Category: Riding

Ride With Confidence After A Fall

I’ve had my fair share of falls and most of which I’ve been able to bounce back  quickly.  It seems, though, the older I get, the more apprehensive I’ve become about getting back in the saddle.  As you’ve read, I had a pretty significant fall at the first of January.  It took almost 3 weeks for me to heal enough to walk with no pain.

Oklahoma had a record snow in February which stayed on the ground for about 3 weeks.  That is very unusual for our weather.  So a few weekends ago, the weather finally cooperated enough to allow time to ride again.

I got Dollar from the pasture, groomed him and tacked him up.  I adjusted his cinch again just before we reached the mounting block.  I can’t mount from the ground anymore because of bad knees.

With one foot in the stirrup, I was getting ready to swing over.  Then  . . . WHAM . . . a back spasm.  I had to stand on the mounting block for a bit to let the spasm subside.  I don’t know if that was caused by the accident or if anxiety played a part.  I think both.  I told my trainer I thought this might be a short lesson.

After about 5 minutes, I mounted Dollar and off we went at walk.  I had a lesson in finesse riding that day.  I did lots of straight lines, counting steps for precise turns,  leg yielding, serpentines, etc.  Gait transitions were to be clean and immediate.

Amazingly, I made it thought the entire lesson.  Dismounting was not as easy as it usually is.  I had to swing my leg over and hold on to the saddle so I could make an easy drop to the ground.  I will admit I was a little stiff, but not as much as I thought I would be.

Riding after a fall for anyone can be daunting.  When to get back on a horse will depend on how well you have healed.  Be smart about your injury.  When you are ready, try a short ride at first to access how well you have healed.  Also a good short ride will help you regain your confidence.  If you hurt too much afterward, give yourself more time to heal both physically and mentally.

Also, don’t try not to do extensive training of your horse or a demanding lesson for you.  You may find that your body just won’t cooperate.  Instead, go back to the basics.  It never hurts to refresh on the simple things.  Concentrate on giving good cues so that your horse knows what is being asked.  As stated above, have short rides at first but make them count.  As always, stop on a good note for both you and your horse.

Horse Riding Helmet – Replace It After A Fall

I haven’t got to ride since just before Christmas.  So when this last Saturday rolled around, I was ready.  Or so I thought.  The fall I took  was not big.  I just slipped off Dollar while trying to ride bareback.  I landed hard on my rear end and also hit my head on the ground.

I noticed at the time that my helmet was not quite right.  It wasn’t until I got home that I found all the damage done.

The outer shell is split and separated from the inner shell.   The inner shell is cracked at the back bad enough you can see daylight thru it.

I guess I hit harder than I thought.  I’m glad I’ve become very diligent about wearing a helmet.  There’s no telling how bad of a head injury I would have had if I wasn’t wearing my helmet.   I’ll being buying a new helmet this week.

I can’t stress enough that if you ride a horse, PLEASE wear a helmet.

Take A Break From Lessons & Just Ride

I try to be at the barn every Saturday for my lesson even if I’m not at my best for riding.   That’s what happened this last Saturday.

I had just spent most of Thursday mowing my mother’s place with my husband trying to get it ready to sell.  It was hot and humid.  My back was already hurting from other things and this just compounded the problem.

But being the horse nut that I am, I was determined to ride on Saturday.  I told my trainer that I was not going to be able to do much in the way of intensive training.  So, we decided on no formal lesson, no intensive training . . . just ride.

We went out to the pasture and just meandered around.  We talked about her daughter’s upcoming wedding, my vacation in a few weeks, the recent horse shows that we’d been to and some future events that we would like to attend.

Even though we were not doing anything that could be called a lesson, I did make sure Dollar was doing what he was supposed to do.  He had to walk straight lines, make correct turns, and maintain the speed I asked of him.  There is a small strip of land behind the pond that is shaded by trees.  The horses sometimes find this a bit spooky because it is a confined space with the pond on one side and the fence on the other.  It was good to just walk calmly in and out.

We did a few turns on the forehand and the haunches.  Then I had the great idea.  The pasture has collected an amazing amount Canadian geese over the years.  My first horse (Iggette) loved to herd ducks, so why not try to herd the geese.

My trainer rode on one side and I rode on the other.  Very calmly, we captured about 10 of the geese and moved them along.  They waddled along in the direction we wanted.  We moved them into a smaller grouping.  They didn’t fly off.  Because there was only 2 of us, some escaped.    So we just rode off out into the pasture again.  When we came back to the geese, we cut a small group.  Again, calmly moving them around as we wanted and then riding off.  At then end of our ride, the horses were not stressed.  They had not tried to stop at the gate every time we passed it.  I rode without putting more stress on my back.

Riding your horse doesn’t have to be all intense lessons.  Riding your horse doesn’t have to be all about  training for that perfect pattern.  Sometimes riding your horse is just about taking a break from lessons and training.  Sometime riding your horse is just about enjoying a nice morning or afternoon with your horse and friends.  Sometimes riding your horse is just that . . . just ride.

It’s Too Cold To Ride When . . .

When is it too cold too ride?  I have been asked that several times.  Unfortunately there is no concrete answer.  You will have to base your answer to this question on your region’s winter and also on you and your horse’s condition.  It also depends on whether or not you have an enclosed arena.  So since I don’t have access to an enclosed arena, I’ll just tell you when I determine it is too cold for me to ride in the Oklahoma winter.

It’s too cold to ride when the ground is frozen hard and has been for several days with no thaw in the near future.  Not only is the ground frozen but everything laying on top of the ground is also frozen solid.  Any sign of moisture is transformed into an ice rink and the occasional horse droppings have become small boulders.  Each have their own form of hazard if the horse steps on it.

It’s too cold for me to ride when the air temperature is below about 30°F or if the air is sparkling as any moisture is instantly frozen.  Between the extra under layers, the extra pair of socks and winter boots, the heavier gloves, the ear muffs, I just can’t move freely.  Just walking in this much garb makes me think of penguins.  Forget about trying to raise my leg high enough to step in the stirrup.  I just can’t enjoy riding if I’m wearing so much clothing to stay warm that I’ve added another 20 lbs.

It’s too cold to ride when the wind chill is 20°F or lower even if the air temperature is above freezing.  Having the breath ripped out of my body by even the slightest of breeze is not my idea of fun.  I imagine my horse is just as reluctant to work in these conditions.

It’s too cold to ride when . . . . .  my eyelashes start to have the frosted look.  My fingers and toes get numb just walking from the car to the barn.  My cheeks turn bright red and then purple from the cold in just a few minutes.  My nose runs from being so cold, but freezes before I can use a tissue.  My steaming hot coffee becomes an iced drink in 10 minutes or less.

Riding is supposed to be fun, even if you are training seriously.  If the winter weather is cold enough to be hazardous to you or your horse, why risk it?


Reflections On Another Year For Me & My Horses

2009 held a lot of good things for me.  I’m thankful for my husband most of all.  After 35 years of marriage, he still endures my horse craziness.  He is the reason I still have horses today because I almost gave them up several times for economic reasons.  I love him very much.

I’m glad I have my horse buddies.  Without them, my horse life would not be as much fun.  My trainer is very tolerant of my weaknesses & phobias.  Lessons are fun and vary in intensity.  I will master my weak points.  I can also say she is a good friend.  The stable owner has been a friend since her mother owned the place.  I’ve ridden many Saturday morning group lessons with her.

I’m extremely fortunate to have the horses I own today.  I’m glad I took the time to search for the right horse.  Every time I ride, they teach me to be a better rider.

So as the hours wind down for 2009, take a few minutes to reflect on the past year.  Learn the lessons taught from the bad times.   Be thankful for all the good times that have occurred over the year.  As for 2010, plan to make your horse experiences better.

Who Sparked Your Interest In Horses?

Who or what sparked your interest in horses?  Was it a “Black Stallion” story by Walter Farley?  Was it  your favorite western movie or maybe it was your favorite Saturday morning show?  Was it an actor?  Or was it someone in  your family or close friend?  My interest . . . no . . . my passion for horses started at a very early age.  The earliest I can remember was stories of horse adventures on the family farm from my mother.

She told of how the older children in the family were responsible for the horse Grandpa deemed was theirs.  There 10 in all, a couple of Draft horses but mostly all were paints.  Mom told of a feisty mare named Primper (maybe this is why I prefer mares).  From the stories, Primper fit this mare.  She refused to get her feet wet and always came up with ways not to.  From Mom’s stories, I get the impression that she was a little on the spooky side also.  There was also a stallion that was born on a stormy night, thus his name Stormy.  He became the favorite of the kids and learned to play tag.  He also had a preference for fresh water.  He learned to turn on the facet to quench his thirst, he just never learned to it off.

Mom told stories of searching for the horses on cold fall/winter days.  They would find them in a favorite ravine out of the cold biting wind.  By the time the kids found them, they themselves would be cold.  So they would stand in the middle of the herd for warmth.   When everyone was warm, they would bridle a couple and ride back to the barn.  There were stories of lazy summer days in the forest on the property.  All the older children & friends were on their horses playing what ever games kids can think of to pass time.

She talked of trying to learn to mount a horse the cowboy way, jumping from the ground at a run and catapulting over the hind end into the saddle.  She never really said how long it took to achieve this task or if anyone ever did.  There was also the stories of going to the parades.  Most of the children and my grandparents participated in the parades.  The star of the show was always a 1/2 Arabian Paint named Dick.  He, like the rest of the horses, would start out at the end of the parade.  By the time the parade was half way through the route, Dick was always leading the parade.  He just wanted to be the grand marshal in front.

In my teen years, Mom endured my occasional foray into the horseMy Mom started my passion for horses world.  I had friends that let me ride.  She tolerated my insistence to stay in the horse barns while at the fair.  After I moved out and married, I bought my first horse.  While she was never too excited about this, she was always there to cheer me on at the few shows I entered.  She never discouraged my growing passion for horses.   She would bring her grandchildren out to the barn so they could get to know Iggette.  Later on, she brought the great grandchildren out to see my newest horses.

I’m dedicating this post to my mother, Dolores Holland.  On August 29, 2009 she lost her long fight with COPD.  My passion started with her stories.  I hope my stories ignites the passion for horses in someone else.

Horse Show Jumps Don’t Have To Be Scary

I watched a few hunter hack classes at a recent national show.  Hunter hack is an English class that consists of 2 fences to be jumped individually by each entrant, then rail work by the entire class.  It is always the same . . . some horses shy away from the first jump or just flat refuse to jump it.  The shows always have flowers, brightly colored rails, trees at the side of the standards or any combination of these.  Some of the horses have either not seen these before or if they have only at the shows.

The fix is easy.  Go to a dollar store & buy some artificial flowers.  You can drill holes in the ground rail and put flowers in each hole.  Or you can push the flower stems into the dirt just behind the ground rail but in front of the bottom rail.  Your horse may still shy away from the flowers for a short time at home, but he will get used to them.  Then when at the show, flowers are not such a big deal to him anymore.

Also, paint a few of your rails any color other than white.  This doesn’t have to be an expensive task.  You can use some left over house, wall or barn paint.  Maybe your neighbor has some paint that they would like to get rid of.  You can paint the rail all one color or put stripes on it.  Use your imagination.

The end effect is to get your horse use to something that you would see at the show.  This fix is good for the hunter or jumper classes also.  Don’t wait until the next show & wonder why he keeps shying away from the jump.

Horse Riding and My Knee Pain

The weather in Oklahoma has been wet. . . no it has been reeeeaalllly wet . . .  no it’s monsoon season!!!!  It rained 21 days straight recently this last month.  There were days the rain was close to 4″ in a 24 hour span.  That caused some flooding in the low areas, but generally just made everything sloshy & extremely muddy.  The mud in places was over ankle deep.  This type of weather is not conducive to riding.  So, my horses have had a 3 week vacation.

Fortunately, Mother Nature graced us with dry & rather hot HUMID weather this past week.  The pasture & arena dried out.  The weather this morning was absolutely beautiful.  I couldn’t wait to get out the barn to ride.

Dollar was not covered in mud, so grooming him was easy.  After saddling-up, we were off to take the first lesson in over a month.  For being off for so long, we actually had a good ride.  He was a little rusty in bending his body into the turns, so I had to school him a little.  Dollar is the lazy , almost bomb-proof type horse.  He wanted to do his lazy toe dragging walk and didn’t want to trot at all.  That was way too much work for a horse that thought he was still on vacation.

We managed to get through the entire lesson with only one small incident.  He actually spooked at his shadow or it could have been the goose nearby . .  I don’t know.  He only crouches down to the ground a little when he spooks, which is hardly ever.  We worked on backing, small & large circles and the gate.  He did all of this pretty well.

Me on the other hand . . .  my legs were getting tired.  My ankles felt like I was trying to break them.  My thighs & seat felt like I had been sitting on a rock for an eternity.  This was only halfway through the lesson.    I knew then that I had been off my horse too long.  By Monday, I’m going to be very sore.  

The worst of the pains for me is my knees.  I have moderate arthritis in both knees.  When I’ve had a layoff from riding, my knees tend to get extremely painful & a bit swollen.  I guess I need to find some type of exercise that will keep me in shape.  It’s really amazing to me just how short of time your muscles and joints forget things.

Maybe, I should just teach my horses how to scuba or water ski when there is rainy weather like this.  At least that way I won’t get so sore from not being able to ride.


Natural Horsemanship Seminar – Day 2

Day 2 of this seminar was interesting, but was very long.  There were numerous slow parts to the seminar.  This one was being filmed and it had several lengthy slow segments while staff members were setting cameras, calling staff members to the arena for filming and microphones being delivered.  There didn’t seem to be much preparation.  If there was, it seemed to be changed at the last minute.  There was also a time where students who were being graded on sections of the clinician’s program.  This could have been done after the day’s seminar and invited the audience to stay to observe instead of making it part of the seminar.  This made the seminar too long and for me, not very interesting.

To hit the good points,  there was a part on why the snaffle is considered a training tool by this particular clinician.  We were shown how he uses the snaffle by demonstrating with a bit in his hands.  This allowed the audience to see how each side of the snaffle works independently of the other.  I won’t go into the mechanics of bits that is too much subject for this post.  If you are really interested in how each type of bit works, you should probably invest in a book on bits.  You would get a much better explanation than I could try to give.

There was also a section where a horse with a severe head tossing issue was worked trying to stop this bad habit.  This particular horse had been worked the day before with good results, but still did not accept pressure applied through the reins to the bit when being cued.  This horse did not like anything on, around or near it’s head.   The clinician worked with the horse for about another 45 minutes with some pretty good results.  The horse’s owner will still have some work once they get home, but they got a good starting point.

There also another section where a horse was being trained to lay down.  This particular part I found hard to watch at times.  While I understand that by achieving this maneuver, the horse is giving you his total trust.  I personally just don’t see much use for it.

I did get some training ideas, so I would I classify the seminar as time well spent.   If you have never been to one of these seminars, you should go to one.  The ones I have been to were not very expensive, just $25 – $35 for 2 days.  I was able to purchase tickets from the clinician’s website, so that was pretty easy.  I would definitely invest in checking out a seminar near you.  You can find a schedule for seminars in just about any horse magazine.  If you don’t have a subscription to a magazine, just click one of my recommended magazines links on my website to get one started.

There will also be merchandise & DVDs of the clinician’s training program for sale at these seminars.  Most of the clinicians sell their entire training system,  which can be expensive.  However, if you buy this way, each section is usually cheaper than buying one section at a time.  Buying one section of the program as you need it may be more affordable.  Some also sell memberships to their club websites for a monthly fee.  These have extra material available only for the members.  Any of these are potentially worth the price if they help you and your horse.  But to be worth the money, you have to use them.

In these tough economic times, you have to decide what is right for you.

Natural Horsemanship Seminar – Day 1

Today I went to a natural horsemanship seminar.  I found it informative.  I’m always open to learn from others, especially if they are trying to teach me a better way of training my horse.  The better way is what has become the buzz phrase . . .  natural horsemanship, horse whispering, etc . . .  For me, this is training my horse without harsh training aids or techniques. 

Today’s lessons were on the importance of ground training your horse & getting them to move forward, laterally & back; and doing these going both ways.  If you can’t get your horse to do any of these moves from the ground . . . how do you expect your horse to do it when you are in the saddle.  Good ground work is the essential basic that a lot of people leave out of their training because they are in a hurry to get results.  You are not only training your horse good basic moves, but you are also establishing mutual respect.  Without respect, you are going no where.

There are several different clinicians to choose from.  Each has their own style & way of teaching.  I would encourage you to go to a few of these seminars when one comes to your area.  You may decide you like one clinician’s style better than another and that’s OK.  If everyone liked the same things, life would be pretty boring.   What I would like for you to do is listen with an open mind, learn something new and see if it works you & your horse.