Buttercup_MorganMy young rider and Buttercup have a great working relationship. Buttercup is no push-button horse, but she knows when her rider means what she it and usually doesn’t put up a fuss. But today something was wrong.

Our warm-up exercise went well. It was a new pattern, but the rider had no problem with it and Buttercup complied. Last week we started going over a low jump. The rider is ready to learn how to canter, has great form, and had enjoyed going over ground poles. She did fine last week, so I thought we’d do it again this week.

As I was getting the jump ready, I asked her to trot Buttercup. She did, but Buttercup didn’t trot the distance. She broke trot after a few steps. So we tried again. This time, she didn’t even attempt to trot.  She stopped instead. Really? Stopping instead of trotting? This is not acceptable behavior. I’m studying the rider and the horse. I don’t see anything wrong with the rider. The horse is moving properly but refusing to trot. Stopping. And when she stops, she is not square, but extends her back legs a bit. I’m wondering if she needs to urinate, but isn’t doing it.

My first impulse was to get after Buttercup for not being responsive, but my gut feeling said not to. So I changed the lesson and we worked on leg yields, which were done quite nicely by both the rider and the horse.

Class is over and I make a mental note to work with Buttercup later in the day to try and figure out what happened in that lesson.

A half-hour later I get a text from the rider’s mother. They may have to cancel the afternoon plans because she is running the girl to Emergency. I’m stunned. It seems the girl had fallen the day before and hit her head. No lumps, no bumps, not even a mark. She seemed fine that evening and didn’t complain about not feeling well in the morning.

Being the avid rider that she is, she came for her lesson, but on the way home told her dad that the ride home was making her sick to her stomach and dizzy.

The next text was – she had suffered a concussion.

Was she not feeling right but hid it well for her riding lesson? She says she was fine until the ride home. Did Buttercup know that she wasn’t well and shouldn’t be trotting (actually shouldn’t be riding!), Buttercup is not saying. But what she is saying loud and clear – I do know what is happening with my rider and will act accordingly.

And I will always trust my horses and my gut.

Linda Watson is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.


One of the fun things to do with horses is to teach them tricks. So at our March Golden Pony Club we did that.

There are some tricks that we would never teach our horses for safety reasons – like rearing or kissing on the lips. But there are so many others that are fun and very teachable. All tricks are actions that a horse will normally do. So the only thing that is tricky is getting the horse to do the action on command.

To really teach a trick, you need to repeat the action over and over a period of days. Since our club only meets for two hours, each member did the action with the horse three times. Rewards are also important. We give a small carrot as a reward if the horse at least “tries” to do the action.
We started with the one trick that everyone loves to see – Smiling! This is a relatively simple trick. The horse will naturally raise its upper lip to get a better smell of its surroundings. It will also lift the lip when it’s in pain. Lifting the lip is called flehmen (flay’-mon).

Smile Leslie_2 r25r50We teach it one of two ways: either by tickling the nose with a string – baling twine works just fine, or dipping the baling twine in a liquid that has a strong scent to it – like a perfume. We tried it both ways during our session and got some results.

 

 

Hug Buttercup_1 r25r50

The second trick was teaching the horse to give a hug. This one was a little more difficult for the girls. You need to hold the treat – in this case a carrot on a Frisbee – behind your back so the horse looks over your shoulder to get it. The girls arms a much shorter than an adults, so they had the treat closer to their waist and the horse simply went behind them to get the reward. We’ll have to work on this one a little more.

The last trick was shaking hands/hooves. This is on my questionable trick list, but it is a fun one, too. I place it on the questionable list because we don’t want to teach the horse to paw or strike forward with a hoof, but the horses that I taught it too, never picked up either habit, so I will teach it.

 

Shake Leslie_1 r25r50The cue word is “shake” and we start by putting a lead line around the fetlock and on the cue “shake” put some pressure on the rope to encourage the horse to pick up the hoof. If the horse shift weight to the other hoof and just moves the hoof that we want lifted, we reward to the horse. This trick takes longer to teach than the other tricks, but, like any trick, everyone enjoys seeing the horse “shake” hands/hooves.

To see more pictures of teaching the horses tricks go to our Facebook page.

 

Linda Watson is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all of the lessons and activities at this facility.

 


linda:

As we enter show season…

Originally posted on outoftheboxstall:

With show season just around the corner, like most of you, I’ll be changing gears as soon as the weather gets warmer than 40 degrees.  For most of my life the “gear change” was to get back into the show ring, and in that regard, not much has changed.  The last several years, however, I have been showing my horses less and less, and judging more and more.  Over the years, I have been blessed with some nice horses, and some great trainers, but I can honestly say that judging was the “missing link” in my horse show education, if you will.  I never really knew what showing horses was about until I started judging…and in light of that, and in honor of show season, I’m going to share what I have found to be (my) top five myths of horse show judging, in no particular order.  Others probably have…

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Test_Ride_1Once our horses are groomed and tacked up, we walk our horse around the arena – usually twice, and then mount up. We walk our horses around until all the riders are up, then we begin a pattern – at the walk. It seems that we do a lot of walking at the beginning of the lesson but there is a reason for it. We are warming up. That is – both the rider and the horse.

Warm up? Think about baseball, the pitcher warms up his pitching arm in the bullpen for quite a few minutes before being put in the game. Runners may jog before a run, footballs players may do a forward lunge, every sport has its own warm-up routine. And so do equestrians.

Studies have shown that athletes who warm up before playing have fewer injuries. Horses, as well as the riders, are athletes. Keeping them fit is part of the responsibility of riding.

Walking the horse around the arena prepares the horse Serpentine_reand rider mentally for the class. I often ask the rider, “What mood is your horse in today?” Most of the time I get a giggle, but there is a reason I ask. In those few minutes, and in the time that the horse was groomed, the rider should know if the horse is relaxed or tense, listening or distracted. This will affect the lesson so paying attention to the horse give the rider a clue to how the lesson will go. This is also the time to get the horse’s attention. If the horse isn’t listening on the ground, it certainly will not listen once the rider mounts. If the rider isn’t paying attention to the horse, we could have a disaster in the arena.

After mounting we walk the pattern. This is not a walk in the park. This exercise raises the horse’s core and muscle temperature. It also warms the rider’s muscles too. The pattern also helps the horse and rider focus. A good warm up should last about 20 minutes. The first 10 minutes should be at the walk, then 10 minutes at a trot before any cantering or jumping. You want your horse’s joints moving before any hard work.

Jenna trots Buttercup eNow we can start our lesson. Since most of our riders are at different levels of trotting, our warm up is right around 10 minutes. By that time, I can tell what mood everyone is in and how hard we can work that lesson.

Warming up is an essential part of your ride and your horse’s health.

Linda Watson is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.


Grooming_horse_1_rx50Our riding lessons always start by grooming the horse. I have had parents ask why their child has to groom and tack the horse when they are paying for a riding lesson, but I explain that learning about caring for an animal is a lesson as well. The grooming and tacking is very important both for the horse and the rider.

Currying the horse is very much like a massage. Yes, it brings up the dirt and dead coat, but it also a rub down for the skin and muscles. It feels good to the horse. Always curry with some pressure and use a circular motion.

For the rider, this is an opportunity to find out how the horse is feeling. Once in a while, the horse will react to the curry by moving away or moving its head toward to person grooming. Is that a sore spot? Maybe another horse kicked or bit the horse. Check it out.

Throughout the grooming process, you learn a lot about the horse. Was it rolling in the mud all day or night? Are there cuts or scratches that need to be taken care of before the ride? Should the horse be ridden?

In the case of a minor injury, the rider learns what to do for the horse. Especially if there was a kick that drew blood, I ask the rider to watch every week to see how long it will take to heal completely.

Hoof_Cleaning_2_rx25Let’s not forget to clean the horse’s hooves. Rocks, stones, or worse can get caught in the cleft. The hoof may have cracked or chipped. If the hoof grew faster than normal between farrier visits, it may rip. Here’s another lesson for the rider on caring for a horse.

It doesn’t take long before there is a bond between the horse and rider. The rider feels ownership of the horse and wants to learn more about keeping the horse healthy. And it all started with the rub.

 

This post is the first of a five part series on the makeup of a riding lesson.


A great read with some food for  thought.

Not being negative…just honest. (What?). via Not being negative…just honest. (What?).


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