SPringCleaning

Maybe I’m rushing it, but the forecast is for warm, okay seasonally warm, weather for the next two weeks. It’s only five weeks before it’s officially spring and only four weeks before that National Holiday for horse people – Daylight Savings Time – begins.

In the midst of all this excitement about being able to spend more time with the horses, a very important event needs to take place – Get everything ready! Or, it’s spring cleaning time! Time to go through everything we stashed or meant to take care of as the weather got colder, and never got around to. Time to make sure everything is in working order and supplies are available.

Let’s start with the trust supply cabinet

Toss any supplement or med that has an expiration date on it. Some may be good for up to six months to a year past the expiration date, but, unless you are certain or your vet said it’s okay – toss it. Some meds lose their effectiveness and are useless.

Is it cloudy, solidified, or otherwise deteriorated? Shampoos, conditioners, and other liquid supplies may just go bad after sitting on the shelf for a while. If it doesn’t look right or smell right – toss it!

Never touched, never used. We all buy things that we think we’ll use on our horse and only use it once, or it floats to the back of the cabinet and we forget about it. If it falls into either of these categories AND it is still good – box it and donate it to a horse shelter.

Tack room or trunk

Take a good look at your lead lines, halters, saddles pads, and other equipment. Is it frayed beyond repair? Toss it. Can it be fixed? Keep it but put a date on it. If it hasn’t been fixed in a period of time, let’s say two months, either toss it or donate it – provided it is still safe or okay to use.

Wash or clean what you will keep. Nothing is better than starting the riding season with clean, fresh equipment! You may also want to make a list of the items that need to be replaced.

Set up a polish day with your barn buddies. Take an afternoon to clean your saddle and bridle before the season starts.

And don’t forget the grooming bucket! This is actually a monthly chore at our barn – but it belongs here as well. Clean those brushes and disinfect them. Your horse is only has clean as the brushes you use.

Trailer

If you haul your horse to shows or trails, now is the time to get the trailer checked out. Take it to a reliable mechanic who will check the wiring, brakes, lights, and tires. Too often the barn mice make a meal on exposed wiring. Tires will dry rot even if you hardly use your trailer.

Have the flooring checked, too. Urine and manure can get under the mats and cause the trailer floor to deteriorate. And give it a good wash and wax. Now, you are set to go!

Barn work

Again, clearing cobwebs need to be done monthly, but it is a high priority on the spring cleaning list. The spiders were certainly busy while we were away. Cobwebs collect dust and are a fire hazard, so, here’s another “barn party” to coordinate. Long handled brooms and friends will help complete this job quickly.

How about you? How will you get ready for spring this year?

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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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.

Copper Boy_Sean gets mail 520If I had a dollar for every time one of our students was surprised that the lesson was over, our horses would never be out of carrots!

Especially with the therapeutic riders, I try to keep the same rhythm or structure for every lesson: groom, lead, warm-up, lesson, game and cool-down.

Now, admittedly, there are very few times that I’ve had an over-heated horse at the end of a class, but, the cool-down is as important as the warm-up for both the horses and the riders.

It gives them both a time to relax and get ready to complete the class. Most of the time we end the class with a game. It could be a ring-toss, bean-bag throw, scavenger hunt, or just a stop/start game like red-light, green-light.

Why games?

When I took lessons, our cool-down was just walking the horse. In circles, or down the path after cantering around the field. Five or ten minutes of slowing down and, if we were really running the horses, cooling them off. Boring!

Games, to me, is when everything comes together. It gives the rider a chance to relax after learning and practicing a new skill. Gives the horse time to regroup before the next riders come in. But, more importantly, it distracts the rider from the task of riding.

This is not counter-productive. This is often when everything comes together for the rider.

The game is now the focus, not the horse, not the skill. Even if the game practices the new skill, it is still not the same as the “lesson” itself.

Horse-rider skills

So one week I notice that the riders are having a hard time stopping their horses. Another time, the riders need to work on keeping their horses going straight. It’s game time! Nothing like ending with red-light/green light to get the riders to focus on stopping their horse. And yes, there is a three-step backward penalty if you can’t stop your horse! Funny thing, every rider can stop their horse within two steps of the call. A relay-type game of taking an object to the other end of the arena and returning is great for practicing keeping the horse on a straight line. The focus is on the target, not the skill.

Rider self-improvement

The riders improve their hand-eye coordination with a ring or bean bag toss game. Not to mention motor skills when they pick up an object and move it to another part of the arena. One of the attributes we look for in a rider is fluidity. Can the rider move one part of the body without moving the rest of the body, or move the body in a manner that would cause the rider to loose balance? We teach this with games where they have to grab something like a flag without stopping the horse and placing it in the target area.

So, in a sense, it’s all fun and games, and the lesson is over quickly. And the rider is gaining skills without even realizing the learning that is happening!

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.


A great read with some food for  thought.

Not being negative…just honest. (What?). via Not being negative…just honest. (What?).


Dreamcatcher Farm

Any teacher/instructor/trainer will encounter the resistance in students;  saying “I can’t do that” or “well . . . I’ll try . . ” with with fake belief, is not uncommon when pushing the boundaries of learning and confidence.  Although it can be a tricky undertaking – pushing students past their comfort level when you know they can accomplish more must be balanced with making sure they don’t fail miserably at the task and lose confidence.  This can be especially tricky with horses as they can have their own agenda during a lesson.

Today, proposing the activity of a “figure 8” pattern using two cones gave me the response “You want me do do WHAT? But the cones are so close together, I can’t do that!”.  Of course, I say “you certainly CAN do it! and you’re not getting off until you do…”, jokingly (sort of).   😉

So what started as “can’t” slowly melted…

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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.


We have one group of volunteers at Pretty Pony Pastures that help when Scout troops or other groups visit us. They are our Program Aids. They are, very literally, our right and left hands with these programs. Their responsibilities include leading the horses if we have Daisy or Brownie Troops; being spotters for Junior and Cadette Troops and Cub/Weblo Scouts. They present information at the various stations that we set up and assist with the grooming of horses before the groups arrive.

The Program Aids receive so much in return. First, after a few sessions, we see such a difference in their self-esteem and confidence.

Grooming with Brownies

Even though every PA is an experienced rider and handler, taking on this responsibility means that they have to focus on being in charge of the horse the entire time the scouts are present. For some, this is the only place they are told that they are in control and responsible for another person. The parents and leaders of the scouts often remark about the great job the PAs do both in handling the horses and working with the riders. We always pass that information to the PA, especially if they were out of ear-shot when the remark was made. They have the realization that they can do something; they are experiencing success.

Every Scout group that visits our facility is divided into patrols or small groups of three or four participants. While one group rides, the other one to three groups participate in other horse activities that are pertinent to their badge or patch. Each group has a PA assigned to them. This PA takes on the role of leader, explaining and teaching the group one aspect of horsemanship, from grooming to parts of the horse to how to care for horses. Now the PAs are practicing public speaking as well as peer-to-peer mentoring.

We have had several reports from the parents of PAs. The PA’s teachers have commented on the growth of the PA in the areas of leadership and speaking in front of the class.

The best part is the PAs are doing something they enjoy, not realizing how it is preparing them for their future.