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!


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!

to our barn.

Those of you who knew Tom, are familiar with his way of welcoming everyone who entered our barn.  Sometimes I still hear him greeting the riders when they come in for their lessons, even though it’s just in my mind.   So I wanted a way to have his presence felt, even for those who never knew him.

While I was going through some stuff, I saw his boots…they’re old boots…I think he wore them every day for years.  The sides are sagging, one boot can hardly stay upright, but, they’re his boots.  Scuffed, well-used, and comfortable.  Perfect!

Fall arrangement

Christmas arrangement

I decided to put them in the corner by the entrance from the barn to the arena and fill them with flowers as the seasons change.  Look at them as you enter the arena and tell me if you don’t feel that warm welcome in your heart.

josh-on-lurain-300We had the State of the Union, the State of the State, the State of the County, and now, the State of the Farm address.

Some of you are aware that the position that I held with Mopar, that made this program possible, was eliminated last September. Like everyone else, we need to look at what we can do to keep the services that we offer without raising our rates.

We have reviewed the other therapeutic riding facilities in the area and have learned that we have the lowest rate in this area, and, quite possibly, in most of the nation. Except for those facilities that do not charge and rely heavily on donations, we are at least $5/session lower than the others. Some charge $20 for a 30 minute session.

In addition, the hay that cost us $3.50 last June, and $5.50 in October is now costing us $7.00 a bale. We know that hay costs more in the winter, but this is double our summer rate. We do not have a definitive price for this year’s hay, but are expecting $4.50 or $5.00 out of the field, with rate hikes in the fall and winter. Our farrier is also increasing his rates by $5.00 per horse trim. Our horses are trimmed every eight weeks.

In an effort to not raise our rates this year, we are looking at additional ways to increase our revenue. This includes:

  • Increasing the number of riders to 100. We are asking you to distribute our flyers to anyone you know that could benefit from our riding classes. As a bonus, anyone who recruits a rider and that rider stays for three months will receive their choice of a free riding lesson or a 2009 Pretty Pony Pastures t-shirt.
  • Increase the number of Scout troops that utilize our facility for the badge workshops. I have a brochure that explains all the workshops. Take a few and hand them out to the Scout leaders that you know.
  • Add Horse Days, clinics, and riding “camps” to our list of services. Our first is Hug-A-Horse Day that will take place on Valentine Day. We will also have Horse Fever Days during spring break, and plan to add similar activities during the summer.
  • Encourage more schools to use our facility for field trips or classes. We were very successful with the five week session that we held with Patterson Elementary School in Holly. If you know any Special Education teachers that would be interested in our program…we have a brochure.
  • We plan to hold a barn sale this spring. We will call it a barn sale because we have tack that we can sell as well as household goods. You can help or rent a table. Date and time to be announced.
  • Add advertising in our Giddy-Up Go show bill. Businesses or individuals who take out an ad will get the bonus of being listed on our Website as well as the show bill.

Thank you for your support. If you have any other suggestions, please let me know.

          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 Leslie, a wink from Queenie,haffie-holidays-buttercup
          Sleepy little Gypsy 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 Caity, 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–

My son told me that my Mother’s Day gift would be – he would try to get as many people as possible to help with the barn for our Not-so Xtreme Farm Makeover Day.  He sent out e-mails to all of his friends asking for their help.  One of his friends works for a local construction company, Kelly Construction in Rochester Hills.  Bill told my son he could come and help us.  Then, Bill asked his manager/owner of the company, if he would like to help also.  Couldn’t…was going out of town for the week-end.  But, he said, he could send six workers, Bill and five others, to our place on Thursday to help jump-start the work week-end!  Six workers…all construction people…I couldn’t believe it!  I wasn’t sure we could be ready two days early.  I still needed to get the cement poured and some plumbing done.  The excavator we were using knew everything would be in place for Saturday…but Thursday!  Everyone went into warp speed to be ready for the crew.

Getting a stall wall upThursday morning – 7:30 am – the trucks rolled in.  We met with the crew to go over the details of what needed to be done.  I couldn’t have hand picked a better skill group.  We had several trees that needed to come down before the fencing could go up.  If we left them up and they came down during a storm, the fence or barn could be damaged.  But, they had to be dropped just right, or they would land on the arena.  One of the crew used to work for a big tree company that removed trees for the electric company.  No problem!  He knew just what to do.  Another had fencing experience, so he helped set the posts.  Still another worked for a national barn company and showed Bill and my son how to install the stalls so that they were secure.

getting ready to frameBy the time they left, we had almost all the fencing up, the trees down, some stalls up, and the utility room framed!  The fencing was the top priority.  My son and I had figured that it would take two workers 24 hours to get it all up.  These guys only stopped working on the fencing because we were 20 poles short of completion.  My error, my estimate was a little short.

I can only give a heartfelt “thank you” to Terry Kelly, owner of Kelly Construction in Rochester Hills, Michigan.  If you are looking to build or remodel, give them a call.

I now understand why the “makeover” family goes away for a week while their place is renovated.



First, I must say that communication is not a skill that these workers have.  Building skills – yes, communication skills – no.

We were having some spotty rain showers on Friday.  Hubby and I went to the Post Office.  On the way home the construction truck blew past us, leaving our place.  My first thought was they were going to town for a coffee or something.  When we got home we went up to the work area and the place looked like a cyclone hit it.  But, after an hour and no sign of the workers, I was concerned and called the salesperson to see if someone might have gotten hurt.

He assured me that they would be back the next day, and would check if there was an injury.

Siding off - panels downWorkers?  Saturday?  I hold classes on Saturday and Sunday!  I’m looking at an arena with the siding off where the new barn would be attached.  No one told me that siding would be taken off!  No one told me they would be working on the week-end!

I spent Friday night calling all the riders and volunteers, canceling the classes for both days.

Oh, no one was hurt.  I guess their mother never taught them to clean up after themselves.



We got the auger put on the tractor, I bought our feed store out of poles – 80 to be exact.  They will order more because I estimate that we need about 200 poles to put up the perimeter fencing.  What a job!

We already had t-posts in for our pasture – those need to be removed, then mark off the lines for the fencing, put in the holes, poles, pack…repeat until completed.

Post lifting exercisesI thought I’d be smart and unload the posts – putting them on piles of five about every 50 feet.  The young man at the feed store asked if I had someone to unload the truck when I got home.  “Sure,” I said.  “Me,” I thought to myself.

Surprisingly, I did not find them heavy at all!



Removing t-postsWe have a neat little device to remove t-posts.  So that was my next task of the day.  I’m sure that by the time this project is completed, I’ll have the upper arm and shoulder muscles that a body-builder would envy.

Now for the next job – putting in the posts.

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