I was prepping one of my rides last week and saw one of the worst frustrations of a riding school instructor.
The ride of kids had just entered the arena on their ponies when one cheeky pony gave a full body shake, leaving his rider clinging on to his neck for dear life, doing a great impression of a sloth. Obedient as ever the pony continued to follow the tail in front of him, whilst his rider sobbed into the mane.
“Stop!” Called the instructor. The other kids looked at her in surprise, and have a feeble tug on the reins as the instructor tried to catch up with the meandering ride. Which hadn’t stopped.
She was too late. The sloth like rider tumbled gently to the side, finally giving in to the rolling motion of the walk.
Perhaps if the ride had stopped she would have been able to find her saddle again. Or at least hung on until the instructor reached her, who would have got there quicker if the pony had stopped.
The instructor then began to lecture the rest of the ride about following instructions and stopping when told! I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt, and it’s not my most favourite of tshirts!
There does seem to be a bit of an aloof attitude with riders nowadays, both horse owners and beginners. When we were growing up if anyone had a problem you stopped. One yell from our instructor and we would go from canter to halt to create a quiet environment for the youngster who had spooked, or the pony who had done extended trot to catch up with the tail in front. After all, it will prevent the incident escalating. Someone halfway out the side door can climb back on a stationary horse, but not one still trotting round. If someone has fallen off then they won’t get trampled by other horses and the loose horse is less likely to cause another problem.
No one is to blame in that situation, it’s just important to prevent further problems and to make everyone as safe as possible, an element people often forget. In first aid courses we are told to make the area safe before attending to the casualty. Which means if one person has fallen off in a group lesson then everyone else needs to stop, the loose pony caught and then the rider checked over.
It’s also common courtesy.
The other week I was schooling and someone brought their horse in for light trot work as he’s on box rest recovering from an injury. I could see the horse was wired, as he bounced in the air, so I stayed in trot. Canter work could wait. And I stayed away from the horse so neither of us were endangered. When he was settled I asked if she minded me cantering, and then I cantered in front of her so the fresh horse wouldn’t be spooked from behind.
It drives me mad when you see someone having a problem and everyone else continuing their riding with a slightly arrogant air. You don’t need to interfere, especially if you don’t know the horse or rider, but you could stay out of their way and give them a wide berth, or if it’s something the horse is spooking at, then offer to move the object. It doesn’t take much to avoid a rider who’s horse is unsettled, or to choose your canter transition so you aren’t careering up behind them, but believe me the rider will be thankful!