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.
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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.

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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


By Karen Waite If you live in the Midwest, you may have noticed that it’s county fair season…that age old bastion of tradition, education (intentional and otherwise), drama, intrigue, teen romance, and corn dogs. Don’t get me wrong, I love county fairs and 4-H (which often go hand in hand). Both made me who I […]

via What to Do When The Fair Isn’t Fair — outoftheboxstall


It’s that time of the year again, when the days are getting shorter and the horses’ coats are changing colors as they shed once again.

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Parents ask about the changes in the colors and the shedding. They are confused because they know about the BIG shed out in the spring, but are surprised when the horses start shedding at the end of summer. Not sure about other mammals but, horses have two distinct coats – one for winter and one for summer. And they typically shed about the same time every year.

Shedding triggers

More than we realize the change in season is governed by two elements in nature – sunlight and temperature. As the days get longer, the temperatures rise. Some of us would like it to get warmer sooner, but, the fact is, more sunlight = warmer air.

It’s the amount of sunlight that tells the horses when to start shedding. I’ve been out in the barn many a February or March, shivering as my horse’s winter coat blankets my feet while grooming her. Likewise, come August, the summer coat is shedding out for the new growth for the winter.

Indicator of the future?

I hear this all the time. If they are shedding out this early, does that mean that we will get an early winter? If the horses are getting a heavy winter coat, that that mean that we are in for a bitter winter? No! Well, I really wish the horses or other animals could predict the future with more accuracy than the weather station, but, the truth is, they can’t. But, what they can do is “remember” the past weather. People who purchase horses from a warmer climate often say that the first winter is brutal. The horse doesn’t get a good winter coat. But wait until the second and third winter – they certainly grow a coat after that first cold experience!

Change in colors

The horse’s coat often lightens in the summer depending on how often the horse is outside and in the sunlight. The sun lightens most colors, even the horse’s coat. Once the days shorten and the amount of sunlight lessens, the coat goes back to a darker color.

Dapples are not dependent on the amount of sunlight. The circular areas on the horse’s body that change in shade are caused by nutrition as well as genetics. Horses on high quality hay tend to have more dapples. All horses do not dapple. Gray horses tend to be dappled as well as bays and chestnuts.

It seems the horses, like many animals are in tune with Mather Nature and the change of seasons. But even so, they cannot predict weather any more than we can.

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.


Demonstrating how to look ahead when riding a horse.

Your posture on your horse is key to how you ride and how your horse responds to your cues. In our last blog, we discussed the importance of a good seat. This blog and several of the following blogs will look at each element of good posture.

Your Head

The average adult head weighs about 10 to 11 pounds. The average child’s head would then weigh about 5 or 6 pounds. You may think this is not a significant amount of weight, but, when you think about balance, a shift of a few ounces can cause an off-balance situation.

When we ride, we are told to look ahead – look where you want your horse to go. The horse can feel your head move as well as the direction you are looking. Here’s why…

Demonstrating looking down while riding a horse.

Looking down

Take a moment now and look down. What do you feel? You should feel the muscles on the back of your neck stretching. You may also feel movement in your shoulders and possibly down your back. That’s a lot of movement!

When you are riding and you are looking down at your hands, at the path, at the horse’s feet, you are moving all those muscles and more. And the horse feels it. Some horses are more sensitive to the rider’s position and will react to this movement by breaking trot, slowing down, or drifting to the right or left depending on where the rider is looking.

Looking up

Looking up can change your balance by shifting your shoulders behind your hips and causing you to lean back – even if it is ever so slightly. This shift affects your seat and your horse’s movement. Some horses may take this as a driving cue and speed up!

Demonstrating how looking to the right changes the body position on a horse.

Right or Left

Yes, we want to look to the right or left when we want our horse to go in that direction. Turning the head also turns the shoulders, torso, hips, and legs. This tells the horse to move in that direction. We see our horses drift with our riders when they are looking at their parents – who are taking pictures, or are watching the other riders – especially when we are playing games. When asked “why did your horse go there?” the response is usually “because she wanted to” but rarely, “because I was looking that way.”

Once our riders have learned that the horse will follow the movement of their head as well as their seat and reins, their riding improves dramatically.

The next time you ride, think about it – where are you looking?

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.

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There are a lot of terms trainers use when talking about how a person sits on the saddle and how the rest of the body moves in relationship with the seat.

Whether it’s called an independent seat, fluidity, balanced seat, or any other term, it means how the rider moves with the horse and influences the movement of the horse. The goal is to be balanced in the saddle.

Proper position

The correct posture is to line up the ear, shoulder, hip, and back of the heel in a straight line. In this picture, the rider has the proper position in the saddle. (Note: the picture is on an angle, so it appears that the ear is in front of her shoulder, but in reality, it is not.)

The rider is also relaxed; her elbows are at her waist. With the exception of her looking downward, this rider has a good position.

Moving with the horse

When the rider is relaxed and in the proper position, she is moving with the horse. As the horse takes a step forward, her hips and pelvis moves with the horse without creating and resistance. If the rider is tense, the pelvis cannot move freely and the horse cannot move freely.

This causes a chain reaction or vicious circle between the horse and the rider. The rider asks the horse to move, but is stiff or tense in the saddle, the horse may move slowly or not at all, the rider gets frustrated by the horse’s lack of movement and gets even more tense as she tries to drive the horse forward with her seat. The horse feels the cue to move forward but the tension, now in the back, shoulders, and hands of the rider creates resistance and the horse doesn’t respond to the rider’s cues.

Sitting tall

This is one of the most difficult concepts in riding. Most of the time when we are told to sit or stand tall we throw our shoulders and hips back which causes our back or spine to arch forward. Now we are out of balance. Sitting tall means the spine is aligned as straight as possible. The rider’s back is neither arched forward nor hollowed, nor is it hunched over causing the shoulders to move in front of the hips.

One of the exercises that I give my students is to stand with their shoulders and hips against a wall, then move the small of their back toward the wall. To do this, they need to engage their core muscles. By strengthening their core, they will have proper posture in the saddle and ultimately be able to ride in harmony with their horse.

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.