Hannah SwansonMs. TillerySenior Project10 April 2012 Senior Project Speech The great Winston Churchill once said, “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in the saddle,”implying that no greater life lessons are learned than those unearthed while riding a horse. Myname is Hannah Swanson, and for my senior project, I further pursued my passion for horses andlove for children by teaching horseback riding lessons. Spending much of my childhood either inside a barn or on the back of a horse, I immediatelyknew that I wanted my senior project to be equine related. However, it wasn’t until I beganvolunteering at Bethany’s Equine and Aquatic Therapy Services, which is a therapeutic ridingcenter for disabled children, that I knew I wanted to be involved with the riders and to teachlessons. While volunteering, I immediately was able to interact with two particular children,McKayla and Eric, helping teach their lessons and aiding them in improving their overall being.BEATS and the incredible children I met there gave me the inspiration for the topic of myresearch paper, which discerns the benefits of hippotherapy versus therapeutic riding. To bebrief, hippotherapy revolves around the movement of the horse stimulating the child’s brain andmuscles and the repetition of these movements to strengthen the his or her speech and physicalmobility; whereas, therapeutic riding not only focuses on the physical and cognitive disabilitiesof special needs children, but also on the social and emotional aspects of their bodies as well. Myinvolvement with the lessons at BEATS dramatically helped me in creating my overall product. For my product, I compiled a series of clips from the various lessons I taught to form a
video, showing the different obstacles and lessons the riders and I conquered. [play video] Inmy first lesson, I taught Carson on Bo, and since it was my first time teaching a lesson, I onlywalked with her, and we worked on her form. We first began working on her concentrating onputting her knees in the saddle, calves out of the saddle, heels down towards the ground, andtoes pointed slightly inward. I stressed to her the importance of good form while riding becauseit affects the comfortability of the horse and the way the horse will perform. I really struggledwith Carson to get her to focus on maintaining her form throughout the lesson, but I can relate tothis issue because I struggle with this as well. However, as an instructor, the lack of consistencywas frustrating. During my second lesson with Carson, we progressed to the stage of trotting,which is a gait that is more than a brisk walk but a step below the canter, and during this lesson,I encountered my greatest obstacle: trying to get Carson to land the correct diagonal. A diagonalis the position of the rider in relation to the horse, meaning while the rider is coming out ofthe saddle, the horses outside leg must be extended or moving forward. Here, Carson is on theincorrect diagonal because she is up in the saddle, while Bos foot is bent. Carson changes herdiagonal to the correct one by sitting for one beat, making her posting easier on the horses back.In order to succeed in the division Carson shows in, she must be on the correct diagonal theentire time while trotting. My third lesson with Carson was much more successful in the diagonaldepartment, and I believe it was because I reformed my teaching technique, which included notbeing as harsh on her and giving her more time to correct her mistakes. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflict, I only was able to teach Jack one lesson, but Ienjoyed this lesson immensely because Jack is a more experienced rider so we were able to gooutside. Riding outside in the arena is a much different experience than riding inside because ofthe distractions that can spook the horse. Jack was really aware throughout his lesson, but his leg
form was lacking. I had to constantly remind him about keeping his heels down and his calvesout of the saddle. However, he landed the correct diagonal much better than Carson had. I feltmost proud of my lesson with Jack because he really came a long way, and I believe he is readyto make his debut in the show ring. For my final stint as an instructor, I was able to coach Carson and another girl Jewellee onthe rail while they were showing. The experience was so exciting but also nerve racking becausethe girls’ parents were counting on me to help their daughters succeed. They both showed inthree twenty minute classes back-to-back, and it was evident that the exhaustion was wearing onthem by the third class. In the final class, after both had two great rides, someone in the audiencescared Bo, so he jumped and Carson lost her stirrup. In addition, Jewellee’s horse, Willy, startedcantering, and she went almost fifty yards before she was able to get him stopped. Overall, thegirls had a successful show experience, and I was extremely proud of both of them for handlingtheir mishaps eloquently. The process for combining all of the lessons I taught into a video wasfairly simple because I was able to have someone video tape the lesson for me, or I could doit myself. I used iMovie to construct my final product, and I also used online video tutorials tomake iMovie more accessible. My project facilitator, Amanda Ward, has been a horse trainer’s daughter since the day shewas born, her father being a world renowned man of the trade. She grew up riding and showinghorses, and after a radio broadcasting stint in Nashville, she returned to the family business,Ward Stables, and began teaching lessons to adolescent riders like myself, Carson, and Jack. Inthis project, I observed many lessons she taught in order to get a better feel of how to instruct alesson, and she worked with me on many scheduling conflicts. She also helped me periodicallythroughout the lessons, giving me tips on how to enhance the rider’s performance.
Dealing with horses and multiple parties, there were bound to be some conflicts and obstaclesin the process of creating my product. Originally, I had planned to host a day camp for youngriders at my barn and to educate them on the anatomy of the horse, but because I am taking fourAP classes this year and am involved in many other outside activities, I was unable to do this.The biggest challenge I faced throughout my whole process was scheduling conflicts. Duringthe week, I am either babysitting, volunteering, or doing various other activities almost everydayafter school so I was unable to teach as many lessons as I had hoped. In addition, Carson andJack many times had alternative plans, such as vacation, resulting in them not being able to cometo the barn regularly on Saturdays. I overcame these challenges by doing the best I could to workaround people’s schedules and to teach as thorough lessons as I knew possible. From being on the other side of the horse for so many years, I had no idea of the frustrationsand challenges that came with being a horseback riding instructor. Trying to get the rider toreally absorb what you are saying and having them execute it properly is so incredibly difficult,and I never imagined the amount of patience I lacked while doing it. I can honestly say that Iwould not further pursue this career path because of the hard labor and frustration that comeswith it. I also enjoy more being on the other end of a lesson and not feeling all of the pressure ofhelping your rider excel in the show ring. Through this process, I have learned a lot about myself and have gained several virtues aswell, such as patience and appreciation. I believe the senior project is a great opportunity toexhibit to the community how advanced the next generation has become and to show them thepotential we have to make the future promising again. I hope by listening and observing myexperience as a horseback riding instructor that you will realize the great characteristics that arecarried through riding and that you will encourage young boys and girls to become involved
with horses because they are truly amazing creatures. Thank you so much for your time today; Igreatly appreciate you taking time out of your schedules to be here.