Problems with a Lesson Pony

Baymule

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I grew up with horses, and never took formal lessons until I was an adult. I found out things then that I had to unlearn in order to relearn correctly, but as a kid we had lots of fun on our horses! It takes mental discipline and a burning desire to improve to "do it" right. At least that was my experience. I see the kids around here riding and I admit I do cringe at their lack of good horsemanship, but I see myself at their age and I know that the rest will follow if they are first allowed to just enjoy being on a horses back and develop a relationship with a horse.
As a kid, I rode bareback, barefooted, immersed in the freedom of flying at a fast gallop. It was wonderful. As an old lady with a bum knee, I ride with a saddle, boots on, immersed in the freedom of flying at a fast gallop. It is wonderful.
 

Bunnylady

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Gee, Bay, tell us how you really feel.:p

Surely the trainer/owner has a duty to ensure that the tack is serviceable and safe!?
Absolutely they do!

As is the case in many states, people who expose the public to horses are required by law to post the usual sign warning about not being responsible for injuries, due to the inherent risk of equine activities, but there is an addendum: the person who is providing the activity has the responsibility of doing all that is reasonably possible to minimize that risk. Tack can break without warning, but tack that is known to be in poor condition and then breaks puts the owner at risk of a lawsuit.

Kids aren't the only ones who get bored, the horses do, too. Certainly, the kids need to learn how to move the horses where they need them to go without falling off, and good position is part of that, but their attention spans are only so long. All work and no play, etc. I know, some kids are like, "OK, I'm bored. I've gone around this ring 3 times without falling off, now I want to jump something," which can be tiresome, but as @promiseacres said, there are other ways to change things up and keep them interesting.

At least one bored, irritable, possibly hurting horse, tack not being maintained, dull, tedious lessons - this sounds like a program going downhill. Wonder what's happening with the trainer?

I had just finished tacking the brute and was leading him out of his stall. There were other horses and riders in the aisle in the barn, and as I was leading him through the stall gate, he started hopping around like he wanted to kick the gate behind him. He had done that same thing the week before and did kick the gate then. I was growling at him to settle down, while also trying to get him through the gate and then get the gate shut without anyone or anything getting kicked. Kind of several things were going on at once, and though I was trying to keep an eye on everything, I didn’t see the front hoof until it smashed down on me. Honest question- How could I have better handled that situation? Maybe just halted him halfway through the gate and held him until the calmed
Gates and doors, oh boy. :hide I think it was on BYC that a member mentioned starting to lead a quiet, well-behaved older horse he had owned all of her life in or out of a stall, and the next thing he knew, he was picking himself up off the floor with one heck of a concussion, and no idea what had happened. Big, fast animal, hard surfaces, confined space - it's potentially dangerous, even with the quiet ones.

Any idea why the horse would want to kick the door? Had someone banged it into him, or was he just trying to make noise and spook the other horses? Which side of that door did he want to be on - in, or out? Maybe this was his way of protesting having to go out and do work? Trying to get into the horse's head here; often, knowing why something happens is a part of dealing with it.

If all that was at risk is the door, I wouldn't be that worried about it, myself. Hitting the door won't be a comfortable thing to do, with any luck, it would actually be painful, which should make him less inclined to want to do it again (some people install "kicking rails" in stalls of horses that habitually kick the walls; they are high enough that the horse bangs his leg on the rail, instead of hitting the wall with his foot). I'm more concerned with the dancing than the kicking in this situation.

I would not go through a doorway with a fractious horse. I'd get him settled on the inside or the outside, and only proceed through when he could go quietly. If he starts to blow up near the doorway, he's going backwards to where he came from (horses generally prefer to move forwards, so making one back up is often used as a disciplinary measure). This is one of those "make the right choice easy, and the wrong one hard" situations. If he walks quietly, we go forward, if he blows up, he goes backward or we chase his tail. He doesn't get to just stand in the stall or the aisle unless I ask him to - and he'd better do it when I ask. I'd go in and out several times; when he stands or goes quietly, it's "good boy!" and a bit of petting. I'd do the same thing at the end of the lesson - in and out several times, until he doesn't know whether he's coming or going, but he knows he has to listen to me. Though truth to tell, this isn't something I'd like to be doing with the distraction of other people and horses in the aisle, at least, not the first time - and this really is something that should be done by someone who can "read" the horse's body language well.
 

MiniGoatsRule

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Your post has made me angry. This __________ (bad words) so called "trainer" is flippant towards your concerns of your own safety. She is ignoring your requests for a different horse, worse yet, she's blowing you off like you are some unimportant sub-life form. :smack

Yes, a horse can be "read" and bad behavior can be headed off before it manifests itself. Or the behavior can be down played and the horse immediately corrected. Or you can see it coming and get out of the way and save yourself from injury. You are admitting that you are not reading the horse's behavior, this cannot be taught in a casual lesson once a week. This can take years of being with horses, understanding their flight behavior, their herd hierarchy, lead mare, social behaviors and so on.

The tack is in dangerous condition. Never use it again. Period. It is time to leave this place. What if your children were placed in broken tack and were injured?

Slapping a horse like this one is ridiculous. You could smack him hard enough to make your hand sting, and it won't hurt him. This is an animal that the lead mare would BITE, KICK and RUN HIM AWAY FROM THE HERD. And your "trainer" says to slap him? A slap would only work if you and him were in tune to each other, he was NOT a accident waiting to happen, and if he actually listened to you, which he is not. This horse has your number and he doesn't respect you, or anybody.

She is ruining the joy for your children. That is where I got mad. How DARE she? I go mamma tiger where children are concerned. This alone should make you never go back, let alone the other incidents. She is picking them apart, being hyper critical and sucking the life out of them. These are your children, get them away from this ___________(more bad words).

I have horses and have had most of my life. I care not for form and how correct I ride. I call my style of riding Western Schlump. I schlump around for my own enjoyment. I have never shown and don't care. What I care about is the enjoyment I get out of riding. The enjoyment is being stolen from your children.

I may sound harsh here, if that hurts your feelings, I'll shut up and go away. I'm just really ticked off. Tell me to shut up and I will. :)
I completely agree.

This trainer is a (Hard for me not to put in a swear word...) and I am glad you are switching to another trainer, @LMK17. I'm surprised you haven't sued her... I'm kind of short tempered and if I were old enough, I would sue her *bleep* off. I can't believe she is using bad tack and a bad horse at the same time... That is too far. She obviously isn't suit to be a horseback instructor.

I hope you never need to run into this problem again... But if you do, you have experience and can use what we all have been using to help you with. I am so sorry to hear that you needed to deal with this.

I hope you have a good time with your new instructor!
 

Mini Horses

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Although I certainly realize there is inherent risk in working with big animals and climbing onto their backs for a ride, I’m really not looking to assume any additional risk by tackling a crabby horse. I have my own farm and family to look after- if I get hurt doing something totally unnecessary, there’s no one to come and look after my own animals while I recover! Totally not worth it!
Which is why I do not have a riding animal at this time I am a confident rider and like a spicy horse but, not wanting any accidents at this stage of my life. PLUS I don't want to keep an animal if I don't feel I have the time to devote to the handling & care they need from me. Already have these mini retiree pasture ornaments.:lol:


. I think I would benefit from at least some hand-holding and her being nearby to say, “See that? Correct it.“
I agree. AT THE SAME TIME -- reading over all this, I also question what the horse needs may be. At some point there may have been trauma &/or prior handling that affects his responses to movement, sounds, etc. Some can never overcome, others will with a LOT of desensitizing. Early training methods & experiences can create issues.

Shame that a level of comfort isn't happening for ALL. :idunno
 

Ridgetop

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I agree with everything that has been said here, but even more this trainer shouldn't be using this horse as a lesson horse.

First, It really doesn't matter why this horse acts this way. He is not your horse, you should not be retraining him. This horse is an accident waiting to happen. And the accident will be to you and anyone else around you if you continue to allow the trainer to put you up on him. Some horses are just nasty tempered. It really doesn't matter what happened to him in the past to make him this way - he should not be used as a lesson horse.

I had just finished tacking the brute and was leading him out of his stall. There were other horses and riders in the aisle in the barn, and as I was leading him through the stall gate, he started hopping around like he wanted to kick the gate behind him. He had done that same thing the week before and did kick the gate then.

It sounds as though your trainer (like many) is training out of a barn with other owners keeping their horses there. This widens the possibility that the horse could cause an accident to yourself or to others.If this horse had actually kicked one of the other riders or horses, they could have come back on you as well as the owner of the horse. After all, you were knowingly using a dangerous horse, he was in your custody and control at the time, therefore his actions at that time could be attributed to you in case of a lawsuit or claim for damages by others. At the same time you will have no recourse against the trainer if you are seriously injured since you had prior knowledge of this horse's dangerous behavior. Since you have willingly been riding him, you have assumed the risks and responsibility.

This trainer is really using you to try to work her dangerous horse. I don't care how good a trainer she may be, when she persists in using a horse who is dangerous she has no business training. She knows the horse is dangerous - he has a history of deliberately kicking people, he has a history of biting people. That means he is dangerous. You are paying for riding lessons, she is not paying you to break her dangerous, nasty tempered horse.

Second, the tack should be in good, usable condition. Using tack where cinches snap, where the previously broken straps have not been repaired, and where the saddles and bridles are falling apart is another warning sign that this trainer should not be training students. The worn out and broken tack is another accident waiting to happen! No matter how much you like her, no matter how accomplished she may be, no matter how knowledgeable she is you need to DUMP HER AND GET ANOTHER TRAINER IMMEDIATELY.

Between the tack problems and this dangerous horse it should be completely obvious that you need a new trainer.


Third, I agree with Bay that this is the worst flaw in the trainer. She is turning what should be a delight and privilege for your children to actually be able to ride horses into a boring burden. How sad to see this happen. It makes me cry to hear this. My children also top lessons and no ne was harder on them than I was, but they rode their ponies everywhere and had so much fun on them. Their best memories were riding their ponies, setting up gymkhana courses, swimming them in the wash, etc. DS1's pony loved to lay down in the water and when riding you had to be alert to kick him through even a deep puddle! It became one of the fun part of their journeys.

For your children alone, I would recommend a new trainer that would not only teach in the arena, but also go out on trails if possible. Arena riding is fine if you are only going to show but you also need to learn how to ride on trails, on the roads, etc. My friend's daughter had a horse that she planned to show, she took lessons and worked hours in the arena. My kids invited her to go trail riding with them and her horse fell off the curb because it had never been out of the arena! A friend of mine would only let her kids trot on the trails. My kids would race along while her children had to plod quietly along behind her. By junior high they did not want to ride at all. My children had a blast, hers thought riding was boring. She still rides, her children seldom.

This is not your horse. His behavior is not your problem. Your safety is at issue. Your safety should come first. If you had a horse that developed behavior problems, them you would need to deal with them. This is not the case here. You need to insist on another horse or, in my opinion, simply find another trainer. You have already been badly bitten, and the trainer passed it off as your fault - "You should have been more watchful"! This trainer's disregard for your safety completely removes any loyalty you might feel for her.

Is it possible to buy a couple of nice gentle horses and start trail riding with your children? You said you work with cattle - do you have somewhere to keep a couple horses?

The lessons you have learned here are:
1. Not to buy a horse with behavior problems
2. To recognize behavior problems
3. That you love riding in spite of the problems you have had
4. What to look for in another trainer

We are here for you and will back you up if the trainer gives you any problems or tries to make you feel bad about finding someone else. All these horse owners and riders are in agreement. That should tell you that your instincts are right and you need another trainer.
 

LMK17

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Once again, thanks for all the thoughts!

As to your kids lessons, in my opinion I think strict form should take a back seat to enjoying the animal you're on. If they aren't preparing for a show ring, let them do some fun stuff on horseback. It's a shame that your son has a bad impression of riding now.

...I see the kids around here riding and I admit I do cringe at their lack of good horsemanship, but I see myself at their age and I know that the rest will follow if they are first allowed to just enjoy being on a horses back and develop a relationship with a horse.
Excellent points! Having ridden in a more formal setting for well over a year, the kids have the basics down just fine. It’s definitely past time for them to start having fun on horseback. And thanks for the insight on unlearning/relearning as an adult. I’ve probably been too stuffy about the kids’ riding. I was afraid that if they didn’t get it right from the start that they would pick up bad habits that would be too hard to unlearn later. But I was missing the forest for the trees.

Ironically, we homeschool, and I‘m huge on helping kids keep their love of learning intact. And yet, I wasn’t living out that advice with my kids and horses! 🤦‍♀️:he I guess I’ve had my slice of humble pie for the day. With our new trainer, I intend to request a bit of time at the start to allow the kids to “de-school” from the previous lessons and simply experience some fun with the horses before moving on to new/better skills.

Games and obstacles and patterns are great for lessons. Follow the leader, red light/green light and Simon says all can be done on horseback, among others. Setting up barrels, cones, ground poles as obstacles can all be fun and great learning tools to direct your horse around and through.
I love these suggestions, and that gives me some things to ask about when calling other barns! Thanks!

She is ruining the joy for your children. That is where I got mad. How DARE she? I go mamma tiger where children are concerned. This alone should make you never go back, let alone the other incidents. She is picking them apart, being hyper critical and sucking the life out of them. These are your children, get them away from this ___________(more bad words).

What I care about is the enjoyment I get out of riding. The enjoyment is being stolen from your children.

I may sound harsh here, if that hurts your feelings, I'll shut up and go away. I'm just really ticked off. Tell me to shut up and I will. :)
I appreciate your honesty and concen!

Yes, I totally agree that her initial reactions when I told her about her horse’s dangerous behavior were just awful. I can’t in a million years imagine being so flippant about the safety of someone who’s working with one of my animals! To be perfectly honest, I really don’t mind being pared with this particular horse IF I have the trainer watching and instructing me on how to handle him. This guy has a bad temper and is ill-suited to being a lesson horse— But I do think he could work wonders for my ground-handling skills under the watchful eye of a good trainer. (And there’s the rub.) The tack is inexcusable also. I didn’t especially mind that it *looked* rough. But it’s crossed the line from “well-worn” to dangerous, and I can’t overlook it anymore.

I do feel that I need to make some clarifications regarding the children, though. I honestly and truly don’t think this trainer is sucking the life and all enjoyment out of them. Really I don’t, and if I thought that were the case, I would have put my foot down long ago. (FWIW, when I said they were “bored to tears,” I meant it as an expression only. No one has cried over lessons to date!) The more I reflect on it, the more I realize there is a better way of teaching horsemanship to children. That said, I don’t think the trainer is bad with the kids. She’s just boring and maybe a little bit too stern. When we started lessons with her, we were just as likely to be out riding in the field and on trails as we were to be in the arena. Lately, though, the lessons have become very monotonous. She uses her short trails for warming up and cooling down the horses, but that’s all. The rest of the lesson is just going in circles in the arena. I’ve been getting a bit tired of it, and the kids are certainly over it! However, she is not as tough on the kids as she is on adults. She honestly isn’t picking on them or being mean to them!

It is true that my son has asked to quit lessons and proclaims that he “hates horses,” but it’s not all the trainer’s fault. Sure, she could make the lessons more enjoyable for him and hold his interest better, but he happens to be a kid with VERY strong opinions. He either LOVES something or he HATES it. There isn’t much middle ground with him. (It drives me batty, to be honest!) Just for the record, he also “hates soccer,” “hates Harry Potter”, and “hates the movie theater.” :rolleyes:

As for my daughter, she is a bit less enthusiastic about horses than she used to be, although I don’t think that’s all the trainer’s fault, either. In fact, my daughter says she doesn’t want to switch stables and that she likes the trainer! Part of her becoming less enthusiastic, I think, is that the lessons are tedious, but I believe it’s also that she expected riding to be much easier in general- Just hop on a horse and gallop into the sunset, like she sees on TV. She was disappointed to find that wasn’t the case. Regardless, she does enjoy riding, does well with it, and would probably continue to have some fun even if we stayed at the current barn.

At least one bored, irritable, possibly hurting horse, tack not being maintained, dull, tedious lessons - this sounds like a program going downhill. Wonder what's happening with the trainer?

Any idea why the horse would want to kick the door?

I would not go through a doorway with a fractious horse. I'd get him settled on the inside or the outside, and only proceed through when he could go quietly. If he starts to blow up near the doorway, he's going backwards to where he came from (horses generally prefer to move forwards, so making one back up is often used as a disciplinary measure). This is one of those "make the right choice easy, and the wrong one hard" situations... Though truth to tell, this isn't something I'd like to be doing with the distraction of other people and horses in the aisle, at least, not the first time - and this really is something that should be done by someone who can "read" the horse's body language well.
You know, that’s a really good point about the program going downhill. I think it is. Lessons a year ago were more dynamic and the trainer seemed more engaged in general. She has had a very eventful year, some good, some not. I suppose it’s possible that she just got caught up in it all and let the lesson side of things slide. 🤷‍♀️

I think the horse is definitely protesting going out to work. Every attack he’s leveled at me— the kicks, the bite, and the general nastiness— have occurred while I’m tacking him up or walking him out of the barn. He’s also difficult to catch when he’s turned out (and not just for me but in general). In lessons, he’s been protesting a bit, too. Nothing serious, mostly just being slow to respond to cues, and since the trainer *is* present then, she’s been able to help me nip the behavior right away. I definitely don’t think he enjoys giving lessons, although he’s also bad tempered in general, such as with the other horses when he’s turned out, so it’s not just lessons.

At our most recent lesson, I asked the trainer for some ground lessons for me, and I was very pleasantly surprised by her response. She took time to address all of my questions, went with me to the stall to see for herself, and helped me pick up on some cues the horse was sending me that I was totally missing. And she had me walk the horse into and out of the stall in pretty much the way you described. Fortunately, the barn was nearly empty; I agree about not wanting to do it with people and horses milling all about. I’m still in the market for a new trainer, but I learned a lot in that little 15 min ground lesson. I’m very thankful for it. I wish she had had that kind of response the first few times I complained!

Which is why I do not have a riding animal at this time I am a confident rider and like a spicy horse but, not wanting any accidents at this stage of my life. PLUS I don't want to keep an animal if I don't feel I have the time to devote to the handling & care they need from me. Already have these mini retiree pasture ornaments.:lol:
Is it possible to buy a couple of nice gentle horses and start trail riding with your children? You said you work with cattle - do you have somewhere to keep a couple horses?
Ah, buying horses of our own. I’m really struggling with this!!

So first of all, yes, we could buy some horses. We live on a lovely 20 acre property on which we already run a small, diversified farm. So space and facilities aren’t really an issue, nor is being “tied down” with a horse. We’re already tied down by cattle, goats, hogs, and more poultry than I can shake a stick at! 😆 Money isn’t exactly an issue, either. Not that I want to spend a ton on horses— and my husband would certainly need some convincing!— but we’re already spending a pretty penny on lessons, and many of the more expensive aspects of horse ownership are not an issue for us. We wouldn’t be boarding. We already have good fences. Our pastures are good. We have a steady supply of organic hay cut from our own land. (Though it might be better suited to cattle than horses— I still haven’t pegged down the finer points of what constitutes “horse hay.”) And we’d have no problem saving a little on vet care by doing some vaccines, testing, and such ourselves since we’re already doing that for various other livestock. We also have a truck & horse trailer (which so far has been used to haul pretty much everything but horses). If we had our own horses, I imagine we’d move to maybe 2 lessons a month plus practice on our own. One of the frustrating things for me has been that with lessons and a lesson pony, I don’t really have the opportunity to head out and just ride. I’d like the opportunity to practice more often and under more varied conditions. I’d like the freedom to just go out and hack. I want that for the kids also.

On the other hand, time is an issue! I do struggle with getting everything done as it is, and having horses would add to my responsibilities. And of course, the money aspect can’t be completely overlooked. Not only are horses generally expensive to purchase and maintain, but I don’t have a real use for them on our farm. An expensive dairy cow already bred back? No problem! We can totally recoup that investment! Another pig? Bring on the bacon! But a horse? We just can’t do much with it! That’s a hard sell for us! I also feel like I still have a lot to learn about equines before going out and buying horses.

Bottom line... Riding a lesson pony once a week is never going to be the same as having our own horses, with which we can develop a bond and enjoy. In addition, we have a pretty good setup already in place for equines. But I have some serious reservations about buying horses at this time. So I’m torn. :idunno

I don't care how good a trainer she may be, when she persists in using a horse who is dangerous she has no business training. She knows the horse is dangerous - he has a history of deliberately kicking people, he has a history of biting people. That means he is dangerous. You are paying for riding lessons, she is not paying you to break her dangerous, nasty tempered horse.

Second, the tack should be in good, usable condition. Using tack where cinches snap, where the previously broken straps have not been repaired, and where the saddles and bridles are falling apart is another warning sign that this trainer should not be training students. The worn out and broken tack is another accident waiting to happen! No matter how much you like her, no matter how accomplished she may be, no matter how knowledgeable she is you need to DUMP HER AND GET ANOTHER TRAINER IMMEDIATELY.

Between the tack problems and this dangerous horse it should be completely obvious that you need a new trainer.


Third, I agree with Bay that this is the worst flaw in the trainer. She is turning what should be a delight and privilege for your children to actually be able to ride horses into a boring burden. How sad to see this happen.

This is not your horse. His behavior is not your problem. Your safety is at issue. Your safety should come first... This trainer's disregard for your safety completely removes any loyalty you might feel for her.

We are here for you and will back you up if the trainer gives you any problems or tries to make you feel bad about finding someone else. All these horse owners and riders are in agreement. That should tell you that your instincts are right and you need another trainer.
You’ve made some excellent points, and I thank you for them! I think I addressed many of your comments above, but I’ll add that I am actively shopping for a new trainer & facility. I’ve contacted four barns so far. Two simply won’t work out, but there are two more that seem like possibilities. I’m hoping to get some more answers to my questions— and I’m asking FAR better questions this time around than I was when I found the inital trainer! Hopefully I can set up a time later this week to see these facilities in person.
 
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Ridgetop

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So glad to read all you have posted. You seem to have everything under control. Best of luck with a new trainer.

If you have been taking lessons for well over a year, and you are not planning to show, why not look into leasing a couple of older horses and just enjoy trail riding for a while. You can always return to lessons. Having a horse on the property instead of taking lessons might work out the same cost and be more fun for you.

Many people don't want to sell their horses but find themselves not riding as much with jobs, or family pressures, or in the winter because the daylight hours are shorter. Since you home school, you could ride during the day and arrange the lesson schedule around that. Teenagers going off to college and don't want to sell them but the family might be interested in leasing them out. We leased our older son's pony to a neighbor for a year when they needed a smaller pony for their son and our younger kids had not yet grown into him. Later we did the same with our daughter's larger pony when she went off to college. Same family, just down the road, good facilities on their property, and we knew how well they cared for their horses.

Leasing is also popular with people that want to share expenses and will share riding time. You provide the boarding facility, they share feed and vet costs. If you can find a horse with some mustang in it, they can go barefoot - no costs other than trimming. Horses don't have to cost a fortune unless you are putting them up in a boarding stable and/or showing them. In fact, if you are buying a horse a lot of people that just want out from under the horse expense sell the tack along with the horse. My kids hated cleaning tack so they started riding bareback. Much better for the tack since they liked swimming their horses in the wash! LOL When they wanted to learn show jumping their balance was so good they went from beginner to advanced in a couple weeks. The trainer said she usually had her students ride bareback in the arena for several months to get their balance but since my kids had been riding bareback for years they already had that down pat.

I can put you in touch with a rescue facility outside DFW that might let you keep some good riding animals for them. You can talk to them about that, or Bay can help you with getting something nice from the kill pens. A lot of nice ponies end up there. If your children are young, ponies that they can groom, tack and care for themselves are really nice. Most ponies don't require shoes, only trims. The only horses we ever shod here (and we are on dry, rocky ground, with steep mountain trails, were our Tennessee Walkers and my old pinto mare when she god old because she didn't grow out enough and would stone bruise her soles. I put a half shoe on her to protect her feet as long as I was taking her out on the trails.

Just a thought - Our family had so much fun on ours over the years - DH's favorite thing was the whole family going out together on our horses, the youngest on a leading rein until we were on the trails and the baby up in front of his Daddy. Some of the happiest times of our lives. I sure hope you can have that experience with your kids too eventually.
 

promiseacres

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I think lessons are great. Having your own horses is definitely a step up. My kids and I are loving trail riding. But as they grow and if they want we'll consider more lessons. My daughter is my horse lover, she trained her mini to ride independently this year, now she wants to be a trainer. I grew up trail riding and riding in the backyard. Then rode all through college on a Ihsa team, finally learned what a lead was and how to cue it. Our horses didn't have great training even in this simple cue. But that's ok. I knew how to stick on.
 

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