My daughter Elise will be 4 at the end of the week, and as long as she could ride, her go-to word in the saddle has been “FASTER.”
That’s probably my fault, because she’s been following me to the barrel races her whole life and bouncing around on Ol’ Tonto since she could reach the stirrups a couple years ago.
I love her tenacity in the saddle, and it’s that bravery I’d like to encourage—to a point, that is. The day her pony got loose at a branding and went trotting down the alley, all with my 2-and-a-half-year-old pretending to spur him (without any spurs of course) like a saddle bronc giggling away, my stomach turned itself inside out. I want that bravery to carry over into other parts of her life, and I hate to dim her spirit… but gosh, there’s got to be a way to keep her bold but to teach some sense as she grows.
“When you have a young, confident rider, it’s actually a really good thing,” Branquinho said. “But it can create safety issues because they’re over confident, and they think they know too much.”
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The good news? Horses are some of the best teachers, and everyone who rides finds it a humbling experience at one point or another. The key, Branquinho said, is in allowing the horses to do the teaching while maintaining a watchful eye.
“When I see them getting into a potential bad situation that I feel is not extremely dangerous, I’ll use that as a learning experience,” Branquinho said. “I let them get themselves into a bit of a mess then explain to them why and how it happened. You don’t want your kids to get hurt, but you do want them to fail correctly.”
“Dialing an over-confident kid back down might need to happen when the kid gets him or herself in over his or her head,” Branquinho said.
“Every trainer, every parent and every coach has to figure out when and how to do that with each student and that student’s personality. In team roping, for example, maybe that means entering them in the Open draw pot so they can see what they’re really up against. In horse shows, maybe it’s entering them in a tougher class than they’d usually compete. And if they’re super confident on a 20-year-old campaigner that’s been there and done that, maybe it’s time to test them a bit on a younger horse. It’s all about exposing them to different situations to where their comfort zone is growing so they’re not over-confident. Put them with new people, in new arenas, on new horses, and in new practice pens.
“When I talk to these kids, a lot of it has to do with teaching them respect for the horse. Because if they have a respect for the horse, they’ll get more humble along the way.”
For me, all of this is the goal with my daughter. And just for good measure, she’ll be in a Resistol RideSafe just in case the horses do a little too much teaching one day. HR