Recently a few articles have surfaced on the importance of such principles as the respect of the horse on the ground, learning horse management, and becoming "well-rounded" in all things horse. These speak to the detriment of the "ride time" mentality, wherein stables focus only on riding and not on horse care or the relationship between the horse and rider. Such places have the horse tacked up and ready to ride for the student, who merely gets on, rides for their appointed time, and gets off. There is no other interaction between horse and rider outside of under saddle time.
This is a huge issue for me and one I have learned hurts the rider more than helps. Through the Pony Club system, I learned to be responsible for myself and my horse even without a parent or adult to help me. It seems that most adults these days step in too early to help kids rather than letting them learn on their own and make mistakes. Especially with parents when their "time is money," they want to make sure they are getting the most for the dollars they are spending on lessons. I understand where they are coming from, but parents need to understand that the time the student spends catching, leading, grooming, tacking, and untacking the horse is valuable in that the student forms a bond and connection and learns to understand the horse's body language in a way that they can't do while riding. Not only that, but the connection the horse and rider develop on the ground will translate to their relationship under saddle. The horse will respond better to the student and the student will know how to read the horse and understand what the horse is trying to tell them before reacting.
Believe me, I have actually lost potential clients when I describe that my programs allows for a learning period where the student will have limited riding time while they learn to catch, lead, groom, tack and untack the horse on their own. But those who do ride at Valley View will attest that they wouldn't trade the experience of being fully involved in the whole process of horsemanship for more riding time. These are the type of students that I am interested in teaching-those who yearn for a real relationship with a horse, not just learning how to ride. These are the real horse lovers-who will become great horsemen and horsewomen.