I used to be involved in the horse world. While I never had the money to go to shows or compete, I did take lessons at a local barn for several years. My story took place when I was about 14 or 15, and on the day of my lesson my instructor was just finishing up a day camp group consisting of about 5 children between the ages of 8 and 12. I was warming up my horse in the ring as two of them took seats in the bleachers by the ring, waiting for their parents to pick them up. A word about the horse I rode : Henry was an elderly, rather spooky Thoroughbred. Because of his age I was always told to warm him up very slowly and thoroughly before getting down to the real work of my lesson. I rarely went above a brisk trot during warm-ups for this reason.Anyways, as I was passing the stands I heard two little voice shouting at me to gallop my horse. Every time I went past those stands I would hear, “Gallop him, gallop him!” This went on for the duration of my warm-up, about a good 10 to 15 minutes. I wasn’t about to accommodate their request, of course. As I said, Henry was really in no shape to be ridden like a racehorse, and the arena was only a little more than regulation sized so it wouldn’t be safe to attempt that speed anyways. I was also more than a little worried that the kids’ voices and flapping arms would spook him. I was pretty annoyed that my instructor wasn’t supervising these kids, and that they apparently hadn’t learned about the dangers of shouting and waving your arms around while surrounded by horses. Thankfully, their parents soon collected them and I was able to have my lesson in peace. 0614-12
I’ve owned horses for the past 17 years and currently have two driving ponies. Many, many years ago I was the part-time office manager of a riding stable that offered day camps during the summer to children so I’ve BTDT. That said, I think you overreacting to the situation. When riding, one gets into the “zone” where it doesn’t matter what is being said around you as you focus on communicating with your horse. I’m sure I’ve had little kids wanting me to make my horse go faster, too, but I never gave it much thought.
Arena exercises do not have to be merely going around and around the perimeter of the arena. There are so many different arena patterns one can use to exercise the horse that there are flip books that can be bought to remind the rider of all the choices. If your arena was like ours, the bleachers were in the middle section so doing a figure 8 pattern would have taken Henry dozens of feet away from the distractions. Or smaller circles at each end of the arena. You were not at the mercy of these two children but had the means to move your horse farther from them.
As for waving arms and shrieks, yes, children (and some adults) should be taught that doing so is alarming to horses but one cannot control the actions of others so the responsibility falls on the horse owner or rider to train their horse to be desensitized to those rude behaviors. Particularly when they happen many feet away from the horse in a bleacher. Essentially it means training the horse to have a “polite spine” to ignore the stupid things people do around them.
One of my ponies was “hot” and somewhat nervous so she went away for training in “natural horsemanship”. With more grandchildren in my future, I needed a pony that was grandkid proof. She is so desensitized to scarey things now that a bull whip can be cracked over and around her and she does nothing but yawn. Scarey trash bags in her face barely elicits a reaction. Running up to her waving a loud bag won’t move her feet. Educating her to use her brain instead of reacting instinctively means she is a quieter, calmer, trusting pony who is much safer around children.
I am right there with you though on pre-teen children needing to be supervised at a riding stable. Horses, even the best of them, are still big, powerful animals who have minds and personalities of their own. I always found it astonishing when parents left young children to wander the barns. Years ago, our family hosted educational farm tours for local school groups and afterwards offered pony rides. I had parents who brought their kids in flip flops after being told not to, parents who fought me about their kid wearing a riding helmet and one time, my son discovered a diapered, barefoot toddler crawling through the fence to reach the other horses in the farthest barn with the parent completely unaware of where his son was . We stopped the tours after that episode since we could not control these behaviors effectively.