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Dear Ann,

I receive The Instructor and I have read your IRD Mounts articles. Would you ever put a child on backwards on an English saddle? And how do you make constructive suggestions to change a long-standing procedure or practice?

Thank you


Your questions touch on technical matters and on matters of jurisdiction and judgment. The ability to use alternate positions with a rider, both riding backwards and side-sitting, can be very beneficial to both the physical and cognitive development of the rider. When position changes are planned in a rider's lesson, it is best to use a bareback pad. Now, the problem. The rider uses stirrups for the rest of the lesson and only does alternate positions for the last 10 minutes. Dismounting for a tack change is a major disruption in the class.

Sitting backward or side-sitting in an English or Western saddle does not allow the rider to balance properly or to easily accommodate to the horse's movement. In our program, we switch tack from week to week. A rider may be in a saddle for two weeks, then on a bareback pad for a week when the instructor has a lesson plan to emphasize alternate positions for the entire class.

For your second question, it is always difficult for us "old" instructors to be told to change our ways. After all, we are the experts writing the procedures. But it is mandatory to keep a balance between experience and opportunities to make improvements in our techniques. Here are some ideas.

1. Try approaching your conversation with the instructor from understanding the reasons for her decisions and how they help the child reach their riding and therapeutic goals.

2. Express you concerns for the safety of the rider and the quality of the program rather than just how you would do things.

3. Find out what written procedures your program has in place to cover situations such as these. If there aren't any, offer to help research the practices and draft procedures that can be reviewed and adopted by the entire staff. This way, you are part of making therapeutic riding at your center the best it can be.

Good Luck,
Ann Streett-Joslin