STEM composite

It seems that S.T.E.M. has become the buzzword of the decade. We can’t overlook the fact that many of the more promising careers require a good foundation of science, technology, engineering, and/or math to succeed.

But what about other occupations that do not appear to rely on these areas? Do they still need a working knowledge of S.T.E.M.? Yes!

We have people come to our facility and think that there is nothing scientific or technological about running a farm. So, we designed sessions at our Hooked on Horsestm day camp and additional sessions that schools or youth groups could attend. In these sessions the participants learn not only why these disciplines are important but also how they might discover a career that is affiliated with horses or agriculture.

Science

Everything from nutrition for the horses to how to care for them involve some aspect of science. Being able to determine if the grain and hay has the proper nutrients and the correct amount can make the difference between a healthy horse and a sickly one.

Breeding should involve more than picking a mate for a horse. The positive and negative traits of each horse needs to be considered and which would be dominant in the offspring. Let’s not forget about conditions that can be carried by a horse but not become evident unless the mate also carried that condition.

Technology

This is one area that has had a big impact. We now have a digital scale for our horses. No more guessing if the tape is in the correct place or wondering how close the tape estimate is to the horse’s actual weight. Even thermometers have a digital readout.

The vet can perform x-rays and MRI’s at the barn with the results being displayed on a monitor in real time. This saves both time and expense as well as being able to diagnose and treat the animal faster.

Engineering

Here’s another field that has had a positive effect on farm life. From the design of the buildings to the construction of riding helmets, all require an aspect of engineering.

The possibilities and need for engineers in agriculture cover a wide area. We use environmental engineers to ensure that proper usage and disposal of herbicides, pesticides, and, the never ending supply of manure.

Agricultural engineers work with power supplies, efficiency of machinery, and the storage and processing of agricultural products.

Math

From being able to determine that correct amount of food to feed our animals to the amount of fertilizer needed to produce quality hay all require math.

And if your farm is your business, you need math to determine whether you are operating at a profit.

Looking at it from this perspective, S.T.E.M. plays an integral part in the life of everyone, including those of us who run a farm.

Linda Watson-Call is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities, like our S.T.E.M. sessions, at this facility. She is the author of the forthcoming book Fifty Blades of Hay.
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Drill_Team_heart

We don’t always think about horseback riding as teamwork, but it really is. As the rider, we are directing the horse to do certain things. Whether it’s the gait or the direction or even the movement, we are requesting that the horse follow our cues. The horse, tries to respond to your cues the best she can. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s not.

The horse has her own personality and training. Horses, because they are living beings, can have off days. They can, as they age, become arthritic or tire easily. They play hard and can get hurt. As a rider, we need to be sensitive to our horse. And, yes, some horses have learned to act up so they won’t get ridden. Can you tell the difference between a horse that is having an off day and a horse that wants a day off?

Many of the horses we ride have also had previous training. They may have been taught that a tap means to trot and the rider was taught that a squeeze with for legs is the cue to trot. This is where understanding and teamwork comes to play. Should we retrain the horse or ourselves?

As a rider, we need to keep our emotions in check. If we get frustrated, those feelings will be telegraphed to the horse and the horse will respond accordingly. When we get upset, we typically stiffen up. The horse does not respond well to a stiff rider. Stiffening up and getting frustrated are normal reactions when things do go the way we expect them to, but, if you were on another sports team, it would be bad sportsmanship to yell at your teammate. We need to think about our horse the same way.

By riding our horse calmly and asking patiently, we win the trust of the horse and the horse will continue to try to please us. When it all comes together, the rider and the horse appear to be moving as one with grace and ease. All because of great teamwork.

Linda Watson-Call 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. She is the author of the forthcoming book Fifty Blades of Hay.

crossed stirrups

Several years ago, someone decided that November should be “No Stirrups” month in the equestrian world. No stirrups? How will I ever balance myself? I could slip off!

Well, stirrups aren’t there to balance you and I’ve seen riders slide off even though they were using stirrups. But, riding without stirrups does take some skill and should not be attempted alone unless you are an experienced rider.

How long?

When I say “no stirrups” most of my students think they will be riding that way for the entire lesson. Not so. We usually start with only a few steps and work up to five or ten minutes.

The good news is, once you’ve ridden without stirrups, you will actually look forward to doing it again. Many of my riders ask to ride without stirrups during the cool-down part of their lesson.

But why????

Riding without stirrups is a great way to help a rider’s form or posture, strengthen core muscles, and becoming aware of your and your horse’s movements. You can walk, trot, and canter without stirrups, but only do as many steps as you are comfortable with when you start. Make a goal to increase the number of steps or the length of time you ride without stirrups each time you ride.

You may find that after a few times of riding this way, you will need less rein for downward transitions and less leg to upward transitions. You may find yourself more in tune with your horse and your horse will almost read your mind as you work your patterns.

If you are not comfortable riding without stirrups, your instructor may put you on a lunge line until you have more confidence in yourself and your horse. Once you have the feel, you can continue your lessons independently.

History

Actually, in Germany, most riding lessons begin with vaulting classes and the classical riding schools of Europe require three years of riding without stirrups. Now, that’s dedication. But, look at the finished rider – beautiful form and balance.

So, this month, let’s cross those stirrups over the pommel of our saddle and ride. At least for five minutes each lesson.

Linda Watson-Call 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.

parentwatching

Horseback riding is a very physical sport that requires both mind and body coordination. And although many young children learn to ride, like many sports, the progress is slower than we’d like. But each lesson shows improvement even if it is barely noticeable. I’ll admit, watching the same repetitive movements every week can be less than thrilling, but, watching is important to the rider.

I can predict a rider’s progress by the interest of the parent.

Oh, wow!

One parent thought every step her child made on horseback was wonderful. She sat on the edge of her chair and cheered because her daughter kept the horse between the cones and the wall all the way around the arena. A little overboard? Maybe, but, this child progress quickly from controlling the horse at a walk to controlling the horse at a trot, and soon left to pursue jumping. Successful rider, yes. But, more importantly, interested parent.

No he won’t

Another rider had a great dad. He’d come in with her and help with the grooming and saddling. My thought was they had a great bond. They did – for the ten minutes that it took to get the horse ready. Once she was ready to take her horse to the mounting block, he’d say, “Have a great ride. I’ll be back right after this phone call.”

She looked up at me with puppy-dog eyes and said, “No he won’t.” And she was right. Her progress? Barely there. She says she enjoys riding, and I think she does, but she’d enjoy it more if dad would watch.

Did you see that?

Another rider was learning to trot. She could trot a few steps before the horse would break to a walk. She kept trying to keep her horse trotting. The goal was to trot the long arena wall. One lesson she made it half-way down the wall. She was ecstatic! She looked at mom for a reaction, but mom was staring at her phone. “Did you see? I went farther”, she cried out. Mom looked up and smiled and went back to her phone.

We worked on trotting the long wall for months. We never got further than half-way. Then a grandparent came to a lesson and watched her groom the horse. Watch her warm up the horse. Told her she was quite the rider. Then came the trot. And trot she did – all the way around the arena! Not once, but twice so the grandparent could video it. She was so proud of her accomplishment and so was the grandparent.

At the next lesson Mom said that she understood her daughter trotted the previous week. I was hopeful for a repeat performance. But mom stared at her phone and the daughter barely trotted to the half-way mark.

Over the years I have seen that giving your child genuine attention and encouragement, whether is horseback riding or playing checkers, is what they need to become successful at “their” sport. SO, put down the phone, don’t make calls or text, and watch. Boring? Sometimes. Encouraging for the child? Always!

Linda Watson-Call 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.

Adjusting Stirrup Leathers

Athletes need to be mentally and physically prepared for their sport. Some people meditate; other exercise; and some even psyche themselves up for the event. What every athlete has in common is the need to prepare through training for their chosen sport.

Horseback riding is a sport that requires total focus and concentration from the rider in order to connect with the horse. Horseback riding is also one of the few sports where another being, a powerful animal, is a teammate. So, as we are on our way for our horseback riding lesson or ride, what can we do to prepare ourselves to make this ride the best ride ever?

Quiet time

Use the time getting to the barn as quiet time. A time to regroup and think about how the ride will end. This is a time to visualize goals. Focus on what would make this ride great. Will we learn a new skill, practice a pattern, or have a relaxing hack with our horse? Focus on words that can help you achieve this goal. Think – energy, effort, positive attitude.

Set the tone

Once we are at the barn, we clear our mind from distractions. While walking through the door imagine the day’s frustrations and obligations leaving. Oh, they can put on a bench or fence post to be picked them up on the way back to the car. But these thoughts do not belong in the barn.

Stretch

Like other sports, riding is physical and most of us do not get enough exercise. The first few minutes in the part can be used to do some stretches, Pilates and yoga can both be helpful to get our mind and body ready for riding.

Imagine

As we get our horse ready for the ride, we used our imagination to “see” our best ride ever. We see ourselves posting perfectly, clearing fences, or going on a hack with a calm horse. Our calmness and attitude is often transferred to the horse while we ae grooming and tacking. The calmer we are, the more receptive the horse is.

We are now ready to mount and really have the best ride ever!

Linda Watson-Call 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.

I don’t know about you, but, I’ve been stunned at the amount of damage that was done this week by Harvey. I feel so sad when I see pictures of the horses, cattle, and other animals who cannot make it to high land and the ones who do but may not be able to recover from the damage they sustained in the flood waters. I feel the pain of the people who don’t know if they will ever see their furry companion again. Most did not expect this type of devastation from Harvey.

square banner

September is National Preparedness Month and in the aftermath of Harvey, I thought it would be good to dedicate today’s blog to being prepared for whatever might happen.

Be aware

Be aware of what is happening and what could happen.

Having a NOAA Weather Radio is one step. We keep one both in our house and in our barn. Storms can hit suddenly and when I’m giving lessons I need to know if a storm or tornado is approaching.

Also be aware of dangerous situations. Fire is the most feared disaster for most horse owners. We just attended a fire safety meeting held by a local horse organization. Are you aware that the box fans that so many of us use in our barns can cause a fire? The back of the fans, where the motor is located, is not enclosed. Hay and dust can get in and if the motor over heats – that’s a fire.

Know what to do

If you have to evacuate, could you move all your animals? A two or three horse trailer will save some of the horses but not all if you have more horses to move than room in your trailer.

Do you know where you would go? Often there are some facilities available but will they be accessible? I know the Fairgrounds are only two miles from my farm but they have a limited number of stalls. What is your plan B and C?

What if disaster hits and you are not home? Do you have a trusted friend or family member that could help in this situation?

A lot will depend on the severity of the disaster. But having a plan for most conceivable disasters could save you and your animals. Moreover, if you have a plan and an alternate plan, you will not hit panic mode.

Identification and paper work

Do your animals have some identifiable markings? Our dog is micro-shipped, our cattle are branded and tagged, our horses – well, let’s look at this one.

If your animals are registered, do you have those papers in a safe and secure location? Our horse registration papers do show each horse’s unique identifying markings. And, like finger prints, no two are alike.

Here’s a tip that I thought was very worthwhile. Take a picture – selfies, anyone – of you and your pet. Keep them on file or on a cloud. You may be able to use them to claim your animal if you get separated.

No one expects a disaster to happen. But being prepared and taking some steps now could save heartaches in the future.

For more tips and information on steps you may want to take to be prepared, download this handy preparedness checklist from FEMA. Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies

Linda Watson-Call 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.

milkweed-poole-r

Without milkweed, the monarch butterfly would become extinct as this is the only plant that the monarch caterpillars eat. But, what about other animals, birds or insects? Is this a plant we want in our pastures or hay fields?

More -> Milkweed and Your Hay