Haflinger



Drill_Team_heart

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?

Pony

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.

Horse

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!

Haflingers

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.

You have to wonder which is worse, the deep snow or the gusting winds that are bringing the temperature below 00 and the wind chill into the -30s. We can bundle up, but what about our fur kids – the horses.

With over ten years’ experience, you would think I wouldn’t worry any more. But I do. Even though I know that our horses have enough to eat and warm water to drink and shelter. I still can’t help being concerned even though I know how the metabolism of the horse works.

Eating_Hay_1re

Good feed

Hay is the best feed for horses, especially during the cold winter months. When the hay is digested in the hindgut, it ferments and keeps the horse warm. Increase hay as the temperature drops below freezing. Consult your vet to determine the optimal amount of hay for your horse. Older horses and working horses may require more hay than easy keepers or pasture ornaments. If you can keep hay in front of your horse at all times, that would be perfect. But some horses would gorge themselves, so this is not a wise choice.

Plenty of water

Even in the winter the horse needs a good source of palatable water to prevent colic. Water heaters work good in large tanks and heated buckets work in stalls. If the water is too warm, your horse may not drink it. Also make sure the heater is grounded. Your horse will refuse to drink if it gets a shock from the water bucket.

Nature’s insulation

Most horses put on a thick coat for the winter. But did you ever wonder if it is thick enough? Do you ever shiver and get goose bumps? So do horses. Shivering – not excessively – can help boost the metabolism and help warm the horse up. More effective is piloerection. When you get goose bumps, your skin contracts and little bumps appear causing your hair to stand on end. The same thing happens with the horse, but, this fluffs their coat. They can actually control how “fluffy” their coat gets and the air space between the hair helps to insulate them against the cold. A healthy horse will have a “blanket of snow” on their backs and not be wet at all.

Moving the blood

But what about their hooves, ears, muzzle? The horse has a capillary system that can direct the blood to and from different parts of the body. So, in the summer, the thermoregulatory system directs the blood away from the organs and toward the skin to relieve the body of heat. It also directs the blood in a way to cool the hooves, ears, and muzzle. In the winter, the opposite happens and the blood warms these areas.

Knowing all of this, I will still check on the horses regularly, making sure they have a good supply of hay and a filled, warm water trough. Then go back to the house for a cup of hot chocolate, since my body could learn something from the horse’s metabolism.


It’s the first riding sessions of the new year. The riders were excited to be back in spite of the cold temperatures. This year I decided to start the year asking about goals.

“Goals?” asked one six-year old.

“Yes, what would you like to do this year.”

“Go to Cedar Point. We couldn’t last year because my brother broke his leg.”

Jenna trots ButtercupOops! I need to be more specific. So I rephrased it to focus on horseback riding. The answer came back very clear. “Keep riding all year!”

Got it.

Next class the riders were older, but just to be safe I rephrased the question to focus on horseback riding.

“Canter!” shouted the first rider.

“Good for you, but we need to make the goal something we can do by the show. How about post the trot around the arena.”

“Ride with a bit,” said the second.

Now we are getting it.

After the classes I started to think about how many times we set goals for ourselves that are too aggressive. We end up falling short and feeling like we failed.

In our riding classes our curriculum follows a pedagogy that builds on previous success as we challenge our riders to achieve. We like to think of it as No Rider Left Behind. Every rider should be able to say, “Yes! I can!” when presented with a new skill because they know it is achievable.

Now that the riders know where they are heading, I need to think of my goals as an instructor. Better examples, more exercises, and, of course, lots of fun in every riding session.

How about you? Do you have riding goals for 2013?


One of the reasons the teacher at Patterson Elementary School in Holly likes to bring her students here for therapeutic riding is because we work together to incorporate her classroom lesson plans into the riding lesson.

Finding YellowThis week we were working on colors. Not to confuse shapes and colors, or to remember that the square is blue and the triangle is green, all the barrels had a picture of a color circle.

Since we are also working on learning how to stop a horse, it was just a matter of combining two tasks – recognizing a color and stopping the horse – to devise the Color Game!

Each rider was given a different color. When they found their assigned color they would stop their horse. Once they got good at finding their color and stopping their horse we added another dimension. Name something that is that color. It was interesting to see how many riders would look around the arena to match an item to that color and how many would “think” of something – usually food.

Everyone was a winner, reinforcing concepts they were learning in the classroom.


Friday was our first activity of the Golden Pony Club. What a great experience this was for those who participated. The theme was games – so we played Egg and Spoon, Flag and Sand, and Keyhole.

Egg and spoon game

Playing egg and spoon game

The evening was complicated by having the riders select a horse card to determine which horse she would ride. Oh, my! I’m not riding the horse I ride for lessons? Was the cry. No, you will choose a horse for each game and you cannot ride the same horse twice tonight. The gasps were quite audible. What if I get a horse I never rode before? Well, it happened and they got those horses.

Funny thing, the riders were so focused on the game that the horse was immaterial! Poppie, our most challenging lesson horse was ridden by the smallest riders. I’m not sure if they ever rode Poppie before, but Friday night, they did and they did a good job. Some of them even said they’d ride Poppie for a lesson!

One of our most advanced riders decided that she was not cut out for Gymkhana since she dq’d at least once in each game!

They rode for over two hours, but when I said game night was over, the girls were surprised that it ended so soon. I think every girl wanted to know if we could do this next Friday. Nothing like a good evening playing with horses!

Flag and Sand Game

Putting the flag in the holder

Keyhole Game

Turning Poppie in the keyhole

More pictures

 


Volunteer Leading a Horse

Dustin enjoys the ride while Matt leads the horse.

 

 

 

Everyone will tell you that volunteering is good for you – makes you feel good that you’ve helped someone. But, according to a Prevention Magazine, volunteering is actually good for your brain!

What does volunteering do?  It:

  • Challenges you to get intellectually engaged.  When you volunteer you may find yourself in a new situation with new  challenges, or at least ones you don’t get at home or on the job. For example, if you don’t work with horses on a daily basis you will probably finding yourself trying to think of new ways to get that horse to move over or explain to a youngster how to steer the horse.
  • Keeps your brain skills sharp.  Volunteering can offer you a chance to give our brains a work out.  Volunteering at our horse facility can require that you pay attention, as you learn new skills that pertain to horses and the riders.
  • Keeps you socially engaged.  Volunteering gives you an opportunity to connect with others.  You will meet new friends who are here for the same purpose – helping our riders. Some great and lasting friendships have been found in a horse barn.

    Kiree rides Buttercup with Jan leading

    Kiree rides Buttercup with Jan leading

  • Makes you feel good.  Helping others is good for our soul and you feel it most when the rider gets off the horse and gives you a big smile and hug.

So if you are looking for ways to help your brain, consider volunteering.  Pretty Pony Pastures  can use volunteers for its therapeutic riding program on Sunday afternoon, Monday and Thursday evening. No experience needed.


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!

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