Equitation D_E winners

It’s that time of the year at our barn. Our annual horse show will be held on Saturday, August 13th. For our barn, we only do one show a year and it is a fun show. We feel our riders should have the experience of performing in front of other people. It also gives them the opportunity to invite their relatives and friends to watch them perform on their favorite horse.

For some of our riders this is an exciting, fun day; for others, they are concerned they won’t do good enough.

Yes, there will be a judge. Yes, she will score your ride. Yes, there will be ribbons based on that score. No, no one will think any less of you because of where you place.

What we try to impress on our riders is that a score and the subsequent ribbon is based on that moment in time. Given another ride, your score might be higher or lower. The same is true of the other riders. So there is no reason to get upset if you did not get the color you were hoping for. And even if you got a lower place this year than you did last year, there are other elements that could make the difference.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

The test

If you moved up a level in riding this year, the test will be more difficult or challenging for you. This is good. It will make you stretch to perform better.

If it is a new test, you may feel a little uncomfortable with it even though there is a reader telling you the next move. That’s okay too. In life you may find yourself in new situations. It’s what you make of the new situation that counts.

The score

The score is an accumulation of the points you received. If you rode the same test last year, compare your score against last year’s score. Did you improve? Probably. If you didn’t where did you fall short? Don’t compare your score against the other riders – even though the ribbon and placement are based on “the score” it’s best to compete against yourself.

The horse

How is your horse today? Your horse is part of your team. If your horse is having a bad day, it will reflect in your score. You could give your horse a pep talk, but chances are if her joints are hurting or if it extremely hot or cold, you aren’t going to get the same ride that you would under ideal conditions. You have to always take your horse into consideration.

The rider

You are the other half of that team. If you didn’t sleep well the night before, your horse will feel that you are tired and neither of you will perform well. The same thing if you are nervous, tense, or otherwise upset. If you can’t focus or concentrate, neither can your horse.

When you put all the pieces together the best way to approach you show is to relax, feel good about yourself and your horse, and smile – regardless of the color of the ribbon.

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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It was bound to happen sooner or later. I’m not sure why I wasn’t more prepared…in hindsight, I should have been. I was speaking at a scientific section meeting on the topic of the human aspect of …

Source: When Your Mom is “That Mom”(Ok Not MY Mom)


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.

Buttercup_Becca_framedThere’s an old horseperson’s saying that goes, “Every time you do something with your horse, you are training him.”

So, how does this fit in with a riding lesson where you are the student, you have an instructor who is coaching you and you are on a horse.

The Instructor

Your riding instructor should know the horse you are riding. If not, the instructor should know how horses react to different cues. Horses don’t have push buttons, although some would disagree with me. But most o react the same way when they feel pressure, when they are startled, when the rider is off-balance, when they are having a bad day. (Yes, horses can have bad days, too.)

Your instructor’s primary responsibility is to transfer that knowledge to you, the rider. If you have a good instructor, you will be told the “why” along with the “what” when you receive an instruction. Heels down – secures your seat in the saddle. Hands together – keeps the reins alongside the horse’s neck to go straight. Each cue is given for a particular reason and the horse, if properly trained, will respond accordingly. Or at least, that’s the way it’s supposed to happen.

The Horse

Yes, the horse can teach you how to ride, too. Did you ever notice that you think you are doing everything the instructor is telling you to do, but the horse isn’t responding? Our first impulse is to blame the horse! Old Red just doesn’t feel like trotting today. Goldie must be in a bad mood, she doesn’t want to go over the poles. But wait! The rider in the next class has Old Red trotting around the arena and you never saw Goldie jump so high before! What changed? Well, the rider.

The horse, even if he knows the cues, may not be doing it because the rider is not asking properly. Yelling “trot” is not the correct cue. Yes, there is nothing wrong with saying “trot” or clucking, but you need to say it with your body as well. Slumping, sitting heavy, or having no energy does not give the horse incentive to move. Next lesson, you are more awake, you are sitting better and you are balanced in the saddle. The horse responds with a touch of your leg!

The horse has just become your teacher, rewarding you with the correct movement when you give the cue properly.

The Rider

You probably don’t feel like you’re a teacher, but you are. The time you took your horse on a trail ride and let him graze while you talked to your friend. The taught your horse that it’s okay to eat along the trail. Do it twice and you just reinforced that it’s okay to do it. Next time you ride, it becomes a habit and now you’re frustrated. Why won’t he go down the trail like he used to? All he wants to do is stop and eat the grass!

Or the time you were working a new pattern in the arena and the horse tried to go the opposite way. You were surprised and let him. Pretty soon he starts to test you every time you try something new. The next thing you know, you are calling him stubborn or bull-headed. But, who gave him permission to not listen the first time?

And so the circle goes, from trainer, to horse, to rider. Every time we interact with the horse, someone is learning. Let’s just hope we are all learning the proper way to do things.

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.


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.