Several times a year, before we worm our horses, we weigh them. The vet comes twice a year – and weighs them. Even if we weigh our horses the day before, there is usually a discrepancy between our weight and the vet’s weight. Sometimes a few pounds, sometimes quite a few pounds.

Buttercup's weight using the weight tape

Buttercup’s weight using the weight tape

I have never been comfortable with the “weight tape” because even if you think you are putting it around the heart girth, it can slip. It can be at a different angle every time it is used. It can be tighter or looser than the last time. And what about the thickness of the horse’s coat?

Problem solved. We purchased a livestock scale! Okay, we got it to weigh our cattle to make sure they were market ready, but, horses can stand on it too. And so they did.

In my scientific study of the horse’s weight, I used the weight tape on the horse to get the tape weight.

Buttercup taped out at 1001 pounds. A respectable weight for this mare.

Buttercup getting weighed.

Buttercup getting weighed.

We walked her onto the scale, and, oh my! She gained 113 pounds between the time we taped her and she walked onto the scale!

Buttercup's weight using the livestock scale

Buttercup’s weight using the livestock scale

This held true for EVERY horse. Some of the horses varied by only 50 pounds, which is the acceptable range for the tape, but most weight in with a 100 pound or greater difference between the tape and the scale.

So, which do I believe? The horses claim the scale if off, but we checked it with our weight and it was only a few pounds more – but considering we had our boots and winter coats on, it was within two or three pounds of our scale in the house.

Looks like it will be exercise time in the arena for both the horses and me this spring!

 

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.
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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.


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.


As we begin Volunteer Appreciation Week, I think about all the different ways we can serve each other and have an effect on a life. Sometimes it’s a person we know; sometimes a person we don’t; but always the person within.

At our farm, we appreciate the time our volunteers take to work with our riders. We all have seen different ways the horses have made improvements in the lives of our riders – increasing muscle tone and coordination, gaining confidence by controlling a 1,000 pound animal, and just having fun.

There have also been positive improvements in our volunteers as well. Blood pressure lowered, weight loss, increased confidence and finding a new joy in living.

As Tom Brokaw once said, “It’s easy to make a buck. It’s a lot tougher to make a difference.”

So to all the volunteers, men and women, young and old, who take the time to make a difference in the life of someone else, we, at Pretty Pony Pastures, salute you.


We had a good turnout for our Preserving Your Back (and Your Horse’s) clinic today, considering the sky was overcast and threatened rain. Threatened? More like a torrential downpour in the middle of Dr. Westcott’s talk!

Dr. Westcott of Wescott Chiropractic Clinic began the presentation by explaining how our body/spine works, where the most weight is carried, why the area that hurts may not be the area that has the problem and where we are most vulnerable.

Then, she demonstrated two very simple exersizes – each takes only 30 seconds to do and will keep our muscles supple and flexible! Yes, in one minute a day. I’m game – you bet I’m going to do them. As Dr. Westcott explained, no one wants to do exercises that take a long time – ones that we need to schedule into our hectic day – but 30 seconds – we have the time. The back exercise can even be done at your desk! Wow! Work and exercise – who would have thought that was possible.

I’m all energized to keep riding until I’m old and gray!


Good Morning America plays in the background while I work in the morning.  Today they had Drs. OZ and Roizen on the show discussing the “YOU: Being Beautiful”.   As usual, I listen with one ear, just in case they say something interesting.

Posture!  They started talking about posture and why good posture is important.  Next thing I hear is to pretend there is a string at the top of your head and your shoulders are back, and, and, and.  HEY!  That’s what I teach during my horseback riding classes.  How to stack the spine for good balance.  Now he’s saying the same thing about posture.

When I was young, we would stack books on our head and walk around, being careful not to drop the book.  But, if the noted doctor is using my metaphors on what good posture looks like, then, LET’S RIDE for good posture and forget the books!