Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Earning Your Wings At Winter Riding Camp

I had the wonderful opportunity to watch another young rider earn her "wings" recently. The pure joy and excitement that is expressed the first time a rider "lets go" and canters without the rein is without a doubt one of my greatest rewards as a riding instructor. Its also one of my prerequisites for my riders before they are allowed to canter independently off the lunge line.


The concept of riding without hanging on to the mouth of the horse should be the first thing every rider is taught. First on the lunge with a quiet horse and then independently on the rail. Eventually, riders should be able to stop, steer, and yes, even jump with out rein contact.
Learning to ride with an independent seat with real balance should be the cornerstone of teaching riders. However, it has been my experience that many riders have been taught to hold a tight rein, pull turns, and pull to stop.

The result for the horse is: 

  • The complete deterioration of lightness and responsiveness of the mouth.
  • A building of the under muscles of the neck and a deterioration of the longitudinal muscles of the horse which completely changes the mechanics, carriage and paces of the horse. 
  • Makes any future correct or remedial training of the horse far more difficult for the rider and completely traumatic for the horse. 
  • Causes a proliferation of horses that won't stand, horses that lose their brakes, horses that become dangerous run-aways.
  •  Horses that are crippled with incorrect muscle crookedness, stifle problems, and sore backs.  

The result for the rider is:

  • Falls... Hanging onto the rein does not keep you on the horse. Staying balanced on your seat bones does.
  • Fear... Rider loses control of the horse as the horse no longer has brakes.
  • Failure... Rider gives up riding. An activity that should be fun and safe becomes filled with tears and frustration.

Riding with the correct contact can and should be taught. But first the rider should be taught how to control and balance their bodies without using the horse's mouth as a crutch.








Thursday, February 13, 2014

10 Things to do this Winter Break to get ready for Summer Horseback Riding Camp




  1. Watch a Horsey Movie                            Justin Morgan Had a Horse
  2. Read a great book about horses
  3. Work-out those riding muscles  Unmounted warm-up exercises
  4. Dig out last summer's camp video and have a good laugh
  5. Catch up with your camp friends
  6. Send a note to your 4-legged camp friend or better yet send him a camp package complete with horse treats and don't forget a "selfie"
  7. Learn a new friendship bracelet pattern. Check out http://friendship-bracelets.net/index.php
  8. Quiz yourself.... what does a Coggins Test? What breed is native to Austria?
  9. Hmmm maybe you could use a refresher course before Horse Jeopardy 
  10. Make a S'mores Hot Cocoa   
What You'll Need:
  • 4 cups hot cocoa (see note)
  • 1/2 cup marshmallow creme
  • 1/4 cup coarsely crushed graham crackers
What To Do:
  1. Pour prepared hot cocoa into 4 mugs.
     
  2. Evenly top each mug of cocoa with marshmallow creme and graham cracker crumbs. Serve immediately.
Notes :Use your favorite hot cocoa mix or for every mug of S'mores Hot Cocoa, heat 8 ounces milk with 2 tablespoons chocolate flavor syrup mixed in.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Celebrate "The Year of The Horse" at Summer Horse Camp

YEAR OF THE HORSE

In Chinese astrology, the Horse year is considered a fortunate year that brings luck and good things. The Magical Horse has supernatural powers, is heroic, strong, and can even fly!  A white celestial cloud Horse is sacred to the Chinese Goddess Kwan Yin. Her white Horse flies through the heavens, bringing peace and blessings. The Horse is a hero in China because important battles were won due to the power and strength of the Horse.

BORN IN A HORSE YEAR ?
People born in Horse years (2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954, 1942, 1930, 1918, 1906) are bright, cheerful, popular, and fun loving. They find people and crowds exciting, and love parties. The horse’s childish innocence, sunny disposition, and natural charm attract many friends. The horse is a highly intuitive animal, so people born in a Horse year follow their hunches. Their keen judgment and natural intuition often help them make the right decisions throughout their life. Usually they don’t need to struggle in order to succeed and obtain the fine things life has to offer.

THE HORSE LOVES FREEDOM
Casual and outdoorsy, the Horse year is about freedom, returning to nature, and enjoying life and life’s adventures                                                       
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SUMMER HORSE CAMP



Using arts dated from the ancient Chinese Ching Dynasty, when the elite royal soldiers were trained in both riding and Tai Chi, we will explore and try to understand and master the flow of energy through balance and intent. All of these skills are taught very effectively by Tai Chi.





Riders need a strong center of gravity, excellent body control, and the ability to   move with softness yet strength.


Riders find that Tai Chi improves body alignment and balances strength with suppleness. Tai Chi develops the deep stabilizer muscles of the core of the body that are essential to strength and endurance in the saddle. Balance and strength are further enhanced as students learn to center themselves from their "dan tian" or energy center located in the cradle of the pelvis. As riders follow a choreographed Tai Chi sequence, their ability to direct and coordinate independent movements of the arms and legs improves steadily. Fluidity, coordination, balance and agility are some of the many benefits that translate directly into riding success.

We may not have been born during a Horse Year but we can all enjoy the luck and good fortune that The Year Of  The Horse promises.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Horseback Riding Camp is So Much More than Riding Horses


A scientific study has revealed that an involvement with horses boosts the life skills of young people. 


The Impact of Equine Activities on Youth Development Study was conducted by the Pennsylvania State University Department of Dairy and Animal Science in co-operation with the American Youth Horse Council, 4-H, the American Quarter Horse Youth Association, United States Pony Clubs and the National High School Rodeo Association.

Horses, the study found, acted as both teachers and friends for young people. The study indicated that about 25% of youths’ life skills development are attributable to their development of horsemanship skills. Youths who learned horsemanship skills showed better decision-making, thinking, communicating, goal-setting and problem solving. Working with horses helped them develop positive values and life skills that are transferred to a young person’s daily life. Aside from life skills, young people also benefit through the physical demands of riding and horse care.

“Horseback riding is a complex and demanding physical sport,” the report says.
“Riders develop coordination, balance, fine motor skills, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and can improve posture and cardiovascular health.
“Additionally, the daily care of horses further develops physical fitness and instills a source of regular physical activity in a child’s life.
“The partnership that youth form with their horses demonstrates the mental development that benefits youth for years to come.
“Horseback riding teaches teamwork in a very immediate way. Communication between the horse and rider is key to translating cues from the rider to the action of the horse.
“Development of this communication process requires the rider to be attentive to their mount and to process many visual, tactile and auditory inputs.
Working with horses improved young people’s self-esteem and confidence, the study found.
“The emotional benefits of horse involvement are evident in the relationships that youth form with horses. Caring for horses allows youth to form lasting bonds with animals and practice nurturing skills.
“Daily horse chores play a role in developing a sense of responsibility, empathy and compassion; important skills for starting and maintaining relationships with others.

Having horses in my life has brought me great joy, good health and fitness, a better ability to focus and solve problems.  Now we have scientific proof that horseback riding can help our youth develop better life skills and have fun with horses while they learn.






Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dressage for the Young Hunter/Jumper Rider

My horseback riding camps combine many disciplines and horseback riding activities but everything I teach is based on the classical riding techniques and principles. Invariably, a young rider will express dismay and reluctance to follow my coaching advice. They will moan and groan: "this is not how I was taught" to steer, turn, jump, slow a horse.... the list goes on and on. 

So this month I would like to share some excerpts from the HorseJunkies weekly newsletter. Each January, George Morris conducts Horsemastership Training Sessions in Wellington, Florida.  George Morris is an American trainer and judge of horses and riders in the hunter and jumper disciplines. He is considered a "founding father" of Hunt Seat Equitation. He also is the current chef d’equipe for the United States Equestrian Federation, USEF, show jumping team.

George Morris began the first of Tuesday’s sessions with a short commentary to the audience on the seeming reluctance of many equestrians in the US, hunter jumpers especially, to address the concept of Dressage. His point was less in reference to a disregard toward the discipline of Dressage but rather a general nonchalance toward the training concepts that build the crucial foundation for a “trained horse”. Where the word Dressage, French in origin, means training, quite literally, George insists that all schooled horses are in-effect Dressaged. 

The concepts of impulsion, straightness, flexion and the diagonal balance of inside-rein-outside-leg are as imperative to a horse schooled in western as it is to a horse actually schooled in dressage as it is to a horse schooled in jumpers. 

As the horses and riders began their work, Morris immediately established the importance of always maintaining a forward mentality then addressed the relationship between the horse’s head and the rider’s hands. When a horse raises its head, predictably to escape or combat pressure from the rider, the rider should respond by raising their hands, closing their fingers and closing their inside leg to push the horse forward. Always forward. Though he calls it an “old French style” of riding and somewhat contrary to the common practice of dropping ones hands in response to a raised head, Morris explained that rather than pulling the horses head down, effectively hindering the forward intention, this practice serves to push the horse down but also forward with impulsion so the horse “stretches from leg into hand”.

Such concepts would become the primary themes and repeated mantras of the day’s sessions. Morris methodically reminded the riders to raise their hands and keep their contact above the horse’s mouth. Though the common temptation, is to drop their hands when the horse fights the bit, Morris explained that this response is contrary to the concept of “discipline and reward” where an action or task is demanded of the horse, then the horse is rewarded for his compliance when the rider “gives” back, as in the release and follow as the horse lowers his head. He noted that all horses should be taught to turn using the outside “neck rein” – where both of the rider’s hands shift toward the inside of a turn – in order to maintain straightness, but also to regulate pace and rhythm, while the inside rein leads and opens to allow the ever imperative forward. He reiterated to the  young riders that through the push not pull of the leg-into-hand, the horse should continue to travel, active and straight, in self-carriage. 

“The first criteria of working with a horse” he says “is the horse should always stay in front of you”..“It’s a very simple sport” he says “because the rules never change. It’s very difficult and takes a lifetime to get to where it’s simple but the basics never change.”
You can follow George Morris and more at www.horsejunkiesunited.com

Monday, November 18, 2013

What do “Horse Crazy” kids need to Succeed

  • ·        A kid-safe horse that can teach them the horsey facts of life
  • ·        A great family support system
  • ·        Great riding teachers to inspire and to invigorate the rider to actively learn the system of riding.

The Rosebud horses are carefully chosen and trained to work with the young riding student.  To keep them child safe, they need a daily routine to keep them healthy and happy.  In addition to their training, they receive daily care that includes twice daily stall cleaning, feeding, watering and daily exercise. In addition, they receive yearly dental work, farrier work every 6 weeks, and chiropractic work as needed. We maintain a herd of over 15 horses to allow every student to ride a horse that has not been “worked into the ground” by several other riders each day. Tired horses exhibit many undesirable traits including refusals, bucking, and rearing. 
Horseback riding requires an incredible amount of work. You need energy and commitment to the sport. For the rider to continue to progress and stay safe, we encourage everyone to ride weekly. Practice in any sport is important and in horseback riding it is critical because it requires strong core muscles.  To sit a horse, you need to develop a balanced posture involving large muscles groups, small motor skills, and learning to correctly react to the horse’s movements. And perhaps most importantly, horseback riding teaches emotional control, the ability to focus and develop the ability to set and reach goals.
In the grand scheme of life our children may or may not ride as adults; but the life lessons learned from the back of a horse may help carry them forward on life’s path. There is a common notion that at some point in our lives, our character is formed and it’s who and what you will be. Gyms, sports programs, weight-loss programs, all exist to help people develop change and develop personal physical skills or qualities. But, if someone becomes more patient, or assertive, or braver, or more compassionate- they tend to develop those traits or emotions as byproducts of “life” rather than from conscious effort.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dancing with Horses

In our journey to find balance, rhythm and elegance in the horse, we must start first by riding with rhythm. We have to understand the horses’ foot falls, the saddle movements associated with those foot falls, and we have to learn to ride in the flow with the horse's natural movements.

The rhythm of each gait is unique and we need to move and handle the horse in rhythm with that gait. 
There are a lot of exercises we can do to develop our riding skill and to learn to move our hips and legs in rhythm with the horse. To develop a good horse, we must first become excellent riders.  
By being a better rider, asking in rhythm with the horse,
we can rely on the horse to demonstrate its innate ability and show the elegance and rhythm of the horse at play.
Until next time:
 "Sing like no one's listening, love like you have never been hurt, dance like no body's watching, live like its heaven on earth and ride like its your last time in the irons"
Ms Charlene