We might be posting this a little late, but, we want to share our 15 seconds of fame that some of our riders got when Live in the D came to our place to see just what we were doing for Valentine’s Day!

We do Test Ride a Pony every month from February through October, but this one was very sweet as we were featured as one of the things to do with your kids for Valentine’s Day. Our riders were ecstatic to have a chance to be on TV!

Missed our February ride? Check our Test Ride a Pony web page for all the rides for 2019.

Pretty Pony Pastures is an inclusive horseback riding facility located in Davisburg, MI. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities. The recently published book, Fifty Blades of Hay, that highlights how horses help riders is available on Amazon.




In July of last year, we celebrated 15 years of providing Therapeutic and English riding lessons to mostly children from all over southeast Michigan.

We celebrated with an open house and invited former and current riders as well as anyone else who wanted to visit. Many families came to visit, others sent notes. We’ve kept in touch with many families through Facebook and Christmas cards.

Having been a school teacher, prior to starting our riding facility, I was used to the change in students over the years. What struck me at our anniversary, was how many of the students had become almost like family for us.

It’s always bitter-sweet when a student leaves. Some are advancing to the next level of riding, others have decided to try something new. In either case, we wish them well and ask them to keep in touch.

This year, it seems, I became very aware of how much time has passed and how our “family” of riders have matured and achieved.

robbieleadingOne of our students, who was reluctant to leave us, came back this year to work with our scout programs. I’m not sure if he’s been gone three or four years. I do know it’s been a while. Although he had grown – a lot – it was as if he had never left! He fell right into the routine we always had with grooming and saddling the horse. But today he was leading, not riding. I felt like a proud grandparent as I watched him give directions to the young rider. Yes, he might not be riding anymore, but he hasn’t forgotten a thing.

Another parent sent me a text message complete with a picture of her daughter and her daughter’s new horse. Wow! She said she was going to keep at it and advance, but also get a horse? Another proud moment, knowing that she is ready to own a horse because she learned everything possible while she was riding here.



Another rider, who started when she was barely 5, will be leaving for college this year. Both her and her sister, who also rides, purchased horses when they left. Now they will both be away at college. They sure grow up fast!

So now I can’t help but wonder as I see the graduation and engagement posts, how many “repeat” riders I will have when their children are old enough to start riding.

Yes, just like school they come, learn, and move on. But, unlike school, these riders have become part of our extended family and they are doing us proud.

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. Ms. Linda is also the author of the Fifty Blades of Hay which is available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback.

Those of you who are on my newsletter list, you know that every February I present the State of the Farm address. This year I thought I might report on how this blog is doing. (Oh, if you don’t get our newsletter – click this link.)

So let’s start with hard numbers:

Followers – 20. Hmmm, we have over 1,000 followers on Face Book, so why so few followers here. NOTICE: If you are reading this blog on Face Book, thank you! Now, click follow so you never miss a post because you know that you don’t always see everything that is posted in your newsfeed. My goal – 50 followers in 2018.

Visitors – we had 505 visitors who looked at 899 pages. That’s not bad. This means almost every visitor looked at one more page, or some left quickly and others stayed for a long, long time. If you haven’t read all the posts here, they are arranged by category in the list on the right.

top 10 Countries

So who really came?

Overwhelmingly our visitors were from the United States, Australia came in a distant second followed by Chile and Canada. The only county in the 10 ten visitors that surprised me was – Vietnam.

top 10 referrers

Where did they come from?

Or, how did they find the blog would be a better question. Not surprising at all, the number one referrer is Facebook followed by search engines and Pinterest. I have often wondered if anyone who sees the pins comes back to read the blog. Yes they do!

top 10 posts

What did they read?

Our homepage being in the top position is no surprise. Saying Good-bye tells me that a lot of our friends felt the same way about Stella’s passing as we did. Let the Games Begin is an old post that scored big in 2017 as did our blog about our sensory trail.

So what will 2018 bring? It will be interesting to see if we can attract more readers and if the readers stick around and read more posts. We certainly hope you stay and read awhile. We’re glad you came. If you see a post you like, please “like” it and leave a comment. Makes us feel good and keeps us wanting to post more.

And if you know someone who might be interested in our blog, feel free to share. Your friend will be glad you did.

Linda Watson-Call is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. She is the author of the newly released book Fifty Blades of Hay.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.