Monday, June 5, 2017

My Warm & Fuzzy Trainer Heart

For those of you who didn't catch on to this in earlier posts, I work at my barn on the weekends as an assistant trainer. I primarily teach kids (but have taught some adults) and all of my riders are beginners. I've had probably ten students total in my whole trainer career (two-ish years), because it is just a side-job for me and I don't need to have a huge client base. Some of my students rode only a handful of times and others are going on years now. Currently I have three primary students. I don't want to use their actual names here, so I'll just call them by letters.

I have N, who has been riding with me for about a year and a half. She takes weekly lessons with me.

I have R, who just started with me last month. She's been consistently taking weekly lessons.

And I have G, who is the youngest (and thus the cutest). She's been riding with me for almost a year, but it's not very consistent.

This past weekend all of my students had major breakthroughs in their riding and I am so incredibly proud of them.

N is a good rider in that she really has a knack for it. She naturally has a decent seat and has her basics down. That being said, she's really dealt with a lot of anxiety in her riding. Part of this stems from the fact that her older sister also rides and I think that there is a little bit of competition there. Since she was so anxious, we spent a lot of time working on basics and I would judge her mood and energy to determine what we would do each day. I will push her at times to do things that are outside of her comfort zone (because she is capable of doing more than she sometimes wants to do), but there are also days when I know we will get nowhere if I push her, so instead we go on trail rides or do obstacle courses. That being said, the past six months she has really gained a lot of confidence in herself and she is asking me to do "scarier" things like cantering and jumping. I think that part of the boost in confidence is that she has started riding a different lesson horse, a pony named Dobby. Dobby can be a difficult ride in that he is incredibly fussy with his head and loves to throw it up into his rider's face (so I've been having her ride him in a hackamore with a standing martingale), but he also is a seasoned schoolmaster and is very consistent in his gaits and jumping.
N & Dobby
N's breakthrough this weekend was that she finally jumped her first "oxer"! I put two cavaletti on their highest height (one foot) and stuck two of them together to create an itty-bitty square oxer. N was a tad nervous coming through the first time and fell behind the motion over the jump (because pony took the jump big), but her second time through I told her to grab the martingale neck strap and she was able to stay better with the motion and came out of the jump smiling. I'm so excited to see her confidence grow and am so proud of her!

*Side note: I posted the video on Instagram and someone gave me crap about having a standing martingale on the pony. The jump was literally a foot off the ground and pony didn't get "caught" on the martingale so I don't actually see a problem with it. Also, big-time hunter/jumpers use standing martingales all the time. I replied and explained the situation, but it made me momentarily doubt myself. Thoughts on using a standing martingale while jumping?
N & Dobby
R is fairly new at riding (she had experience at another barn before coming to us, but I'm not sure about the details of her riding there). She not only was able to remember the names of all of the different kinds of jump lines (outside, diagonal, bending, going away, going home), but she also was able to jump her first ever little crossrails! They were maybe 6 inches off the ground, but they were actual cross-rails, not just poles on the ground. There's still a lot to work on, the line was a bit messy, but she had a blast and didn't care about it being perfect. She was just having fun!

My youngest student, G, actually rode in the same lesson as N this week (first time ever doing a dual lesson - it was hectic, but entertaining). She is still pretty little, so the going has been slow with her, but she's finally to the point where she can trot around the arena on her own. She was having a blast trotting around on Willow (the saint of a lesson pony that she is) and actually did a bit of "jumping"! I set up two outside lines out of cavaletti and had her go through them at a trot when they were on the lowest setting. When I asked her if she wanted to go higher, she said yes, so I raised them to the medium height (six-ish inches) and she trotted through those too! Willow doesn't actually jump the jumps at that height, she really just uses them as trot poles, but on the line coming home, Willow actually picked up a canter for three strides and G handled it like a champ. The speed freaked her out a little bit, but she kept her balance and just asked Willow to slow and regained her trot. It was her first time ever cantering (even if it was an un-asked-for canter) and she did awesome with it.
Proof that Willow is the snuggliest
So all in all, it was a pretty great weekend. All of my students were rock-stars and made big strides in their riding. I came home and told my husband that I want to adopt them all and I'm not even joking. I love them and would totally take them home with me if I could! Luckily for them, they all have loving homes, so that wouldn't ever happen, but I feel so blessed to have them in my life.
N & Dobby


  1. I don't see the big deal with the martingale, my horses previously jumped in them.

    1. Yeah, I don't see the big deal either. But the fact the person was so adamant against it made me wonder if I just hadn't thought of something. Glad to hear I'm not crazy though!