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.


I never thought I’d be the proud owner of a horse that goes to college, but earlier this month Angel (Angelita’s Image) stepped into the trailer that took her to Meredith Manor is West Virginia!

One of our Program Aids, Christa, had been working with her for over a year. Late last year she was accepted to Meredith Manor. During a session she expressed her disappointment that she would not be the person to “finish” Angel since she would be leaving soon for college. At that moment I had an idea. I knew some other colleges that would allow the students to bring a horse; I even heard of a few colleges that would allow horses to attend even if their owner wasn’t attending that school. So, why not ask if Angel could go too? After all, she still needed some training and Christa had really bonded with her.

So we began getting all her supplies together and having the vet come out to give her the required vaccinations for her new adventure.

When the big day came, Angel loaded in the trailer like she was an old hand at travelling. Truth be known, she has not travelled much at all, but she wasn’t going to let the transport compnay know.

Angel new home_tFrom all reports, she was a big hit when she arrived. Unloaded, refused to walkAngel at Window_t through the mud, and made herself comfortable in her new stall. When Christa visited her the next day, she was very happy to see a familiar face.

The back of her stall open to the paddocks so she doesn’t feel confined when she spends time in her stall.

Angel has been assigned to an advance student who is making sure her ground training is on target. They will teach her all she needs to know to be a great program horse. And best of all, she will continue to be with Christa!

We’ve even given her a Facebook page that will be updated with her progress. You can find her at Angel (Angelita’s Image).

It will be two years before she returns in her cap and gown.


There is a lost art in horsemanship – ground tying. The cowboys had to have horses that would stand when the reins were dropped so they could dismount and do their work, knowing that the horse was not going to wander off. Today we have cross-ties, tie-rings and a gamut of devices to keep our horses from wandering off. But how many horses will stand when the reins or lead-line is dropped?

At our barn, ground tying is one of the skills that we insist our horses learn. It’s not hard to teach. Most horses would rather stand than work, so we use that to our advantage.

Last week, I was so pleased to see two of our green horses just standing while their young trainers walked around the arena. Not only did the horse stand while the young lady moved away, but, each of the young ladies were able to circle the horse, then the arena, with the horse only moving her head to see where her leader was.

Talk about establishing a bond! The girls were very proud of their horses as well. Carrots for everyone for a job well done!

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?

Trust is such a big issue when it come to horses and riders. You will hear one person say, “I trust my horse’s judgement better than my own on the trails.” Another may say, “I could never trust my horse in a new situation.”

When there is a strong bond between the horse and rider, it seems all is well; when there isn’t – the picture isn’t pretty.
I just read an article that was published in two different magazines showing how the horse and rider or leader are intertwined. According to the article, there was an experiment with 10 horses and 20 people. The first group of 10 people were to ride the horse. Both the horse and rider were wired to pick up the heartbeat. The riders were told to ride the horse past a group of people four times, but on the fourth pass, several of the bystanders would open an umbrella. Watching the monitors, the persons who were conducting the experiment say BOTH the riders and horses heart rates increase on the fourth pass. Some of the horses were getting fidgety. Why? Only the riders knew about the umbrellas, which, by the way, we never opened! But, the riders anticipated and the horses responded to the feeling they were receiving from the rider.

Next group only led the horse with a halter and lead line. They were told the same thing. Walk by the group of spectators four times, on the fourth time some on the people will open an umbrella. The results were identical! The horse not only feels our energy when we are on their backs but when they are being led as well!Copper Boy kisses ghost cropped

At our arena, we tell the parents and riders that we will dismount if there are severe storms or thunder storms.  The parents always question whether the horses are afraid of thunder.  Our answer has always been, “No, but if the rider gets scared, the horses wil  get scared as well.  No matter how much we try to desensitize the horses, they will still respond to the rider or leader.

We witnessed this just the other day.  We had three adult riders in the arena.  Two were on lead line, one was riding independent.   It was not a particularly windy day, but, in the middle of the class, a tree in the woods behind the arena decided to fall.  One of the riders on lead line head the rustle, tensed up, then decided it was nothing.  Her horse did a little jig for one or two steps and immediately quieted down.  The second rider on lead line was in deep conversation with the leader.  Neither of them were aware of the noise; their horse did nothing.  The third rider saw the tree as it started to fall and began to react to the anticipated noise.  Her horse reacted to her anticipation and trotted out about 30 feet.  The rider was able to regain composure and bring the horse to a walk.  The horse that did nothing is our newest horse and has had the least amount of desensitizing.

Which makes me wonder – how important is it for the rider to trust the horse and the horse to trust the rider?

Slick Chick "before"

It’s not often that you can see a Haflinger’s ribs.  In fact, we never saw them until we got Slick Chick.  Here’s a picture of Tom holding her when we unloaded her from the trailer.  You can count every rib, hip bone shows up also.  There was a bump on her hind end where the spine and croup join.  Never saw that on a horse either.  Had to ask the vet about that one.

Our vet body scored her at 3.5.  That was where I placed her as well.  But we were told with a good diet, exercise and love, Slick would do okay.

That was the fall of 2004. 

 Today Slick is fat, sassy, and well, just plain beautiful.  We spent the first two years slowly getting her weight up while also teaching her ground manners, doing some desensitizing, and most importantly, giving her lots of love.  She enjoys being groomed, so even while unrideable, she was used regularly in our Girl Scout programs for hands on work.

Aubrey mounts Slick ChickWe are now working with her under saddle. 

She has learned to stand square at the mounting block and not move off until given the signal.

She has a very nice trot and a fast walk.  She is very willing to learn and  will be an asset to our program next year.

 To honor this special horse, we are featuring her in our ornament series.  Each year we create an ornament with one of the horses from Pretty Pony Pastures.  At the end of the Christmas season, the ornament will be retired, making it a great gift and collectible.  The oval ornament is 2.3” wide by 3.25” tall and comes with a red ribbon, ready to be hung on your Christmas tree. 

ornament-sampleOn this year’s ornament, Slick Chick is wearing faux reindeer antlers.

Purchase your Haflinger Christmas ornament at  All items purchased at this Pretty Pony Pastures Gift Shop support our therapeutic riding program.

If you are looking for love, check out our Love me, Love my Horse section. We love all breeds of horses there