hi,

I'm looking for different things I can set up or do with a walking western student,

I have set up the L for her to walk her horse through and we are working on teaching it to back up through it., I've set up two poles to work on teaching it the gate.

I'm trying to think of things to keep the lesson interesting for her along with helping her relax and work on her balance.

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Boy, that's a really good question. I'm not a western rider, but maybe these ideas will work:
1.She can work on transitions within the walk, and walk -halt - walk
2. She can do in-saddle stretching exercises to help with relaxation and position
3. She can ride patterns
4. If you have some hilly terrain, you can go with her and she can do some hill work (You'll be exhausted though!:)
I am in your students shoes. I started out extremely tense but have continued to improve for the past 5 years. I think I will always have to deal with this to some extent cause I am a tense person in general. One thing I have learned in that time is how very important it is for me to have something to focus on. If I can get my mind on 'doing' something I quit anxiously awaiting something 'bad' to happen. My horse is a left brain introvert so if I don't keep him entertained with new things he will think up something to entertain himself. If you are giving lessons I'm sure you know what that is all about. It helps me to put up several things to focus on: a pole or a few to walk over, poles to sidepass, cones or jump holders spread apart to weave thru, point to point (direct them to go from here to there), we like chaseing a large ball, walking over a tarp, circle the tarp, put a couple of barrels in the corner and have them manuver around and past them in different ways, put cones near the corners to do circles around. It helped me to chew gum so I don't lock my jaw and pierce my lips (that just seems to go right on down the body), set poles up at different heights in a circle pattern and walk thru, over and around.
These may be too basic for what you are looking for. It also helped me to relax once I got a good relationship with my horse on the ground and played with him a lot. Riding without useing the reins helped me with balance issues (the reins were easy to grab if necessary). That's all I have today. Hope some of it helps. One other thing...riding with my feet out of the stirrups....
these ideas are all great, My student is tense but most of her balance problems come from being a paraplegic, We are working on her getting her balance and maintaining it at the walk before moving on to faster paces

Setting the poles in the circle at the different heights how much space did you leave in between them?
I have done this too in my trail patterns. Think of a wagon wheel using only the spokes, using 8 poles set them one end in the center of the wheel and the other out, the outside end spacing would be 3'-4', using small wood block or a brick raise the outside end of every alternate pole. If you have bi or tri-colored poles get your student to aim for the center color or the outside color, even in a zigzag over the poles.
Has your student ever seen the young lady that is paraplegic and went to the Olympics? I know of her through the Parelli's as they have helped her overcome some of her riding problems since she was hurt. I think her name is Lauren but I can not think of her last name. Your student MUST see this , she is so inspiring. Just fascinating!! If you don't know about this gal, let me know and I'll see if I can find something that might help you.
I like the bean bag game idea.
Best wishes for success with this adventure.
Shirley
What kind of training does the horse have? Does he move off your leg, if so try working in a small circle then using your inside leg to move the horse so that the size of the circle increases with pressure. It is fun to see the horse moving in a circle but increasing and decreasing as you use leg pressure to change the size of the cirlce. You can also do this walking a straight line, move the horse back and forth off the straight line as you head across the ring.
Pylon are good too. for accurate stopping and going forward points.
Using beanbags small ones and trying to get the horse close enough to a barrel to drop them onto and pick up from
Good luck
Given that Sarah mentions that her student is paraplegic I am assuming that she will have little or no ability to move the horse from the leg, so I would suggest that you could ask her to focus on aligning her belly button (her 'core') with the horse's poll, following the bend that the horse is giving her and concentrating on keeping that alignment wherever the horse goes. This is a technique used by Chris Irwin so for more info you could look into his methods in more detail. This should develop 'core stability' and increase her sitting balance whilst at the same time focusing her attention on the horse rather than herself. If she is nervous, you could enable her to relax and focus by encouraging her to practice transitions of walk to halt focusing on her breathing. Breathing out and visualising the body becoming heavier in the saddle while at the same time closing the fingers round the reins should be enough to bring the horse to halt. In my experience, it is often helpful to work on something that takes the concentration away directly from the person's physical abilities, but at the same time she will feel she has mastered something very subtle and you will see the horse relax, too. Extra bonus for them both!

I am assuming she is an adult, of course - but if she is a child, then it may be appropriate to do the same techniques but include a more 'fun' element such as mentioned by Kathy with the beanbags, depending on her physical abilities.

Hope this is helpful.

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