Monday, January 25th, 2016

Driving on country road

I have often joked with my students, when their horse “runs over a cone” that they will be driving on the curbs when they get their driving license. But, all joking aside, learning how to ride a horse is a lot like driving a car, and can prepare a young rider for taking the wheel.

Focus your vision

Whether you are driving or riding, you focus needs to be down the road or down the trail/wall. If you are focused or distracted by something close, your hands on the reins or wheel, the speedometer, the horse’s head position, or a myriad of other things, you may miss something in the road or that cone, barrel, pole in the arena.

Don’t tailgate other vehicles or horses

A sudden stop by the vehicle or horse in front of you is never a good situation. Maintaining a safe distance when driving is important, especially if the road are bad. If you can’t see the bottom of the horse’s hoof that’s in front of you – you’re too close. And the collision could be more severe than a bent fender.

Be aware of your surroundings

The person who is biking, the ball that’s going to end up in front of your car, the driver that doesn’t see the stop sign; or the deer in the woods, the person who is biking, the flag the is fluttering. All these and more can cause an unexpected incident.

One of my riders was recovering from a stroke. As she was learning to ride, I noticed that she did not move her head when going around a corner or making a circle. We spent several weeks practicing looking where you are going, then make the turn. About a month later she told me that she keeps hearing me telling her to turn her head when she’s driving. She did not realize until now that she didn’t turn and look before going around corners. Now she does!

Skills learned in horseback riding are definitely transferable to other areas of our life.

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.

Dreamcatcher Farm

Any teacher/instructor/trainer will encounter the resistance in students;  saying “I can’t do that” or “well . . . I’ll try . . ” with with fake belief, is not uncommon when pushing the boundaries of learning and confidence.  Although it can be a tricky undertaking – pushing students past their comfort level when you know they can accomplish more must be balanced with making sure they don’t fail miserably at the task and lose confidence.  This can be especially tricky with horses as they can have their own agenda during a lesson.

Today, proposing the activity of a “figure 8” pattern using two cones gave me the response “You want me do do WHAT? But the cones are so close together, I can’t do that!”.  Of course, I say “you certainly CAN do it! and you’re not getting off until you do…”, jokingly (sort of).   😉

So what started as “can’t” slowly melted…

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I love Michigan but the extremes of the weather – bitter cold in the winter and high heat in the summer – play havoc on horseback riding lessons. Many of our therapeutic riders cannot tolerate the extreme temperatures so they need to miss those days and that is very understandable.

Lunch in the snow

When it’s cold, most of us can add layers and turn on the barn heaters to take the chill out of the air. But what about the heat of the summer, especially those humid muggy days? What is the guideline for too hot? In the winter I can easily say we are closed if the wind chill is below 10 degrees. But I just can’t use the heat index in the summer.

We all know it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity that does us in. And it’s the same for the horses. Once the humidity goes above 75%, the horse has a hard time dissipating their body heat, so we need to take precautions.

The best way to determine ride days is to use a heat STRESS index. It’s a little more complicated than listening for the heat index because it takes into account the temperature, humidity and wind. The formula is:

Temperature + Humidity – Wind =
Heat Stress Index

Let’s look at two 90 degree days:

Day one has a humidity of 70% and no wind. The heat stress index is: 90 +70 – 0 = 160.

Day two has a humidity of 45% and the winds are 10 miles per hour. The heat stress index is: 90 + 45 – 10 = 125.

Now that you know the heat stress index, you can decide whether you could ride.

The rule of thumb is:

Heat Stress Index Less than 130 130 – 170 Over 170
Decision to ride Let’s Ride! Ride with caution. Watch for heat exhaustion and cool the horse   regularly Do not ride.

Most likely the humidity will be over 75% and the horse will not be   able to cool itself properly

Bath Time!

Of course, you can still have fun with you horse on these blistering hot days.

Running through the sprinker!

Ours love a bath or just running under the sprinkler!