That’s funny, the red truck pulled in, but it’s winter. That’s the man that cuts down the good grass during the summer. What’s he doing here today? He asked mom if the horses would be afraid of a “quad.” I don’t know what a quad is, but she said we’re not afraid of anything, and she’s right!

He took a big blue thing out of his truck, hitched up a trailer to the back, then got on the blue thing and rode it into our paddock. The man’s friends came in, too, and started scooping our poo into the trailer. Oh, now I know why the man is here, we going to have a clean place to live! I said “Hello” to the man and his human friends, but I wanted to meet his blue friend.

I thought, the man got on it, just like the riders get on me, so it must be a horse like me, even if it does make the strangest whinny when the man rides him. When the man got off, I lost no time going over to say hello and check it out. It didn’t move! I nuzzled its big blue head, I tried to push it, but it just stood there. But when the man got on it, it made the funniest whinny I ever heard and moved out pulling the trailer.

I kept trying all day to get this new horse to do something. All the other horses kick at me, or bite me, or at least move, but not him. Then I stood right in front of him when the man was on him to stop him from going away, but he just kept making those strange whinnies and knickers. Finally mom came over and told me to move, so I did. My blue friend left. I think he was nice. I heard one of the man’s friends tell mom that I covered the blue horse with kisses and slobber. Yup, I did. I sure hope my new best friend comes back again!


Having and training horses for the past several years, in addition to  being a teacher, has really shown me that there is much similarity between all living beings.

When we train our horses, we follow the three C’s – Clear, Concise, Consistent. Let me show you how this would work with a simple task. At our barn, we want the horse to stop at a doorway when it is on lead line. It doesn’t matter if it’s the gate from the arena to the barn or the stall door. We want the horse to stop, let the leader through, then the horse walks through when asked.

Clear – Be exact about what you want the horse to do. In this case we want the horse to stop at the doorway. Not just slow down so the leader can get through the door first, not stop three feet or more from the doorway, so the leader has to extend the lead line, but at the doorway. This means the leader doesn’t ask the horse to stop until it is in the correct position.

Concise – How few words can you use when you ask the horse to stop? At our barn, say “whoa.” No explanation, no extra words, just “whoa.” Then the leader’s feet stop moving. If the horse insists on continuing through the doorway, apply a quick tug on the lead line to remind the horse that it’s suppose to listen to the direction.

Consistent – This, in my opinion, is the most important part. We stop at EVERY door, EVERY time. No deviation, ever. In a hurry today, so we skip the stop at the doorway? That tells the horse that the rules do not apply all the time. Horses learn fast. They know which leaders follow the rules and which don’t. Then they try to convince other leaders that the “rules” do not apply to them.

Think about it. Then think about your kids or other people you know or work with. Would the three C’s work with them as well?

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 time to start practicing for our annual horse show.  The show typically consists for four classes: Showmanship, Equitation, Trail, and Games.  We try to practice the trail class a couple of times before the show so that the riders are comfortable with the pattern and the obstacles.  Some years they have to get mail out of the mail box; others they are moving something from one barrel to another.  This year, I introduced “the gate” to the class.

First time through I let them try to figure out how they should remove the rope to open the gate.  Some have a very hard time figuring it out; others are quicker.  Lu-Rain decided that since her rider wasn’t sure how to maneuver her up the the rope, she would take matters into her own hands, er, mouth.Lu-Rain Opens the Gate

First she stopped short of the rope.  She’s no fool.  She wasn’t going to touch the hot wire!  Then she crept closer to determine if it really was a hot wire.  It wasn’t, so she promptly grabbed the rope in her mouth, then dropped it so her rider could cross through the gate.  She did have that look about her that seemed to say – I did good.  I opened the gate for you!

We took Leslie to her first schooling dressage show today.  What a wonderful way to start Mother’s Day.

Never mind that the show was an hour and a half drive away, that we were showing from the trailer, and we were the first ride at 9:00 am, so we had to leave by 6:00 am to have some warm-up time.

After an hour of trying to best braid Leslie’s mane, we loaded her in the trailer.  This is the first time in two years that we have taken Leslie off the farm and her first dressage show with only six months of training, once a week at best.  Amy, her trainer, and I decided to enter her in the Introductory Level Tests A and B.  We feel that she has been making good progress, but we wanted a judge’s opinion.

Leslie was a bit nervous when we brough her into the arena area to tack her up, so we walked her around a few times.  Mirrors!  Our arena doesn’t have any; this one does!  I remembered someone saying that some of the horses in the Olympics spooked when they saw themselves on the big screens that were hung in the arena.  What would Leslie do when she saw herself in a mirror?  She was curious, but not afraid.  Good!  This was actually a good thing when we bridled her.  She decided that she wanted no part of the bridle.  Not her style, but in a strange place, understandable.  She ran.  Where?  To her reflection in the mirror.  She stood so close to the mirror that it got steamy!  As she commiserated with herself about her predicament, we were able to bridle her.  Amy mounted and the tests began.Leslie and Amy Dressage Ribbons

Happy to say the tean took ribbons in both classes – fourth in Intro A and second in Intro B.

So proud!

One thing that we insist on when we train a horse is that it learns how to stand square.  Showmanship classes require it, dressage requires it, but, we find it is more than a requirement that we need to comply with.  It is an integral part of  safety for our program.

Squaring Slick on leadlineStarting on the lead line, the young (or not so young) horse, is taught to square up whenever the leader stops.  We use the words “square up” and turn – leader’s toes to the horses left shoulder.  Then manipulate the horse until the front feet are square.  Following our tradition of slow is fast and less is more, we found that starting with only two feet was less confusing for the horses than trying to square up all four feet.  Once the horse has the habit of stopping and squaring the two front feet we move to squaring the back feet as well.  We work with the horse until he is square every time he stops.

One of the problems we see with our handlers is they pull or push too hard with the leadline when squaring a horse.  Most horses are very sensitive to the movement of the leadline and just a little movement will cause the horse to shift its weight and move a leg.  Once the leg moves, stop pulling or pushing.  Handlers and horses can get very frustated when the leg in question moves too far back, then too far forward over and over again.  Easy and light  makes it right and keeps everyone happy.

Mounting Slick ChickNext step is the mounting block.  Our horses never move when a rider mounts if they are standing square.  Why? Because when they stand square, they are balanced.  A horse moves when someone mounts because he is trying to get under and balance the rider – unless the horse has never been taught good ground manners.  But that is another topic.

With the leader in position – toes to the left shoulder, the horse squares up at the mounting block and the rider mounts.  If you look at this picture, you will see that the rider isn’t holding the reins.  Many of our riders cannot manipulate reins and mounting, so we teach our horses to stand for the mount without any pressure from the reins holding the horse back.  Any pressure, if necessary, comes from the leader.  Once mounted, the horse must stand still for any adjustments, taking up the reins, etc. until the command “walk on” is given by the rider.

Mounting a horse that is moving, is neither easy nor pleasant.  The time it takes to teach a horse to stand still with worth it…whether it takes minutes or hours.  We find it’s the safe way to mount.

Grooming a Haflinger at Hug-A-Horse Day

Grooming a Haflinger at Hug-A-Horse Day

With Valentine’s Day on a Saturday, we decided to host a Hug-A-Horse Day so parents could bring their horse-crazy child for an hour with a horse.

We had nine participants.  Each session was limited to four, so this worked out quite nicely.  We asked some of our volunteers to help out for the day. 

 First the riders received a short safety lesson.  Then they got to groom the horse and see how to braid the mane.  Next they went to the activities room to make a salad treat for the horse they would ride.  Lastly, they entered the arena and got a riding lesson.  Every one had a great time.  Some of the riders will be coming back for riding classes, too.

At the end of the day, all the volunteers received a rose…make from Hershey kisses…as a Thank You for spending Valentine’s Day with the horses.hershey-roses

« Previous PageNext Page »