Pretty Pony Pastures



Those of you who are on my newsletter list, you know that every February I present the State of the Farm address. This year I thought I might report on how this blog is doing. (Oh, if you don’t get our newsletter – click this link.)

So let’s start with hard numbers:

Followers – 20. Hmmm, we have over 1,000 followers on Face Book, so why so few followers here. NOTICE: If you are reading this blog on Face Book, thank you! Now, click follow so you never miss a post because you know that you don’t always see everything that is posted in your newsfeed. My goal – 50 followers in 2018.

Visitors – we had 505 visitors who looked at 899 pages. That’s not bad. This means almost every visitor looked at one more page, or some left quickly and others stayed for a long, long time. If you haven’t read all the posts here, they are arranged by category in the list on the right.

top 10 Countries

So who really came?

Overwhelmingly our visitors were from the United States, Australia came in a distant second followed by Chile and Canada. The only county in the 10 ten visitors that surprised me was – Vietnam.

top 10 referrers

Where did they come from?

Or, how did they find the blog would be a better question. Not surprising at all, the number one referrer is Facebook followed by search engines and Pinterest. I have often wondered if anyone who sees the pins comes back to read the blog. Yes they do!

top 10 posts

What did they read?

Our homepage being in the top position is no surprise. Saying Good-bye tells me that a lot of our friends felt the same way about Stella’s passing as we did. Let the Games Begin is an old post that scored big in 2017 as did our blog about our sensory trail.

So what will 2018 bring? It will be interesting to see if we can attract more readers and if the readers stick around and read more posts. We certainly hope you stay and read awhile. We’re glad you came. If you see a post you like, please “like” it and leave a comment. Makes us feel good and keeps us wanting to post more.

And if you know someone who might be interested in our blog, feel free to share. Your friend will be glad you did.

Linda Watson-Call is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. She is the author of the newly released book Fifty Blades of Hay.
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STEM composite

It seems that S.T.E.M. has become the buzzword of the decade. We can’t overlook the fact that many of the more promising careers require a good foundation of science, technology, engineering, and/or math to succeed.

But what about other occupations that do not appear to rely on these areas? Do they still need a working knowledge of S.T.E.M.? Yes!

We have people come to our facility and think that there is nothing scientific or technological about running a farm. So, we designed sessions at our Hooked on Horsestm day camp and additional sessions that schools or youth groups could attend. In these sessions the participants learn not only why these disciplines are important but also how they might discover a career that is affiliated with horses or agriculture.

Science

Everything from nutrition for the horses to how to care for them involve some aspect of science. Being able to determine if the grain and hay has the proper nutrients and the correct amount can make the difference between a healthy horse and a sickly one.

Breeding should involve more than picking a mate for a horse. The positive and negative traits of each horse needs to be considered and which would be dominant in the offspring. Let’s not forget about conditions that can be carried by a horse but not become evident unless the mate also carried that condition.

Technology

This is one area that has had a big impact. We now have a digital scale for our horses. No more guessing if the tape is in the correct place or wondering how close the tape estimate is to the horse’s actual weight. Even thermometers have a digital readout.

The vet can perform x-rays and MRI’s at the barn with the results being displayed on a monitor in real time. This saves both time and expense as well as being able to diagnose and treat the animal faster.

Engineering

Here’s another field that has had a positive effect on farm life. From the design of the buildings to the construction of riding helmets, all require an aspect of engineering.

The possibilities and need for engineers in agriculture cover a wide area. We use environmental engineers to ensure that proper usage and disposal of herbicides, pesticides, and, the never ending supply of manure.

Agricultural engineers work with power supplies, efficiency of machinery, and the storage and processing of agricultural products.

Math

From being able to determine that correct amount of food to feed our animals to the amount of fertilizer needed to produce quality hay all require math.

And if your farm is your business, you need math to determine whether you are operating at a profit.

Looking at it from this perspective, S.T.E.M. plays an integral part in the life of everyone, including those of us who run a farm.

Linda Watson-Call is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities, like our S.T.E.M. sessions, at this facility. She is the author of the forthcoming book Fifty Blades of Hay.

supplycabinet

There are no two ways about it – horses can be very expensive. If you look through a horses catalog at all the “products” designed for horses, the dollars add up.

Some items need to be horse specific – like wormer. Do you buy the name brand or the generic?

Feed MUST be horse specific – feed for cows, goats, or other animals can be detrimental for a horse. But what about other items?

Here are some of the general items we keep on hand in our supply cabinet:

  • Baby oil – use it for sheath cleaning and general grooming.
  • Vaseline – makes a great hoof polish. Keeps the hooves from drying out. Can be used as a barrier from bugs for superficial cuts or scrapes.
  • Baby shampoo – gentle, mild, works great on the mane and tail as well as the coat.
  • Mouthwash – yes, mouthwash can be used as a liniment, dandruff, and put a little in the water trough to keep bacteria at bay during the summer months.
  • Cotton balls – to clean around eyes, muzzle, anywhere you want “soft” cleaning.
  • Instant ice packs – for the bumps that require a cold compress. Keep it on with a baby diaper and duct tape.
  • Fiber powder with psyllium – to prevent sand colic. Our horses love the orange flavor!
  • Toothpaste – great for cleaning bits – and don’t forget the toothbrush to get into the grooves and crevices of your tack.
  • Murphy’s oil soap – cleans leather.
  • Spray bottles – dollar store variety
  • Bleach to disinfect everything – especially the grooming brushes and bucket. You do wash those at least twice a year, right?
  • Regular “human” brushes – with our Haflingers the traditional horse combs don’t make it. Human brushes and of course a spray to get rid of the tangles!
  • Baby diapers – both the disposable and the cloth. They are absorbent, can be used to wrap a leg or hoof injury and keep salve-type medication from getting dirty.
  • Duct tape – don’t forget the duct tape to keep the wraps on!

As you can see, most of the supplies that are used for horses can be purchased at the grocery or local drug store.

How do you save money on horse supplies?

 

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.

Buttercup_MorganMy young rider and Buttercup have a great working relationship. Buttercup is no push-button horse, but she knows when her rider means what she it and usually doesn’t put up a fuss. But today something was wrong.

Our warm-up exercise went well. It was a new pattern, but the rider had no problem with it and Buttercup complied. Last week we started going over a low jump. The rider is ready to learn how to canter, has great form, and had enjoyed going over ground poles. She did fine last week, so I thought we’d do it again this week.

As I was getting the jump ready, I asked her to trot Buttercup. She did, but Buttercup didn’t trot the distance. She broke trot after a few steps. So we tried again. This time, she didn’t even attempt to trot.  She stopped instead. Really? Stopping instead of trotting? This is not acceptable behavior. I’m studying the rider and the horse. I don’t see anything wrong with the rider. The horse is moving properly but refusing to trot. Stopping. And when she stops, she is not square, but extends her back legs a bit. I’m wondering if she needs to urinate, but isn’t doing it.

My first impulse was to get after Buttercup for not being responsive, but my gut feeling said not to. So I changed the lesson and we worked on leg yields, which were done quite nicely by both the rider and the horse.

Class is over and I make a mental note to work with Buttercup later in the day to try and figure out what happened in that lesson.

A half-hour later I get a text from the rider’s mother. They may have to cancel the afternoon plans because she is running the girl to Emergency. I’m stunned. It seems the girl had fallen the day before and hit her head. No lumps, no bumps, not even a mark. She seemed fine that evening and didn’t complain about not feeling well in the morning.

Being the avid rider that she is, she came for her lesson, but on the way home told her dad that the ride home was making her sick to her stomach and dizzy.

The next text was – she had suffered a concussion.

Was she not feeling right but hid it well for her riding lesson? She says she was fine until the ride home. Did Buttercup know that she wasn’t well and shouldn’t be trotting (actually shouldn’t be riding!), Buttercup is not saying. But what she is saying loud and clear – I do know what is happening with my rider and will act accordingly.

And I will always trust my horses and my gut.

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 fun things to do with horses is to teach them tricks. So at our March Golden Pony Club we did that.

There are some tricks that we would never teach our horses for safety reasons – like rearing or kissing on the lips. But there are so many others that are fun and very teachable. All tricks are actions that a horse will normally do. So the only thing that is tricky is getting the horse to do the action on command.

To really teach a trick, you need to repeat the action over and over a period of days. Since our club only meets for two hours, each member did the action with the horse three times. Rewards are also important. We give a small carrot as a reward if the horse at least “tries” to do the action.
We started with the one trick that everyone loves to see – Smiling! This is a relatively simple trick. The horse will naturally raise its upper lip to get a better smell of its surroundings. It will also lift the lip when it’s in pain. Lifting the lip is called flehmen (flay’-mon).

Smile Leslie_2 r25r50We teach it one of two ways: either by tickling the nose with a string – baling twine works just fine, or dipping the baling twine in a liquid that has a strong scent to it – like a perfume. We tried it both ways during our session and got some results.

 

 

Hug Buttercup_1 r25r50

The second trick was teaching the horse to give a hug. This one was a little more difficult for the girls. You need to hold the treat – in this case a carrot on a Frisbee – behind your back so the horse looks over your shoulder to get it. The girls arms a much shorter than an adults, so they had the treat closer to their waist and the horse simply went behind them to get the reward. We’ll have to work on this one a little more.

The last trick was shaking hands/hooves. This is on my questionable trick list, but it is a fun one, too. I place it on the questionable list because we don’t want to teach the horse to paw or strike forward with a hoof, but the horses that I taught it too, never picked up either habit, so I will teach it.

 

Shake Leslie_1 r25r50The cue word is “shake” and we start by putting a lead line around the fetlock and on the cue “shake” put some pressure on the rope to encourage the horse to pick up the hoof. If the horse shift weight to the other hoof and just moves the hoof that we want lifted, we reward to the horse. This trick takes longer to teach than the other tricks, but, like any trick, everyone enjoys seeing the horse “shake” hands/hooves.

To see more pictures of teaching the horses tricks go to our Facebook page.

 

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

 


Test_Ride_1Once our horses are groomed and tacked up, we walk our horse around the arena – usually twice, and then mount up. We walk our horses around until all the riders are up, then we begin a pattern – at the walk. It seems that we do a lot of walking at the beginning of the lesson but there is a reason for it. We are warming up. That is – both the rider and the horse.

Warm up? Think about baseball, the pitcher warms up his pitching arm in the bullpen for quite a few minutes before being put in the game. Runners may jog before a run, footballs players may do a forward lunge, every sport has its own warm-up routine. And so do equestrians.

Studies have shown that athletes who warm up before playing have fewer injuries. Horses, as well as the riders, are athletes. Keeping them fit is part of the responsibility of riding.

Walking the horse around the arena prepares the horse Serpentine_reand rider mentally for the class. I often ask the rider, “What mood is your horse in today?” Most of the time I get a giggle, but there is a reason I ask. In those few minutes, and in the time that the horse was groomed, the rider should know if the horse is relaxed or tense, listening or distracted. This will affect the lesson so paying attention to the horse give the rider a clue to how the lesson will go. This is also the time to get the horse’s attention. If the horse isn’t listening on the ground, it certainly will not listen once the rider mounts. If the rider isn’t paying attention to the horse, we could have a disaster in the arena.

After mounting we walk the pattern. This is not a walk in the park. This exercise raises the horse’s core and muscle temperature. It also warms the rider’s muscles too. The pattern also helps the horse and rider focus. A good warm up should last about 20 minutes. The first 10 minutes should be at the walk, then 10 minutes at a trot before any cantering or jumping. You want your horse’s joints moving before any hard work.

Jenna trots Buttercup eNow we can start our lesson. Since most of our riders are at different levels of trotting, our warm up is right around 10 minutes. By that time, I can tell what mood everyone is in and how hard we can work that lesson.

Warming up is an essential part of your ride and your horse’s health.

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.


Grooming_horse_1_rx50Our riding lessons always start by grooming the horse. I have had parents ask why their child has to groom and tack the horse when they are paying for a riding lesson, but I explain that learning about caring for an animal is a lesson as well. The grooming and tacking is very important both for the horse and the rider.

Currying the horse is very much like a massage. Yes, it brings up the dirt and dead coat, but it also a rub down for the skin and muscles. It feels good to the horse. Always curry with some pressure and use a circular motion.

For the rider, this is an opportunity to find out how the horse is feeling. Once in a while, the horse will react to the curry by moving away or moving its head toward to person grooming. Is that a sore spot? Maybe another horse kicked or bit the horse. Check it out.

Throughout the grooming process, you learn a lot about the horse. Was it rolling in the mud all day or night? Are there cuts or scratches that need to be taken care of before the ride? Should the horse be ridden?

In the case of a minor injury, the rider learns what to do for the horse. Especially if there was a kick that drew blood, I ask the rider to watch every week to see how long it will take to heal completely.

Hoof_Cleaning_2_rx25Let’s not forget to clean the horse’s hooves. Rocks, stones, or worse can get caught in the cleft. The hoof may have cracked or chipped. If the hoof grew faster than normal between farrier visits, it may rip. Here’s another lesson for the rider on caring for a horse.

It doesn’t take long before there is a bond between the horse and rider. The rider feels ownership of the horse and wants to learn more about keeping the horse healthy. And it all started with the rub.

 

This post is the first of a five part series on the makeup of a riding lesson.

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