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Nearly every Therapeutic and beginner riding class at our facility ends with a game. Sometimes even the more experienced riders want to play games on horseback.

I find games are an excellent way to reinforce skills that would be “boring” if we practiced them as part of a riding lesson. And once the rider gets the concept, we can advance to the next level.

Here’s a sample of some games and the expected results:

Red light green light. Played on horseback the same way we play it on the ground. Reinforces asking the horse to walk on and stop.

Egg and spoon is a classic. The rider holds a long handles spoon with an egg or golf ball in the bowl part of the spoon. The object is to get from point A to point B without dropping the egg. Skill learned – soft, steady hands.

Chaos is a favorite in our barn for all riders. We play it with the holiday pictures on the arena wall or with objects on the barrels. The rider tries to be the first one to take the horse to the item called and stopping the horse at that item. Skill – focus!

Ring game. The rider moves a ring from one cone to another. We start by stopping the horse at the cone to retrieve or place the ring and advance to doing it without stopping the horse. This game improves motor skills and special relations as well as stopping and walking the horse.

Focus, following patterns, spatial relations are all essential to good riding. Why make a lesson boring when games can be the way to learn!

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.

Signage at Petty Pony Pastures

Signage at Petty Pony Pastures

This sign is posted at the entrance to our horseback riding arena. Parents glance at it; no one questions it.

But now that it’s summer, we need to define proper.

Footwear

Riders need to wear boots with a small heel. Here are some good and bad examples:

Paddock boot  – perfect with or without chaps – or tall riding boot . Flat, not ribbed, soles please.

Hiking boots, although they do protect the feet, are not acceptable for riding because the thick, ribbed sole can get stuck in the stirrup and the this leather does not allow the flexibility required to move the heels up or down in the stirrup. Fashion boots have too high of a heel.

Always cover your feet – please! Even if you are a spectator, you need to wear tennis shoes or boots. These may be called boots – but they offer no protection at all!

Cowboy sandals

Cowboy sandals

Breeches or jeans

Pants must be long. Breeches are tucked in the boot or covered with chaps; jeans fall outside the boot and be ankle length.

Wearing capris, shorts, or other pants that expose the skin can cause the rider problems. If you look at the picture below, notice that the leg is against the horse and the stirrup leather.

Leg contact with the horse

Leg contact with the horse

This means the rider runs the risk of chapping or irritating her skin. The horse get hot and sweaty during a good ride and their coat will rub off on the leg. Stirrup leathers collect the dirt from the horse and can be very uncomfortable rubbing on the skin. In shorts, the rider’s thigh is on the saddle. Ever sit on leather car seats in the summer? Comfortable, right?

Shirts

Even though we don’t ride outdoors with the sun beating down on us, spaghetti strap shirts are not acceptable for riding. A light-weight t-shirt with short sleeves works. Nothing fancy, nothing too heavy. Be comfortable and safe.

Helmets

Helmets are always required. In the winter we have the option of helmet covers to keep our heads warm. I search the internet for a solution – Dover sells a liner for the Ovation helmet that is reported to wick away the moisture and can be washed after every ride.

helmet liner

helmet liner

I can’t recommend these because I haven’t tried it. But if your rider complains about the helmet being hot, you just might want to try one.

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.

Several times a year, before we worm our horses, we weigh them. The vet comes twice a year – and weighs them. Even if we weigh our horses the day before, there is usually a discrepancy between our weight and the vet’s weight. Sometimes a few pounds, sometimes quite a few pounds.

Buttercup's weight using the weight tape

Buttercup’s weight using the weight tape

I have never been comfortable with the “weight tape” because even if you think you are putting it around the heart girth, it can slip. It can be at a different angle every time it is used. It can be tighter or looser than the last time. And what about the thickness of the horse’s coat?

Problem solved. We purchased a livestock scale! Okay, we got it to weigh our cattle to make sure they were market ready, but, horses can stand on it too. And so they did.

In my scientific study of the horse’s weight, I used the weight tape on the horse to get the tape weight.

Buttercup taped out at 1001 pounds. A respectable weight for this mare.

Buttercup getting weighed.

Buttercup getting weighed.

We walked her onto the scale, and, oh my! She gained 113 pounds between the time we taped her and she walked onto the scale!

Buttercup's weight using the livestock scale

Buttercup’s weight using the livestock scale

This held true for EVERY horse. Some of the horses varied by only 50 pounds, which is the acceptable range for the tape, but most weight in with a 100 pound or greater difference between the tape and the scale.

So, which do I believe? The horses claim the scale if off, but we checked it with our weight and it was only a few pounds more – but considering we had our boots and winter coats on, it was within two or three pounds of our scale in the house.

Looks like it will be exercise time in the arena for both the horses and me this spring!

 

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.

covershot

We’ve entered a new era at our farm – I’ve been promising this for years, yes, years. And this year we are doing it!

One aspect of our lessons is about the horse. You can call it horsemanship – although that has several different meanings, or stewardship, or just plain knowing more about horses that riding.

We’ve always taught things like – grooming, safety, parts of the horse, horse nutrition, etc. as part of our lessons, in our scout events, and in the Hooked on Horsessm summer program. Now, everyone, whether they ride here or not, can participate in our virtual learning center and access our videos and interactive programs.

Our first interactive program was Part of the Horse. We have had rave reviews from several of parents who said their child loves to play this program.

Our second was Daily Grooming. Yes, there is a difference between the way you groom your horse every day and how you would groom your horse for a show. Show Grooming is on the list – probably this summer.

Daily Grooming is part of our Parent Boot Campsm program. Every spring and fall we invite the parents of new riders to attend our Parent Boot Campsm to learn more about horses, their care, and what we expect their rider to do. Many times schedules don’t allow for parents to attend and we’ve been asked if we could do a video. So, here is an interactive program on grooming for both parents, riders, and new horse owners where ever they may be. This will be followed by Horse Safety in and around the Barn, Saddling Your Horse, and How to Lead (Your Horse, of Course).

We will also show different aspects of how we train and desensitize our horses before they are put into our programs.

Join us – we will post our releases here, on our blog, and on our release site.

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.

It was bound to happen sooner or later. I’m not sure why I wasn’t more prepared…in hindsight, I should have been. I was speaking at a scientific section meeting on the topic of the human aspect of …

Source: When Your Mom is “That Mom”(Ok Not MY Mom)


SPringCleaning

Maybe I’m rushing it, but the forecast is for warm, okay seasonally warm, weather for the next two weeks. It’s only five weeks before it’s officially spring and only four weeks before that National Holiday for horse people – Daylight Savings Time – begins.

In the midst of all this excitement about being able to spend more time with the horses, a very important event needs to take place – Get everything ready! Or, it’s spring cleaning time! Time to go through everything we stashed or meant to take care of as the weather got colder, and never got around to. Time to make sure everything is in working order and supplies are available.

Let’s start with the trust supply cabinet

Toss any supplement or med that has an expiration date on it. Some may be good for up to six months to a year past the expiration date, but, unless you are certain or your vet said it’s okay – toss it. Some meds lose their effectiveness and are useless.

Is it cloudy, solidified, or otherwise deteriorated? Shampoos, conditioners, and other liquid supplies may just go bad after sitting on the shelf for a while. If it doesn’t look right or smell right – toss it!

Never touched, never used. We all buy things that we think we’ll use on our horse and only use it once, or it floats to the back of the cabinet and we forget about it. If it falls into either of these categories AND it is still good – box it and donate it to a horse shelter.

Tack room or trunk

Take a good look at your lead lines, halters, saddles pads, and other equipment. Is it frayed beyond repair? Toss it. Can it be fixed? Keep it but put a date on it. If it hasn’t been fixed in a period of time, let’s say two months, either toss it or donate it – provided it is still safe or okay to use.

Wash or clean what you will keep. Nothing is better than starting the riding season with clean, fresh equipment! You may also want to make a list of the items that need to be replaced.

Set up a polish day with your barn buddies. Take an afternoon to clean your saddle and bridle before the season starts.

And don’t forget the grooming bucket! This is actually a monthly chore at our barn – but it belongs here as well. Clean those brushes and disinfect them. Your horse is only has clean as the brushes you use.

Trailer

If you haul your horse to shows or trails, now is the time to get the trailer checked out. Take it to a reliable mechanic who will check the wiring, brakes, lights, and tires. Too often the barn mice make a meal on exposed wiring. Tires will dry rot even if you hardly use your trailer.

Have the flooring checked, too. Urine and manure can get under the mats and cause the trailer floor to deteriorate. And give it a good wash and wax. Now, you are set to go!

Barn work

Again, clearing cobwebs need to be done monthly, but it is a high priority on the spring cleaning list. The spiders were certainly busy while we were away. Cobwebs collect dust and are a fire hazard, so, here’s another “barn party” to coordinate. Long handled brooms and friends will help complete this job quickly.

How about you? How will you get ready for spring this year?

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.

supplycabinet

There are no two ways about it – horses can be very expensive. If you look through a horses catalog at all the “products” designed for horses, the dollars add up.

Some items need to be horse specific – like wormer. Do you buy the name brand or the generic?

Feed MUST be horse specific – feed for cows, goats, or other animals can be detrimental for a horse. But what about other items?

Here are some of the general items we keep on hand in our supply cabinet:

  • Baby oil – use it for sheath cleaning and general grooming.
  • Vaseline – makes a great hoof polish. Keeps the hooves from drying out. Can be used as a barrier from bugs for superficial cuts or scrapes.
  • Baby shampoo – gentle, mild, works great on the mane and tail as well as the coat.
  • Mouthwash – yes, mouthwash can be used as a liniment, dandruff, and put a little in the water trough to keep bacteria at bay during the summer months.
  • Cotton balls – to clean around eyes, muzzle, anywhere you want “soft” cleaning.
  • Instant ice packs – for the bumps that require a cold compress. Keep it on with a baby diaper and duct tape.
  • Fiber powder with psyllium – to prevent sand colic. Our horses love the orange flavor!
  • Toothpaste – great for cleaning bits – and don’t forget the toothbrush to get into the grooves and crevices of your tack.
  • Murphy’s oil soap – cleans leather.
  • Spray bottles – dollar store variety
  • Bleach to disinfect everything – especially the grooming brushes and bucket. You do wash those at least twice a year, right?
  • Regular “human” brushes – with our Haflingers the traditional horse combs don’t make it. Human brushes and of course a spray to get rid of the tangles!
  • Baby diapers – both the disposable and the cloth. They are absorbent, can be used to wrap a leg or hoof injury and keep salve-type medication from getting dirty.
  • Duct tape – don’t forget the duct tape to keep the wraps on!

As you can see, most of the supplies that are used for horses can be purchased at the grocery or local drug store.

How do you save money on horse supplies?

 

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.
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