By / 19th February, 2014 / Articles /

Can you remember building a house out of a deck of playing cards as a kid? You would race to see how tall you could build it to inevitably see it crumble down, often to screams of delight. Then, after 2-3 hurried attempts, you would slow down and work on building a solid foundation, knowing that if you did, the construction would inevitably be stronger and taller. The end result was generally a taller building providing greater pleasure in the long term based on getting the foundations right from the start.

Learning to ride a horse is no different. In their enthusiasm, kids are so often in a hurry to jump higher and learn “new tricks” just because everything seems to be going OK. They don’t understand (or want to know about) the developmental steps required. As parents and instructors we often tend to slow them down to prevent them falling, both physically and emotionally, knowing that sometimes they just have to learn this for themselves…the hard way.

I sympathise with the kids I instruct periodically at pony club musters who ask me if they can jump bigger to inevitably be told “only when you can show me that you can master the basics”. I know and trust that when they get the foundations right, they will jump bigger and better in the long run, have more enjoyment doing so and have less “falls” along the way.

I believe this is our duty as instructors, despite the pleas of the kids and occasionally the criticism of their parents. The dilemma of how quickly to push or allow the student to progress is very real for most instructors and takes wisdom beyond the experience of the child and, at times, a certain disassociation from the expectations of the parents.

Building a solid foundation generally allows the next layers to follow more easily and confidently in riding as in most areas of life.

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