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I recently started giving riding lessons on my neighbors horse to a little 7 year old girl. I did not feel this 6 year old horse was kid safe, but the owners and the parent(who was leasing this horse) felt OK with the situation. Any way, the girl was a wreck the whole time and eventually fell off when the horse tore off running, with me attached to the long line. It really shook her up, understandably,. Her mom then asked if I would consider giving lessons on my horse, which my 2 and 5 year old daughters ride by themselves. That is what I wanted to do in the first place but they were leasing this other horse. I got my mare when I was five years old and I will be 30 this year. My mare is 34 and bombproof, always has been. Problem is my student is terrified to even get on any horse. She did kind of brush her for about 30 seconds. Her mom then put her up on my horse(she was hysterical and screaming at the top of her lungs) My horse did not move a muscle but she is still scared and the mom wants her riding. She claims her little girl talks about wanting to ride. Any suggestions?

Respectivley Yours,
Kelly Peacher


This is a very tough situation you are in. There is no good answer. I think you need to have a frank and private conversation with the parents and explain that by forcing their child to do something she is so afraid of will not help her conquer her fear and may damage her emotionally.

This age is very young for riding lessons anyway. maybe in a year or two she will be ready.You may want to consider trying a few things. One, have the parents leave the child with you and then leave you and her alone. Talk to the child and find out if she wants to learn to be around horses (or even if she just likes horses). If so, just have her start with brushing, then leading, etc. Tell her she can not ride until she has mastered ground skills (have her work toward a goal), learned parts of the horse, parts of the tack, etc. It may be that her parents trying to force her is what is making her act this way. Maybe if it's her idea, she'll embrace it. In other words, change it so riding becomes a privilege she has to earn, instead of something she is being force-fed.

Explain to the parents, this isn't like other sports, because her fear will negatively affect the horse and cause him to behave differently and possibly dangerously (as was the case with the first horse), even your bomb-proof horse would be stressed by someone so hysterical.

No matter how much the mom wants it, she can not force her daughter to want to ride and the more she does, the worse it will be. I have learned with my son (when I tried to force him to join the ski team at the age of 7) that the more I push it, the less likely he is to want it. On the other hand, if I make the opportunity available and put no pressure on him, he is much more likely to want to do it.

One other thought about fear. The size of the horse is definitely a contributing factor. Perhaps she could begin to conquer her fear with minis or ponies, then move up to a full size horse.