Friday was our first activity of the Golden Pony Club. What a great experience this was for those who participated. The theme was games – so we played Egg and Spoon, Flag and Sand, and Keyhole.

Egg and spoon game

Playing egg and spoon game

The evening was complicated by having the riders select a horse card to determine which horse she would ride. Oh, my! I’m not riding the horse I ride for lessons? Was the cry. No, you will choose a horse for each game and you cannot ride the same horse twice tonight. The gasps were quite audible. What if I get a horse I never rode before? Well, it happened and they got those horses.

Funny thing, the riders were so focused on the game that the horse was immaterial! Poppie, our most challenging lesson horse was ridden by the smallest riders. I’m not sure if they ever rode Poppie before, but Friday night, they did and they did a good job. Some of them even said they’d ride Poppie for a lesson!

One of our most advanced riders decided that she was not cut out for Gymkhana since she dq’d at least once in each game!

They rode for over two hours, but when I said game night was over, the girls were surprised that it ended so soon. I think every girl wanted to know if we could do this next Friday. Nothing like a good evening playing with horses!

Flag and Sand Game

Putting the flag in the holder

Keyhole Game

Turning Poppie in the keyhole

More pictures



Some people do things that need to be done knowing that they may not see the fruits of their labor.

And so it was at our place.

People would often ask why us why  were so dedicated to the therapeutic riding program, 15 years as volunteers, then, to start our own program when Tom retired.

Tom’s answer would typically be, “We try to do for others what we can’t do for our own.”  A mysterious sort of answer, but no one ever asked him what he meant by it.

Our grandson, Jamie, has special needs.  In 1987, Tom decided to look into therapeutic riding to see if this was a venue that would help Jamie.  He liked what he saw, and he stayed.  For reasons that I can’t/won’t go into, Jamie – who was four at that time – never did ride in the program.

In fact, when I met Tom in 1988 as a volunteer for the riding program, I didn’t know about Jamie until maybe a year later.  Not that he was keeping it a secret, but, the opportunity to say anything didn’t come up during those riding sessions.

Time past, and although Tom often felt disappointed that Jamie was unable to participate, his dedication to the program amazed me.  Then, several years later after we married and settled on our farm, he was very supportive of purchasing horses, building an arena and starting our own program.  All in hopes that Jamie would have a place to ride.  But, by that time, Jamie became fearful of horses and wouldn’t even step into the barn.

Today, Tom would have been proud!

Earlier this week, Jamie and Tom’s son, Wes, came by to do some work around the barn.  After the work was done, Jamie looked at the horses and said, “I ride.”  His dad and I looked at him and asked, “Do you want to ride a horse?”  Jamie smiled and said, “Yes.”

Jamie's first ride

I told Wes to bring him on Thursday so Jamie could ride in my adult session.

He came and even helped groom the horse.  Then I brought out Tom’s endurance saddle.  “Here, Jamie,” I said.  “This was grandpa’s saddle.  He would want you to ride in it.”  Jamie just smiled.  I’m not sure he understands that grandpa is gone…he never asks about his absence…perhaps he does understand.

Jamie mounted the horse like he’d been doing it all his life, while his dad led him around for the lesson.

Maybe it didn’t happen in his lifetime, but, Tom’s dedication to therapeutic riding has finally come to fruition for his grandson.  I’m sure Tom was looking down on him and smiling.

The Renaissance Festival is in full swing here, so some of the kids are asking if they can joust with their horse. Of course, they are thinking horse-to-horse combat. Not here, but, what about spearing a ring with your lance? Surely that could be fun too!
Dustin_Lu-Rain Jousting_crThe first thing I need is some willing but unsuspecting parents. The kids love this part. Each parent is given a ring – the large ones that are used as diving rings in pools. Then each rider is given a lance – none other than a familiar pool noodle! Each rider is then challenged to walk their horse toward their parent and spear the ring without stopping their horse.

Paul lances the ring cr
The kids have a ball doing this while the parents remind them to aim for the ring not them!

One of the things we teach our horses is to stop if the rider falls or shifts weight too much.

Now I now of some trainers who will actually fall of the horse when teaching it to stop.  But at my age, I don’t want to chance a broken bone, plus, I’m not that fond of falling.  So, I devised the next best thing,  balancing a pool noodle on the horse’s back. 

This is Poppie.  She is new to our program, so on the few somewhat balmy days that we had over the winter, I worked with her in our “Horse Boot Camp”.  Here I am making sure that she will stop if the rider comes off.

Pool noodle on Poppie’s backThe first thing I do is put the pool noodle on the horse’s back in the saddle area. 

Walking with a pool noodleOnce the pool noodle is balanced, I lead the horse around the arena.  Usually we start with a nice slow walk.  I lead in the normal position, but try to watch the pool noodle as it wiggles on the horse’s back.  How the horse walks and its back movement will determine how long the pool noodle will stay on the horse’s back.

Pool noodle fallsSooner or later, the pool noodle will fall off.  When I see it slide, I immediately stop walking and ask the horse to stop.

Surprisingly, it only takes two or three falls of the pool noodle before I see the horse “trying” to keep the pool noodle on its back and stopping on its own when the pool noodle falls.

Does it work?  Last summer I had a child pass out on the horse.  The horse was standing still at the time and I was giving instructions on the next exercise when I saw the young boy fall forward.  He did not fall off, and looked like he was hugging the horse.  The horse did not move, did not get startled from the sudden forward movement.  She just stood there.  She didn’t even move when three of us adults were taking him off. 

I feel fairly confident that if a rider came off, our horses would stop in their tracks.

NOTE:  I just saw an ad for a video teaching this technique with a deflated inner tube.  The inner tube sits on the horse’s croup and hangs down the tail.  In my opinion, this is not quite as effective as the pool noodle technique because the inner tube is not in the area where the rider would sit.  BTW, the cost of the video (with other tips, I’m sure) was only $59.95.

If you liked this training tip, and would like to see more of my methods of kid-proofing horses, drop me a line, and I’ll be happy to add them.