Today it was Brooke - a 12 yr old girl. She was attentive and willing as we got Gunny out and groomed him. I was especially impressed when I handed her the lead rope and she carefully folded the extra in her left hand and then took hold just a foot away from the halter. When I commented on it, she reminded me that when she and her Mother had come to the ranch the previous week to see about starting lessons, I had let Brooke help me lead a horse to turn out. That is impressive for her to remember that first lesson in leading.
We covered the basics of grooming- a curry comb to loosen dirt and hair, but never used on the bony parts of the horse - so not on the face or below the knees or hocks. The the body brush to sweep away the dirt, using the curry comb to clean the brush as you go. Brooke even learned how to pick out Gunny's hooves, and was brave about holding his feet and digging in to clean out around the frog.
Next we saddled and bridled Gunny and found a helmet to fit Brooke. We led him to the mounting block and she got on a horse for the very first time. If she was afraid, it did not show. I had a lunge liine on, and assured her that if she made a mistake, I could over ride any confusion. Having that 'emergency brake' lets a rider relax in their first rides. It can be terrifying to be the person in charge of 1000 lbs of horse, when you are not sure what you are doing. Starting on the lunge line relieves the rider of that stress.
Very quickly, Brooke was able to get Gunny to stop and walk on command. Then we added turning, doing nice reverses on the lunge circle. I told Brooke that she had 5 ways she could signal a horse - 1-with her hands via the reins, 2- with her legs, by squeezing or kicking, 3 - with her voice, clucking or saying whoa, and walk. 4- with her weight - sitting up will slow a horse, leaning forward will make them go quicker, and you can step into a stirrup to aid a turn. 5- with her Eyes - if you LOOK where you want to go, the horse will feel this and get a clearer message of what the rider wants.
At the Jog, Brooke has to learn to sit tall and not lean forward - so that she didn't bounce. This is when I really appreciate getting to start a rider from scratch. Riders who have past experience, may have a very bad habit of leaning forward and gripping with their knees. When a student has Never ridden, it is easy to show them how much more comfortable it is to sit tall and Not bounce.
Next I took off the lunge line and let Brooke navigate all the way around the ring. this makes the rider really use their eyes to aim straight down the rail.
By the end of the 45 minute lesson, Brooke was steering Gunny straight down the rail and also doing circles at the trot.
Brooke is already set for another lesson Next Wednesday. I am sure we will have a lot of fun.