March 18, 2011

Safety First?

I was out on Wednesday trying to get back in the swing of things and work on the feedback I got from the schooling show, when we were joined by the barn owner's daughter and her little arab gelding.  The little girl is about 11, and usually does endurance with her mom.  They go out on hour long trail rides while I sit happily circling in my arena.  The daughter hasn't been able to ride much lately because of the weather and her mom recently got seriously hurt on a trail ride.  I knew her dad let her come out and ride because I was there so I didn't mind, happy to help and she's a fun little girl.
She usually takes her arab and just runs around the field.  Recently they have dragged a few old logs into the field to practice "jumping" and this is where I get nervous.  I don't jump anymore, mostly because I was no good, but I did for quite a while when I was in pony club.  Last summer the barn owner asked me if I could teach her daughter how to jump.  I told her I wasn't all that great but would be happy to help.  They never set up a time or asked again so I didn't worry about it.  I had given her daughter a few English lesson's here and there in preparation for some 4H show (because apparently you can learn English in 2 lessons.... sheesh), and the little girl never seemed to enjoy it... to many rules.
So we are out there riding and I start seeing her hoping over these logs - no more than 18" high.  I should say the horse was hoping over, he was flopping along getting left behind.  She had not left the saddle once.  Now I don't get into people's business and I hate handing out unsolicited advice.  But being as I was the only adult with this child, and would ultimately be the first responder should she take a spill, I felt I had the right to say something.  She came up to me and said she's been working on Red's jumping.  I asked if she was working on her jumping, she said no. 
I tried to give her some tips without being pushy.  I told her to sit up and lean a little forward over the jumps like when we practiced 2-point in her lessons.  I explained why and I think she got it.  I watched her over the jumps again and it looked like she was going to kiss his mane and I thought "Oh no, what have I done."  But at least she was a little better.  Later she felt confident enough to try and canter over the jumps, God bless her little horse for breaking to a trot just before instead of leaping over when he wasn't in a good spot. 
Me and Dexter we cooling off by now so we just walked around and kept an eye on her.  She asked if I was going to jump Dexter so I said sure.  I walked him up to the log, got into my 2-point and walked him right over it.  Sure it was a smarmy move but I wanted to use it to prove another point.  I let her know that Dexter had never jumped before, so before I started taking him over logs with me on my back, I would lunge him over jumps and poles so he can figure out his timing and spacing without worrying about me.  I told her that even though Red is good at trotting over them, cantering is harder for the horses to see, so she should lunge him over some jumps first to see how he does before she trusts him to go over them smoothly.
Oh and here is the kicker, and shame on me for not even realizing it until we were done (since I'm used to seeing her that way) - She was doing all this without a helmet.  To me that is totally not acceptable.  To have a minor going over logs with no helmet.  Granted, they were small jumps, and she wasn't going fast, but she was inexperienced and you never now.  Her mom, a very experienced rider just fell of a horse while trail riding and broke her leg.  Jumping just throws another wrench into the whole thing. 
So now I'm at a bit of a cross roads.  Am I over reacting?  I try not to be one of those horse people where I think my way of doing things is the only way. And for the most part I'm pretty good at seeing that there is more than one way to do things.  God knows me and the barn owner have differing opinions on everything from training to trailering, but we still get along and respect each others methods.  The difference here is a minor is involved and its a safety issue.  But its not my minor. So do I speak up?
Do I tell the barn owner that I would like to see her daughter in a helmet, at least when she is riding with me?  Do I mention that a few lessons with a professional to just get the basic jumping position down would greatly increase her safety?  Or do I just trust they know their daughter's level of riding and stay out of it.  Don't get me wrong I don't think they are bad parents, in fact I'm guessing they didn't know she was out there jumping without a helmet, and know she has one.  I just don't want to step on toes, but I also don't want to see anyone get hurt.
What would you do?


  1. I would stay out of it. Barn owner, barn owner's child. If you give advice and the child gets hurt or scared it will be your fault.
    I board at a big boarding barn and you would not believe the stupid things I see kids doing everyday. I also teach jumping there. Helmet, boots and take flat lessons with me until you are ready to jump. I also have insurance. I don't get involved in the crazy stuff I see going on everyday.

  2. Thanks Barbara, I agree. And that's why I've already decided if they bring up giving her jumping lessons again, the answer is a resounding NO. I'm not a trainer and can't take that responsibility.
    I guess I thought by giving little tips just to help a little I could keep her safer, but I could see how that could bite me in the end.
    I really wish they'd get her lessons though...

  3. BTW, that's how I learned how to jump, flatwork first then when I'm ready poles, then some small jumps. Very slow but safe. The issue here is the little girl has never had to take a real lesson, (Niether has her mother, she learned from her dad.) so she isn't all that patient and doesn't get it takes a lot of ground work to get there safely.

  4. I know what you mean about wanting to help. I see kids that I know would be safer/better/have more fun if they would just take a few lessons and learn a few fundamentals. But they won't and their parents think everything is wonderful... I walk the other way. It's sad, but those same parents will look for someone to blame the second something goes wrong. I try to stick to people with a little common sense.