I have a family coming for lessons this summer. A mom and her 3 daughters. The eldest lives two provinces away and is (obviously) embelishing on her riding experiences. We have contacted her current coach (she doesn't know) and discovered that she does 18" gymnastics and is getting comfortable in the canter.
She tells me she jumps four feet on big warmbloods.

I understand that she wants to do well and be accepted, but I have a lot more respect and fun with the beginners who are ok with being a beginner! We all had to start somewhere...

Btw, I'm an FEI (intermediare) level dressage rider...

Any advice would be appreciated on how to tactfully approach this young lady.

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I would just tell her that you always asess students when they first come to you and then after you watch her ride, you can tell her that she's doing a great job and that you are going to really work on the basics, which is what you do with all new students.
How does that sound?
I agree, tell her an assement is the first part of your program. Then explain that you have a focus of flat work, maybe?? I know all jumpers hate flat work but my coach managed to convince me, LOL. An excerise as simple as poles on the ground TOTALLY stumped us when he had me rate strides in between. First I could take one but without moving the poles he asked me to rate my horse to take two.

Dang it was hard! He got my attention! I wanted to do it and it was tougher than I imagined. Knocked me down a peg or six, LOL.

I sat up and paid attention but then again I'm an adult. Teens think they know everything! I know, I live with one!

I do think convincing her she NEEDs flat work, cross rails and bounces to improve her ride would help.

How are the parents?? Parents are often an instructors biggiest nightmare. On the other hand (God forgive me) they don't often know enough to measure jumps. I'm not suggesting you fudge just point out form over the jumps so they see visible improvement, ie: toes forward, eyes up, things parents can see and measure an improvement in..

I wish you all the best! Dealing with teens that think that are Gods gift to riding sucks like a Hoover!

Mucking out stalls and saddling and having to groom their own horses helps.

Good luck!
this is an age were many children feel inherently insecure as they are growing into the adult world. They have differnet strategies to deal with that feeling, one of which is to present to the world an image of perfection, being admired by, first girls, and after that boys (with other means than riding) and being very sensitive of being criticised by older people (30 is old for them already).

The best way is to give unconditional acceptance. She needs to feel accepted as a person as well as a competent rider. Listen to her and offer advice packaged as a constructive advice and not criticism. Don't come as a "teacher", come as a horse rider colleague to enjoy working together with her.

Let her find her boundaries with the horse. Horses are very good at that. Select the challenges carefully according to her capabilities. Getting comfortable in canter and juming 4 feet are 2 different things. So I would give her a canter challenge. Can she manage a good horse in canter in the field, in the arena, with some (small) jumps in between? She will discover her boundaries, herself and be glad if you help her pushing them forward a little bit.

Give her praise according to real achievement. You need to be authentic, but very positive.

Children sometimes put on a smoke screen of assertivemness, hiding their basic insecurity feelings. Than they feel insulted or intimidated very easily when criticised. Give her time. Tell her to trust her with responsibility for the horse to manage a challenge.

If you choose the challenge level correctly, the horse will show her the way.

Hi Amanda, This is not that uncommon, most people either pump up or play down their abilities. Try not to judge this girl , she has self esteem issues. Start the lesson as you would any other , at the basics . Do you have a warmblood that is jumping 4'? If you do ,don't put her on it . Any new pupil that comes to me starts from scratch , but that is not something that you need to discuss with her, that's just the way the lesson goes! You will soon see where her level is and it will most probably be somewhere below the 4' mark, but you might get a surprise!! I have had the pleasant surprise of finding that one kid with natural balance, that on a good trained jumper will get to 4' . Just keep it simple and low to start with and build from there, making sure you get the gymnastics right distance wise and see how she goes. Trust your judgement to know when to stop. And remember, don't make any reference to what she has said about her skills . If you do you will be setting her up to fail , and that's never helpful. Hope this helps a bit, Cheers Geoffrey P.S. There is nothing to be gained by confronting her.
I agree w/ a lot of the stuff that's been said here already.

On the other hand... you got your pride. And it irks more than a little when a teen comes up to you and tries to convince you of all that they haven't accomplished.
It's hard to just roll over and say Ooooh and aaaah, just to preserve stumphead's self esteem.

I agree that there are serious self esteem issues involved. Those are usually built at home. So you can pretty much bet that they aren't gonna get fixed at home.
Also... Teens really are at an age where they learn how to correctly interact w/ other folks from the outside world. Kinda like a colt that's been weaned... Get's kicked around in the bunch a bit afore he learns to keep his butt outta trouble.

So how do you tread that fine line of wanting to teach her something, getting her to shut up, and preserving your own dignity in the process?

Assessing her actual skills is normal day-to-day MO anyways. You're probly gonna get some song and dance about how the horses at the other barn were trained better or differently, and that's why she's not getting any good results. Be prepared to get your pride in your horses seriously dragged thru the dirt by someone that don't know her butt from a hole in the ground. If it was me, I'd put a stop to that too... "If you don't like my horses, you don't have to ride them".

If it was me, I'd put her on Pony. He's big enough to carry any rider and super safe. He's also a classic lesson horse. You gotta hold your tongue just right to get him to do anything. But if you got a club hovering over his head, you'll find out he's the best athlete you ever slung a leg over.

Then I'd give her a spiel about "If you ride this horse and figure out how to make him come to you, you will really improve the things you already know. You will solidify your skills, and you will learn how you can better apply them to other horses". That happens to be true about Ponseywonsey, but it's a good point to make w/ this type of girl. It don't really say "You don't know what you are talking about". It just kinda says "You don't know enough"

Kinda like a horse that won't give to the bit... You work on the hind end and on his back and pretty soon the head comes down all by itself.
Thank you all very much for the suggestions. I do agree that the best way to approach her is simply to do an evaluation on a safe horse and start from the beginning. Horses (as we all know) are humbling enough. I don't think they'll need my help.

For so many of us, horses were our safe haven when we were teenagers - when no one in the world understood us, we could try to our horses. I would hate to jeprodize that feeling of safety for any youngster.
I suggest letting her know first off- before she can tell you otherwise that ( with a loving smile) you have chatted her up with her coach and how happy the two of you are that she is with you for the summer session- and then say nothing- this stops her story and fable and lets her see you know exactly what is going on.


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