What a silly question. Or is it? How do you see your horse?
We get a kick out of asking our students funny questions like this during their riding lessons. It makes them wonder just what in the world we are getting at. Which is exactly why we ask. We want them to turn their horse brains on the moment they step into the barn.
After the rounds of laughter, they are asked to describe the differences between dogs and horses. Have you ever thought about the differences between these two animals that so many of us enjoy over our lifetimes?
If they stumble (we do not let them sweat it out too long), they are asked this question, “Are horses prey animals? Or are dogs? Who hunts whom? What is the difference between a ‘herd’ animal and a ‘pack’ animal?” “Which one does the horse belong to?”
By now our poor students are wondering why they even asked their parents for horseback riding lessons. Hey! They just wanted to ride off into the sunrise. That ain’t going to happen at this barn.
From the get-go we want them to have a clear understanding that horses are not like their pet dogs. Not in the least, and they must not put them in the same category. This is mostly for safeties sake, but it is also a building block for becoming one good horseman.
Safety first, beauty second. This has been the motto of our small horseback riding school since our beginning. We are small. Only two horses, and four miniatures make up our stable. Lessons are private. They begin on High Hope, our pretty buckskin mare. Once the students hands and seat are improved and controlled, they move on to Duke, our Tennessee Walking horse. This exciting move is made only when satisfactory progress has been made in the riders’ seat, balance and hands. Primarily hands, because good hands produce a good seat.
Though small in equine numbers, our lessons are big is scope. Students learn quickly that actual riding comprises a small part of weekly lessons. Groundwork, horse care and horse knowledge carry a lot of weight and precede the skill of riding. We believe that good groundwork produces good riding.
The first fact students hear from this barn is, “A horse can kill you if they want. They can kill you if they don’t want.” The best student is the one who innately knows this truth. For they understand the ultimate lack of power they have over the horse. Either through fear or wisdom of the horse, this knowledge will serve them well.
“What are your goals in wanting to learn to ride?” The answer to this question helps decide if our school is the right fit for them. Our focus is basic horsemanship knowledge and good soft hands. Knowing how to “put your horse brain on.” We believe that if it is not done “on the ground”, it will not be able to be done on the back of the horse. In other words, our students must know how to move a horse while working around them on the ground before they will ever be able to move them from sitting in the saddle. They have to learn how to ‘read’ a horse. These are developed from groundwork and good observation. They will soon learn that all horses are not the same. They may not like a horse for some reason, and that is okay. Did you know horses do not like all people either? Some prefer men over women and visa versa. We teach them how to care for the horses, i.e. how to tie them safely, groom them, look for ailments and injuries, pick their hooves, how to tack them up, and so forth. It sounds like a lot, but it’s a learning curve. We try hard to make it fun, informative and tasty. There is a jar full of candy for hungry horse wranglers in the tack room. Help yourself.
I always have fun telling my students that at this barn, I am the groomsmen, tack man, barn man, hay man, go-fetch-the-horses man, and main mucking man. These students catch on quickly, as they know they will be learning all that too.
Does this mean our students do not ride? Certainly not! We ride english, western, bareback, with a bridle or without. In the round pen, out in the fields, in the woods, on roads, and through streams. Doesn’t that sound like fun?
Basic health care is another part of training. Horses are expensive, but expenses can be controlled. We do not need pink buckets, halters, or lead lines. They cost more money! Less is more, and we learn how to take good care what we have.
Our Fall Riding Recital. What is this? It is a unique ‘show’ we put on every fall for parents, and guests. Students demonstrate the skills they have learned during the year. Each student has a particular skill they have learned well. It is a time to show-off their skills to their parents, friends, and guests. Oh! And there are refreshments for all afterwards, time to talk with students, and meet the horses. It is a fun, unique opportunity for all. Enjoy these photos of recitals past and present.
So if you are interested in having a fun time learning about horses, and becoming a good horseman, swatting flies, sweating, getting stepped on, having a velvety muzzle to pet, and a fun ride, come out and meet us. You may want to give it a try.