parentwatching

Horseback riding is a very physical sport that requires both mind and body coordination. And although many young children learn to ride, like many sports, the progress is slower than we’d like. But each lesson shows improvement even if it is barely noticeable. I’ll admit, watching the same repetitive movements every week can be less than thrilling, but, watching is important to the rider.

I can predict a rider’s progress by the interest of the parent.

Oh, wow!

One parent thought every step her child made on horseback was wonderful. She sat on the edge of her chair and cheered because her daughter kept the horse between the cones and the wall all the way around the arena. A little overboard? Maybe, but, this child progress quickly from controlling the horse at a walk to controlling the horse at a trot, and soon left to pursue jumping. Successful rider, yes. But, more importantly, interested parent.

No he won’t

Another rider had a great dad. He’d come in with her and help with the grooming and saddling. My thought was they had a great bond. They did – for the ten minutes that it took to get the horse ready. Once she was ready to take her horse to the mounting block, he’d say, “Have a great ride. I’ll be back right after this phone call.”

She looked up at me with puppy-dog eyes and said, “No he won’t.” And she was right. Her progress? Barely there. She says she enjoys riding, and I think she does, but she’d enjoy it more if dad would watch.

Did you see that?

Another rider was learning to trot. She could trot a few steps before the horse would break to a walk. She kept trying to keep her horse trotting. The goal was to trot the long arena wall. One lesson she made it half-way down the wall. She was ecstatic! She looked at mom for a reaction, but mom was staring at her phone. “Did you see? I went farther”, she cried out. Mom looked up and smiled and went back to her phone.

We worked on trotting the long wall for months. We never got further than half-way. Then a grandparent came to a lesson and watched her groom the horse. Watch her warm up the horse. Told her she was quite the rider. Then came the trot. And trot she did – all the way around the arena! Not once, but twice so the grandparent could video it. She was so proud of her accomplishment and so was the grandparent.

At the next lesson Mom said that she understood her daughter trotted the previous week. I was hopeful for a repeat performance. But mom stared at her phone and the daughter barely trotted to the half-way mark.

Over the years I have seen that giving your child genuine attention and encouragement, whether is horseback riding or playing checkers, is what they need to become successful at “their” sport. SO, put down the phone, don’t make calls or text, and watch. Boring? Sometimes. Encouraging for the child? Always!

Linda Watson-Call is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.
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