HorseWise: Showing with Young Children

Credit: Robin Duncan

By Lindsay Grice

Q    My eight–year-old daughter is showing in walk-trot classes this season. What tips can I give her?

A    It’s important to keep it very simple when coaching children. I usually give the young ones only two or three things to think about before their class.

I give the student specific word pictures as guidelines that are easily understood. For example, let’s say a child needs to remember to focus ahead on a point on the path in front of her, to turn her hands so that she can see only her first two knuckles rather than her fingernails, and to keep her lower leg back so that she can’t see her toe poking out in front of her knee. Each of these instructions creates an image in the child’s mind.

If you break down the things they need to remember into a simple three point checklist, they can keep repeating it to themselves as they travel around the ring. Her checklist might be “Head - Hands - Heels.”

Remember, a show is not a time to introduce a new skill to a child — save that for lessons at home. A show is a place to test drive skills the rider has mastered in a new and challenging environment.

Although friends and family like to be around to cheer on the youngster, it’s usually best to limit the visiting until after the class so that they can focus on their game plan. I think one instructor and one groom is all that need be involved in the pre–class preparation. After the class, focus on the positive by asking what she liked about her class and then follow by discussing one or two things she might practice for next time.

Main article photo: Robin Duncan Photography - A show is a place to test drive skills mastered at home. Give children only two or three things to focus on while they are in the competition ring.

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