Lauren is riding Leslie with a bit.

We all remember that from Disney’s movie, Snow White and may have even said it to the mirror in our room. But, did you ever consider that a horse can be the best mirror of all?

Horses respond to the person riding it. But horses have their own personalities too. So how is a horse a mirror of its rider?

At our riding facility we hold our weekend classes in the morning. Riding starts at 9:30 am. Not a bad time – a little later than school starts for some students – but early enough, especially if your drive time is more than a half hour.

As the riders mount up, I observe both the horse and the rider. “Shirley, did you have a sleepover last night?” I ask one rider. She looks back at me, and responds, “Yes, how did you know?” It’s simple, the horse that she is riding usually walks energetically, and this morning the horse is dragging around the arena. Mom tells me that she couldn’t settle the girl down until well past midnight. I look at the rider, she looks tired, she acts tired, and the horse reflects her energy level perfectly. In the next class another rider is bouncing off the walls, and the same horse is filled with energy and ready to move.

Similarly riders who are distracted by things that are happening in their home life, good or bad, may have time focusing on their riding skills. They miss a turn or have a difficult time getting the horse to trot. Mom tells me the horse is acting stubborn; I smile and ask what’s going on this week.

I will admit, not all behaviors reflect the rider. The horse may have an off day. Heat and cold can affect a horse’s disposition just like it affects ours. A sudden cold snap after several miserably hot days will make the calmest horse livelier. Older horses, with arthritis, will not want to move on a cold, rainy day. So these factors need to be taken into account.

But overall, the horse you ride and the way it acts says a lot about you!

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 at this facility.

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.