Shorten Your Reins!

This could be called Pony Club Anecdote #4 but I’m sure you’re bored of my anecdotes by now (and there may well be more coming your way after this weekend’s mini camp). 

It involves a girl at the camp I taught at last month. When I first met her I rapidly realised that she had no concept of a rein contact, and would drop her reins at every opportunity. After telling her a few times on the first morning to shorten her reins, or even hold her reins, I decided I needed a plan of attack.

I usually find the best approach to dealing with an ongoing problem with a child is to make it into a bit of a game. Otherwise they could feel persecuted when you shout “reins!” at them for the thousandth time that lesson. 

So I offered to do her a deal. Every time I had to tell her about her reins she would be fined a Haribo sweet. I picked them because there’s lots in a pack and everyone loves them. Well she didn’t have any Haribos so she offered an Oreo biscuit as a fine. We shook on it.

From then on everyone got involved, keeping count, reminding her so that I didn’t say the words and subsequently charge her an Oreo. By the end of the first day she owed me fourteen biscuits. I think that’s more than a packet!

The nice thing about this game was that she laughed and giggled as I said her name warningly, or started saying “shorten”. It was a race between her catching my eye and gathering her reins up and me saying “shorten your reins”. The other kids were involved too, and I could threaten them with the fine of a biscuit if their reins got too long too. 

Throughout the week we played this game, and although I still had to remind her about the length of her reins, she kept hold of them and it was a minor adjustment as opposed to a major adjustment. I don’t think I said the phrase as much in the second part of the week either.

I was really pleased with her progress because she had far more awareness of the job of the reins and her hands, kept an eye on her reins herself, and by holding the contact more her pony didn’t nap or play “follow the leader”.

I will say though, that it’s a good job those Oreos didn’t materialise because there would have been no way Otis would have let me back on him without a serious diet! 

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