Monday, April 24th, 2017


When people visit our facility, we often hear comments that sound like – “These are ponies. Aren’t they too small for my 13 year old?” or “You call yourself Pretty Pony Pastures, but these are horses, not ponies.”

There are a lot of misconceptions when we talk about horse and ponies. And to make it even more confusing, some words are used interchangeably. We talk about the “polo ponies” but they are typically Thoroughbreds, which is a horse breed.

So, if a Thoroughbred can be called a “pony” then what is a pony and what is a horse?


Looking at height, a pony is 14’1” hands high or 57 inches tall or less. And it’s the less part that confuses most people. At the fair, kids ride ponies in a circle. These ponies are often smaller Shetland ponies which can be as short at28 inches. That’s half the size of our Haflingers! If that is the size you think of when you hear “pony” then you will think our horses are truly horses.

Ponies also tend to have a thicker mane and coat which makes them more resistant to cold weather.  They look stockier because they have wider chests, thicker necks, and shorter heads. These features make them very suitable to doing work around the farm. Many ponies can be used to pull a wagon as well as being ridden under saddle. Ponies can be playful and tend to be intelligent, so people often think they are stubborn. Even though some horses can be a smooth ride, many have a very choppy gait.

Because of their short stature, most people consider them a child’s mount thinking that if they fall, a short fall is better than one from a higher horse. That is not always the case. But, I do agree that it is easier to work with the child on a pony, provided that the pony is properly trained. Many aren’t because they are too small for an adult to sit on them and they aren’t properly ground trained to be safe for a child.


A horse is over 14’1” hands high (57 inches) if we are going strictly by height.

Horses tend to have a sleeker body, some have a thinner mane, and some need to be blanketed in the winter. Horses come in different categories. The draft horse can be 16 to 19 hands (64 to 76 inches) tall. A sport horse is typically 15 to 17 hands (60 to 68 inches) high. Each breed has its own standard as to the ideal height of that breed. Most people enjoy riding a horse that is around 15 hands (60 inches) high.

Because of the horse’s build, its gait can be smoother than a pony. Horses come in different temperaments and personalities. Some make better driving horses and some should only be ridden. Most can do either depending on their training and the owner’s preferences.

Big horses tend to be gentler than shorter horses. Most people would not feel comfortable putting a child on an 18 hand draft horse because they are further from the ground. True, but that draft is probable calmer and less likely to run or buck than the 12 hand pony!


So where do our Haflingers and other similar breeds like the Paso Fino, Fjord, and Icelandic fit in? They are considered horses. All of these breeds fall into the high end of the pony height. But their build, their movement, and their disposition make them a horse. They can carry an adult as well as a child and are shown in a variety of competitions including dressage and jumping.

So you might just say, we have to best of both worlds. Horses that a small enough for a child to feel comfortable but with the strength and ability to be ridden by adults.

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 first skills we teach a young rider is how to control the horse by turning left or right, making circles, and serpentining the arena.

The easiest way to understand how the horse moves in a new direction is by teaching the open or leading rein.

Leading the horse

When we lead the horse from the ground, our hand is on the lead line near the horse’s halter. When we want the horse to turn, we move the horse’s head to the left or right by moving the lead line in our right hand to the left or right. The horse moves in the direction of the lead line.

Scouts learning how to lead a horse at Hooked on Horses Day Cap

Scout learning how to lead a horse at Hooked on Horses session

The thing to remember is that we are not “pulling” to horse left or right. We aren’t pushing the horse either. The horse is moving away from the pressure.

Huh? What does that mean? Think about it. If you are moving the lead line to the left and the horse moves her head to the right, there will be tension or pressure on the horse’s face. To eliminate the pressure, the horse moves in the direction of the lead line.

Open or leading rein

Now let’s transfer the concept to the saddle.

Adia is demonstrating how to use the leading or open rein

This rider is demonstrating how to use the leading or open rein

This rider is asking Leslie to turn to the left. Notice, the rider’s left hand is moving the rein to the left. She is NOT pulling the rein to the left, she is opening the area between Leslie’s neck and the rein by moving the rein away from the neck. Leslie’s nose is moving in the direction of the rein, to the left.

This is exactly what the rider in the first picture did on the ground. Move the rein in the direction you want your horse to go in.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit, I will say “Pull right!” to a young rider as the horse is moving in toward me. That’s quicker, the rider understands it, and I don’t get run over! But once the rider is old enough to understand the concept of opening and closing the reins as if they were doors, we stop say “pull” and start saying “move.”

It isn’t long before the rider is ready for the next step – using the direct rein.

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


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.

One of the things I’ve wanted for a long time at our farm was a Sensory Trail. Something the kids could follow and do when they weren’t riding the horses.

We get a lot of groups at our place and everyone can’t ride at the same time. We do set up stations where the kids can groom horses or do other horse activities, but, getting them out of the barn and enjoying nature was high on my priority list.

This weekend, I got my dream. Last year a Scout, who rode at our farm many years ago, approached me for his Eagle project. He wanted to know if there was anything special I needed done that he could do to earn his Eagle. I didn’t have to think about it more than a second – create a sensory trail for my kids. And so the project began. Checking out the area, coming up with ideas, all the planning and preplanning that goes into one of these projects. Then, I got the call – We are ready to put it in! Up until now, I didn’t see any parts of the project, I simply trusted that this young man would put together a sensory trail that would fit the bill. And he did.

Let me take you on a tour of the great, no make that spectacular sensory trail that is in our wooded area –

Enter here

As you enter the sensory trail, the welcome sign greets you. The map of the trail is displayed as well as some key information for the six stations.

I was very impressed when I saw the icon that showed “you are here”

If you look closely at the map, you will see that our Pretty Pony Pastures logo is the icon for “you are here”. Very clever!

Walking down the trail, go right when you hit the
fork” in the road. This takes you to station 1 – Seasons.

Here you learn the average temperatures for each season. Thermometers are strategically placed, pointing in different directions to show that the actual temperature may vary based on whether the thermometer is in direct sunlight or not.

Each station is layed out similarly – a sign with information and an activity that can be performed. One of the great things is the activities are suitable for and can be modified for the age and ability of the children.

Here are some of the highlights:

Leaf puzzle - can you put the leaf into the correct place?

Each leaf is identified when you remove the puzzle piece.


Native birds in the trees

Animals hiding in the woods
At least he’s a safe distance away
Animal communication devices
Make the sound by shaking or squeezing

A big thanks to Thomas Baucas and congratulations on becoming an Eagle Scout!

That’s “riding” – not “writing”

Daniel_Buttercup_the_reFor the longest time I’ve used my dressage cones to teach letters and to give the riders a marker to either stop at or make a circle.  As the riders progressed, I’d ask them to stop their horse at a letter, then tell me a word that started with that letter.  All part of the fun of therapeutic riding.



Jasmine_Lu-Rain_likeLast week, Mrs. Danneker, the teacher who brings her students for therapeutic riding once a week, asked if we could do words instead of letters.  Why not!  So sent me the sight words that the students were learning that week and I printed them out, put them in plastic holders and placed them on the four corner barrels.


Kyla_Slick_can_reThe riders thought it was great to circle a word PLUS it reinforced their vocabulary words for the week.  They were so proud when they found their word, too!

It’s the night before Christmas, we’re out in the barn,haffie-holidays-gypsy
Blanketing horses to keep them all warm,
They’re eating their dinners, tucked in cozy stalls,
Not aware that it’s Christmas, or any special day at all.
They can dream of spring pastures from their pine-scented beds,
No visions of sugarplums dance in their heads.

But we people are thinking of merry parties and such,
Maybe feeling a little sad at missing so much.
This season is special but the horses don’t know,
We’ve got work to do before we can go.

We finish the chores and head on inside,haffie-holidays-sherlock-best
To get ready for dinner and our own yuletide.

It’s nearly midnight, the carols are sung,
I remember a story I was told when I was young,
How at midnight on Christmas Eve,
The creatures of the barnyard can speak to us with ease.

slick-head          I am called to the barn, I wade through the rain,
I know I must go, I can’t really explain,
I slide open the door, pause for a while,
Then slowly walk down the dimly lit aisle.

A nicker from Angel, a wink from Leslie,haffie-holidays-buttercup
Sleepy little PJ waking to see,
Lu-Rain rustling her bedding, a snort soft and light,
Each horse gave a greeting as I walked through the night.

I thought about parties bright lit and warm,
The ones we don’t go to ’cause we have the barn,
And vacations and holidays that we don’t get,
When we’re working long hours for bills to be met.

Walking all the way to the end of the aisle,  haffie-holidays-copper-boy
I stop to stroke Poppie, it brings me a smile,
She snuffles my face, warm breath on my skin,
It starts me to thinking about my horses, my kin.
I could be at parties with laughter and mirth,
But where I am right now is the best place on Earth.

–Author unknown–
–adapted to reflect our horse names–

Getting started on setting the gradeThe frost laws are up and the equipment can move.  What a wonderful thought.  We couldn’t get started on leveling the ground for the barn until the frost laws were removed.  They were up on Monday and the excavater was here on Friday delivering his dozer.  He spent most of Friday and Saturday moving the dirt to make sure the grade was level with the arena.

Personally, I didn’t care.  But the builder had this great idea.  Connect the arena with the stall barn so that if the weather is bad I can bring the horses into the stalls to dry off, then, move them to the arena without going into the bad weather.  It will also keep the snow and mud out of the travel area.  So, the new stall barn and arena have to be at the same grade or the idea won’t work.


Working on the gradeOf course, I give lessons on Saturday morning.  I figured the horses would be okay since we use our tractor around them all the time.  Ooops!  The dozer is louder than the tractor.  When he was leveling the dirt next to the arena wall, I could feel the vibration.  Although we didn’t get any spooks out of the horses, they were a bit on edge.  For safety, everyone rode on lead-line.  That made the riders (and parents) feel better as well.

Moving the dirt


With the grade ready, now all we need is the material for the barn to get started.  That should be here shortly!