I draw a bright line: where I think a child or sometimes an adult is in imminent danger I will intervene, even if it makes me no friends. Otherwise, I try to bring it up in casual conversation, you know the sort of thing, "I had a friend who had a horse that did x, they fixed it by Y". People are sometimes (often) more comfortable with options than advice.

And I agree so much on the small children - as an instructor kids under 5 only had pony rides and I always required 2 people per kid or no ride. 5 years and up the same till I was reasonably comfortable that they weren't going to fall off just because the pony sneezed. Which I've had happen, while the pony was halted to boot.

With a teenager, it can be iffy - so often no matter what you say, they won't hear you. Is it possible that the watching oldtimers thought that a wreck was what was needed to make the boy listen? I've seen it play out like that before - "Oh let him fall off a time or too, knock some sense into him."
Personally, I find that counter productive - once they've crashed and burned humility sn't what manifests, but fear/ego driven bravado, which pretty much always makes things worse. Because as you said, horse or person, nobody listens better when wound up than when they're calm.
I might in this situation, offer some more general life advice - Eg, how I go about deciding who to listen to.

Laura Crum said...

Bionic Cowgirl--I would have done the exact same thing as you. When I trail ride I go with one or two well known companions--or by myself. I have NO interest in large group rides where I don't know the people well. That would be absolute torture for me. (Its one of the reasons I have zero interest in endurance.)

However, working cattle with friends who have been working cattle all their lives is a unique experience. You can't gather a herd by yourself--its a team effort. There is something special about being out there with the other cowboys, all doing a job. And this is why I have brought my son to the roping arena for these years of his growing up time. I want him to know that sense of camaraderie with other horsemen who understand how to get a job done.

Laura Crum said...

FD--It sounds like you and I are on the exact same page. I totally agree with everything you said in your comment. And yes, I do think those some of those old cowboys meant to let the kid "crash and burn." And I wasn't about to see the boy get hurt if I could stop it--nor do I think it would have helped anything if he had pulled that horse over. Even if no one was hurt, both boy and horse would have been the worse for such a thing.

I did, one evening at a gathering, talk to the boy (when the "trainer" was out of earshot), about how stressful the box is for the rope horse, and ways to make it easier for the horse, rather than MORE stressful. I'm not sure how much of it sunk in, but I tried.

horsegenes said...

Great post. And very timely. I am going to copy and paste and give it to a family that I had the following experince with this weekend.

As you know we have a huge fire burning and I took a old appy mare in for a family that are in a vunerable location. I had no idea what the deal was with the girl and her horse.

Her mother works with my daughter. They don't have a horse trailer and wanted to get the horse out incase they had to evacuate. That in itself makes my head hurt. And the fact they had dry grass and brush within 10 feet of the house... can't fix stupid.

Seems this little girl wanted a horse. Parents couldn't afford a horse. So the momma sees this horse out in a pasture on her way to work everyday. The horse is getting skinny. So momma stops and askes if she can have it. The owners are an elderly couple and give her the horse. This woman has no knowledge of horses at all. Takes this mare home and gives it to her 12 year old daughter to ride.
Does your head hurt yet?

In steps trainer. I know this guy and he has lamed more horses than I care to count. Only let one of his students ride a horse to death once that I know of. Great guy, NOT. He is not interested in a horses or riders welfare one little iota. I go out to pick up this horse at 1am and the young girl rides the mare up to us. In shorts, no shoes and with only a halter. We are in a emergency fire situation! The fire is so close I could have hit is with a rock. I asked if the horse would load in the trailer and no one really knew if she would or not. I just took a step back to see what would happen. It felt like waiting for a train wreck. The dad has a handful of hay. Literally - a hand full. He stands in the middle of the trailer and tries to coax her in, but the dumb a** is standing in her way. I am not a patient person with humans at 1am. I asked him to let me try - Thank goodness this mare is a saint - she went in the trailer quietly. When I got her out at home she about stepped on me - She has no ground manners at all. She pays no attention to a tug on the halter, won't lead beside you, is constantly in your space... just doesn't know anything. She is made all kinds of wrong, skinny, wormy, bad feet, no ass at all, scars everywhere. But they have a "trainer". The trainer said everything was good. He came out and checked her horse over and said it was a good fit. The girl just needs some lessons on "his" lesson horses and things are going to be great! She is a natural!

The list of what is wrong here is so long I don't even know where to begin.

In my mind - I have gone over several possible conversations with these people but in their eyes I am not a "trainer". I am not a professional. And their guy is.

Alison said...

OMG this post made my teeth ache and my soul hurt, but it was a great read.

I guess it's why I- like many of us on this blog - avoid riding with other people and competing. I don't keep my horses with other horses either.

Makes me a huge avoider.

Laura Crum said...

Kel--OMG. That is just terrible. And the absolute pinnacle of the kind of idiotic behavior--on the part of kid's parents and "trainer" --that I wrote about in the post. I know I sound like I am bashing trainers, but you and I both know that good trainers are very helpful and a necessity at times. Still, the number of "trainers" in the world, like my buddy at the roping arena and the one you describe, who are merely feeding their own egos at the expense of ignorant people and less-than-broke horses...well, it just boggles my mind. And, of course, these people will not listen to you, as the kid in my story and his dad will not listen to me. Cause we don't claim to be "trainers." Very frustrating.

Alison--Yeah, I don't trail ride with anybody other than my son and our friend Wally, and I keep my horses at home. Like you, I don't want to deal with it. But I do ride at the arena--for the reasons I described in the post and comments. For my son's sake. And he has learned some good things. But yeah...I feel the same way you do.

RiderWriter said...

Laura, I am in awe of your post because you made SO many excellent points, in your usual lucid fashion. Wish to heck it could be required reading for every parent whose kid begs for riding lessons/a pony!!

I have never trained a horse so there are very, very few situations where I would feel comfortable telling someone to knock off whatever they're doing, just in case I had no idea of what I was seeing... but you ARE a trainer, and thank goodness you were there for that boy and his poor, confused, scraped-up horse! Damn and blast this "trainer" person for getting the kid off on such a wrong foot. I hope you can corner Kid again and make some suggestions 'cuz it sounds like he REALLY needs the help.

@horsegenes - What a sad tale. Sometimes I wish I'd never started reading anything "horsey" on the internet, because now I know full well all the lousy things that happen to equines. Although starving in a pasture doesn't sound like much fun for the poor beast, either.

I was put on a tiny pony when I was two, with my mom alongside (I have photographic proof of this). I started H/J lessons at age five, the youngest student they'd ever allowed at the barn. I know I fell over any number of times but only remember two of the falls from my childhood, as both were from runaways/dramatic circumstances (amazingly, wasn't hurt). For many years when I cantered in lessons, it was line up, one at a time, go to the end of the line, which was a pretty safe way to do it I think. We had excellent school horses/ponies. The trainers were good to great. My parents chose a fine facility, thank God!

whitehorsepilgrim said...

A new boarder has appeared at the barn where I keep my mare. She moved away from another yard because it was unsafe, chiefly because the manager would leave inexperienced teenage girls "in charge" when she wanted to go away. The final straw came when a teenager parked a quad bike (yes, they drove those unsupervised too) on a slope, didn't engage the handbrake properly, and it rolled away colliding with a horse that was tied and couldn't move away in time. The horse was injured, fortunately not badly. The same teenagers would lead horses to and from paddocks using the quad bike because they were too lazy to walk. Yes, there's a lot of danger around for unsupervised children.

Laura Crum said...

Thank you RiderWriter--Sounds like you went to a good riding school.

whp--Yes, that is just what I mean about supervising teenagers. My cousins and I were left in charge of my uncle's horses often when we were teenagers and though we tried--I tried very hard--to do a good job and be responsible, things happened that would never have happened had an experienced adult kept an eye on things.