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The Missing Art of Horsemanship

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Winter Horseback Riding Tips

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winter

With the winter coming, many horse owners will be hanging up saddles and taking time off from riding. But I think it is a total mistake, and they will be missing big opportunities for some spectacular riding.

My favorite time to ride is winter but you have to be prepping your horse carefully to guarantee an enjoyable and safe ride if you go in the field. If you plan just to have a quiet walk amongst the snow covered trees, you will discover a new dreamy way to get through the winter with friends.

I personally prefer riding bareback so the body temperature of my horse will keep me warmer because of more contact with the horse skin.

If you choose to train in an indoor riding arena–which eliminates the concerns of ice, snow and wind–then winter is less a problem than for those that do not have an indoor arena. Riding can be done outside as long as there isn’t ice, and you will need to take special notice to your horse body temperature, water and feed. When it comes to snow, you want to make sure that the layer on top of the ice doesn’t get too icy or it could lacerate the horse’s lower legs. Remember, your horse has to work extra hard during an outside ride in deep snow.

Riding should never be attempted on ice.
Unless you want to see your horse playing the Bambi scene.

Winter is always the time when you wish you could ride as often as summer. Weather conditions can be slippery, so riders have to be careful for both horse and rider to make it as enjoyable as if it was a easy summer ride. Riders should dress in layers in order to maintain a comfortable body temperature. Layering apparel allows you to add or remove clothing easily as rider body temperature changes.

With a little bit more consideration for both horse and rider, winter riding can be an enjoyable experience. Challenges brought on by winter are not insurmountable. Follow the following tips and suggestions to make sure your ride is as safe as possible, despite the ice and snow and all hazards winter can throw at us.

Horse care winter tips:

As you arrive into the stable you should warm the bit. A cold bit will be uncomfortable for any horse. Keep bridles in the house or warm the bit with your hands, or put a warm gel pack around the bit before putting it in your horse’s mouth.
Before getting on your horse you first have to remember to take special care when warming up and cooling down your horse in winter.

  • If your horse is wet with sweat beneath the saddle, it could cause sudden changes in body temperature–such as a cold wind blowing on a sweaty back–and can have harmful results.You must use special care to prevent chilling!
  • Placing a heavy blanket on a sweating horse can trap moisture, preventing the horse from drying. It is better to use a light blanket over the sweating horse in cold weather and lead it around until the hair is drier.
  • Walking your horse after taking a winter ride will help keep its body from cooling too rapidly, and the light blanket will protect it from the cold while moisture is evaporating.
  • Once your horse’s coat is dry enough, remove the light blanket and cover him with a dry blanket.

Working at a slower pace is also a way to prevent big sweat. Cooling down or warming up muscles can take much longer. Horses need time to adjust to the cold weather. Riders have to remember that horses naturally decrease their water consumption and water sources should be keep between 45 to 65°F. You can add salt to the water as needed. Also be aware that horses require more calories as the need to maintain core body temperature increases especially with short hair.

And bring a snack, a warm drink or sport water for yourself. Working hard in cold dry weather can be dehydrating. Horses’ training schedules might become somewhat altered stop altogether in the winter months, so don’t expect your horse to be ready for a full riding session like you may be accustomed to during warmer months. If your horse is out of shape, you should not force a lot of exercise during bitterly cold temperature.

  • Planning to ride on slippery ground can be more difficult for your horse and unsafe for you, so ask your farrier about shoes with pads and ice caulks. Pads are good to prevent snow balls.Many riders equip their horse’s front shoe with calks and leave the hinds bare. Don’t forget that untrimmed hooves chip more easily on cold weather, so make sure to be up to date with your farrier during cold season.
  • If you venture yourself into the field, avoid hazards such as areas where holes, branches, poles or other hazards might be hidden under the snow. Injury will occur if the horse trips or falls over a something hidden under the snow cover.

Now that you have your safety tips, enjoy your rides this winter!

December 16, 2014 |

The Apple Tree Game

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niki-marie-hansenSome days when I close my eyes and the summer breeze is just right, I find myself on top of my big potbelly I called “Power,” my childhood quarter horse. Sixteen hands of fat, brown laziness…except when it came to going back to the barn. Those summers were drenched in dog slobber, horse dirt, a little blood, sweat and goose poop squished between bare toes from a wrong step. Whatever. Who cared? I grew up on a Wisconsin farm and mud puddles and cow patties were the norm. The barn cats were abundant as were the rabid opossums hiding behind the snow shovels in the winter that we fondly shot. I remember bats’ flying out of the attic and cold fresh springs bubbling forth drenching the field grass in a waving stream of green after the snow melt.

There were big tall maple trees covering the acreage; one with a rope swing (I think it’s still there). There was the icky bean tree that always clogged the septic tank, the peonies with climbing ants, the ever-green fluffy pine stark against the winter white and the fragrant lilacs that wafted gently in from my open bedroom window from the voluminous bush below. There were the old Indian pipes and arrowheads found in the fields, the deep, sticky mud we got stuck in trying to follow the rainbow exactly and the quarter –mile long gravel driveway that was often the nemesis of my always bare feet. Then there were the apple trees…

My horse, by all meaning of the word, was fat. He was rotund. In fact he was so large that I found my 10 year old self able to almost do the splits on him. Not being allowed to ride in a saddle until I was big and strong enough to put it on myself, I became quite adept at hanging on at varying stages of on-ness. I jumped from Power a few times, but he never managed to be successful in toppling me from my perch atop his rotundness, try as he may. Power did try. He was no dummy and knew that if he could un-mount me, he could run away and go eat.

The apple trees were a favorite game of his…although I will admit I didn’t enjoy it much. There’s only so much staying power a little girl has on the reins of a 1200lbs horse. He seemed to realize that the branches of the apple trees were just high enough to clear his back, but not me. Power liked to take off at a dead run with my little, gangly self hanging on for dear life. He’d make a bee-line for the apple trees and attempt to scrape me off of his back like a pesky horsefly. These scrape-you-off-on-the-apple-tree games of his were not fun at the time and usually resulted in my quickly learning to hang from his side with a death-grip on his mane. Scrapes and scratches were battle scars I earned…winning ones. He never did scrape me off. Every time I think about it, I laugh out loud and tear up just a little.

Even though Power has been long gone to the big hayfield in the sky, there are a few things that have never changed from then until now. One, I will always love that big old nag for as long as I live. Two, Power gave me the passion for my life’s work. Three, just like he couldn’t scrape me off, life will not scrape me off either. I still carry that stubborn determination with me, learn quickly and hang on with a death-grip and I now use it to help big ding dong horses like Power that little girls love so much…minus the apple trees.

September 30, 2014 |

Horseback Riding For Kids in New York

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horseback riding kids
horseback riding kidshorse riding kids

Learning horseback riding is the best gift you can offer for your kid(s). There are many reasons why kids should learn about horses. If your kid ever ask you or show any interest in riding horses, I can only motivate parents to make it happen and to motivate him or her to go riding on a regular basis. The first motivation for parents to invest time and money is to gets their children away from the TV, cell phone and to stop playing video games!

Before getting started parents want to make sure their kids have proper equipment and clothing to go riding. No need to break the bank, for the first riding lessons just a pair of blue jeans and sinkers is enough, boots are better, however you’ll want an approved riding helmet.

Never buy a used riding helmet, and it is best to buy them with help of a pro to make sure it fits well and that your kid is perfectly protected.

Riding boots and comfortable riding pans can come later if you have the feeling that your kid will continue towards a lifelong activity that will benefits his body and soul. Torso protector can be a good idea but not that many riders wear them and could be bought used.

To us, there is no age limit to learn horseback riding. Teaching how to behave in a horse farm or learning the care for horses should always be the first lesson to teach to young kids instead of just going for a quick ride. Most of stables will take children not younger than five or seven years old.

Learning horseback riding is also a matter maturity before age. We have seen kids of 9 years old capable of cantering some retired race horse that young adults are scared to ride. Young riders are able to grasp the basic skills quickly, while others will really be a simple pony ride in groups. Everybody progress at different speed.

For their first ride young children and older children will always be led, or have a side walker. It is obvious that you must have a minimum of strength and posture to manage a horse completely on your own.

Riding for the first time can also be an very exhausting physical activity even for a kid that already do sport. Your children will enjoy better a half hour lesson, rather than a full hour at first. It’s better to keep them wanting for more time, than wearing them out with long lessons.

Progress can come very fast with older children but you want first to ask the riding instructor opinion before to be off the lead line or longe line. Even if your child ask to ride a bigger horse, it is safe to ask the instructor what is best for your child safety.

Therapeutic horseback riding for children with special needs or physically disabled are also available in a few stables. If your child has any learning disability make sure to notify instructor so they can adapt and avoid any frustration.

Parents should call the nearest stable and ask if they have a pony ride program for kids, not all stables have ponies. It is also smart to call ahead or look at the stable website to ask what is the age limit before booking the first riding class of your kids under 10 years old.

May 28, 2014 |

Ban Horse Carriages New York City | Central Park Horses

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horse carriage ny

horse carriage nyFor the past few years the horse carriages of Central Park have been the center of attention from all animal lovers, New Yorkers and tourists. The news even got to Europe after our Mayor Bill de Blasio offered to replace them with electrical cars right after his election.

The question if horse carriages should be banned from NYC was a difficult one for us to think and to take side. After reviewing many facts, videos and listening animal rights protest, our answer has finally became a YES to preserve horse carriage in NY City.

For years we have pass by the horse carriages located on 59th street and never seen signs of a horse being mistreated like we have sometime herd.

The real question is to us:

Can a city like NYC welcome horses and gives them the care and attention horses deserved?

Yes, It is true that after reading articles, watching videos and pictures of horse going through a wind shield or lay down on ground with a bleeding leg because of a traffic accident is heart breaking for any animal lover that wishes them a better future.

But the public should also compare videos of horses having the same spookiness reactions and accident just by taking a gallop during a carriage horse show and competition dragging the carriage and bumping in each other like they do with cars in the city.

If you watch a trotter race you will witness the same accidents and some can be more spectacular and harmful to horses, drivers or anybody standing around it and like the New York State Horse Council we came to the same conclusion that the care for animals is respected from their drivers or owners and as Marsha S. Himler (President, NYS Horse Council) said in her latest Press Release: “The NYC carriage horses are probably the most regulated horses in the country, if not the world.”.

After all the media attention we have all been drawing to that stable, we don’t see any room for mistake, cruelty or careless attention from the carriage and stable owners.

We also think that not having the horses in the city will indirectly hurt others NY stables. The horse industry is one the hidden treasure of NYS with stables all around the city and along the Hudson river depending on NYC occasional rider, tourist from the young ones or expert riders traveling from all over to spend a Week End in NY and that need to be remind they can practice or learn horse riding near NYC.

The horse industry needs that publicity of horse carriages in the city to support the local stables. Farmers around the city are depending on New Yorker and tourist to come for a trail ride and spend an afternoon at country side during the summer season and not having the carriage will simply make people forget there is a horse industry around and upstate NY along Hudson river or in nearby state like New Jersey.

We also hope for animal lovers, politicians and regulators to find a middle ground to preserve one of the most iconic symbols of NYC with is also part of the cultural heritage. Maybe a good idea to preserve the horses is to have them walking in a more restricted area with less cars or simply reopening a stable inside the Central Park keeping them inside the Park like it use to be.

And what if the horses disappear from the New York City? Where would they go? And who will be financing their care, home, feed or shoeing? And for how long?

Having dozens of horses retired is very expensive and unless wall street or the city is willing to sign a blank check every month to make sure they have a proper rehabilitation, hay and horse caretaker to watch over them on a daily basis, I don’t see yet a guaranteed for a better future for those horses.

But for sure if the city or state decision is too finally bane horses from New York City, it could also put those same horses away from media attention and could expose them in real danger of receiving less care and attention that a horse need everyday and they will be certainly be separated from their owners or care takers that may not have the expense to cover the cost of a none working horse in a pasture or nearby stable…

Maybe one of the financial solutions to insure a safe return to a greener environment for the horse carriage could be to put the new electrical cars at contribution and share revenues as a part of their “retirement fund”?

Supporting those retired horse and helping them to access a greener environment is vital and we all know is doesn’t happen overnight to relocate, rehab horses with proper feed and water every day.

We hope for the city to find a better solution than complete ban horse carriages in Central Park and support the horse industry that is a part of the ecotourism that makes NY one of the most visited state with an industry that is already struggling.

May 26, 2014 |

The Kelpies | Horse Sculpture | Scottish Landmark | Andy Scott

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horses culpture

The Kelpies. Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

This month the world had a great surprise to discover a new Scottish cultural landmark of horse head sculpture lighting for the launch of the Kelpies.

The name Kelpies reflected the mythological transforming beasts possessing the strength and endurance of 10 horses and measure over 90 feet high and 300-tonne giant horse-head sculptures.

Located in Scotland near Forth and Clyde Canal in The Helix in middle of a new landmark project built to connect 16 communities in the Falkirk Council Area of Scotland. The lighting test was carried out on the Kelpies in Falkirk, central Scotland, before playing a key role in a series of events of May 2014 with a light, sound and flame performance.

The architect and artist Andy Scott was able to completed those fantastic horse head sculpture in October 2013 to symbolize a gateway at the eastern entrance to the Forth and Clyde canal, and the new canal extension built as part of The Helix land transformation project. The Kelpies monument has been design to honor the horse powered heritage across Scotland.

The sculptures will be open to the public in Spring 2014 and is located near the canal extension of the Forth and Clyde Canal with the River Forth improving navigation between the East and West of Scotland.

On April 21, the public will will have a chance to tour the structures for the first time. The cost of completion of this titanic project is more than 8 million dollars for the Kelpies and complete the $70 million Helix project, which is transforming 865 acres of land between Falkirk and Grangemouth. Scotland is expecting to attract an additional 350,000 visitors and over $2.5 million revenues with tourism coming from all over the world, according to those behind the project.

May 11, 2014 |

Horseback Riding Near Hudson New York

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horse vacation

Saddle up and learn how to ride horses in the Hudson Valley.

Did you know that some of the best stable are just an hour away from NYC and are very close from the Amtrack?

Indoor or outdoor arenas and trails ride are abundant in upstate New York. The Hudson Valley is the horse country with scenic rolling hills marked by miles of rustic fencing. Adults and kids have all dreamed to feel like a cowboy for an hour or a whole day. Saddle up and discover horseback riding in upstate New York. We welcome beginners and pro riders to browse our listing to discover some of the best stables located an hour or 2 away from the city.

Everybody has an old Western movie in their mind and always wanted to be the cowboy (or cowgirl) riding in the middle of open field with a horde of horses. Yes, It is possible and stables offer a great environment surrounded by nature to get together with friends and family. We welcome occasional riders and pros to participate and admire local horse shows happening in New York and learn from the most passionate trainers and stables owners what is the real country life surrounded by horses.

The Hudson Valley is a gold mine when it comes to stables and finding the best trail ride and riding friends to gallop through hills, water and some even offer night rides and camping with BBQ. We recommend you to test several stable and discover each riding style and training method such has horsemanship.

Have a safe ride!

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May 10, 2014 |

Horseback Riding – Hot Weather Tips For Your Horse

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horse careWhen approaching temperature of 80F and above and you can’t even walk outside without feeling like you’ve been drained of every ounce of energy.

If you happen to be hot, your horse feels exactly the same if not worse during exercise. Temperature around 70F range are better for horses to endure hours of exercise in ring or field.

What can you do to help cool the horse down?

Working your horse under high temperatures and humidity is like a punishment to their system, you must always have fresh and cool water as it is hard for them to go too long without a drink. It is usually an excellent idea not to work them too hard in high heat and humidity.

If you do light work with your horse make sure to let them drink every 30 minutes and do not forget to let them drink as much as they need after you are done working especially if sweating up. Make sure the water bucket you are giving to your horse is fresh water and the bucket did not spend the whole day warming up under the sun. Hot water can scald your horses lips. Place the bowl or bucket in the shade.

Cool Bathes

Another way to cool down your horse is to give it a bath but not ice cold water. You can spray water from a hose on their back, legs and chest. Some horses can be head sensitive about water and you must be careful if it is the first time you bath your horse.

You can also use a big sponge to clean and cool down his head. Then, don’t be surprised or mad if after spending time cleaning and cooling your horse down it rolls in the dirt, as this is the first thing horses usually do after being showered to have a bug screen coating on their coat.

Finally even if you have a salt block out, it’s not enough for those brutally hot days. You need to have extra salt near his hay or feed. He’ll eat what he needs.

May 3, 2014 |

Learn horse Logic – Train your horse with mental strength.

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horse training

horse training

A good trainer will always use mental strength before any physical strength. To first start training a horse you must first understand how their minds work and the logic behind it.

Horses do not associate events or sequence of actions in the same way we do. Before training a horse you must first get familiar with those instinct and behavior. When approaching a horse, it has no way of knowing what you are about to do to him and his friends.

Horses first observe our actions and gesture and make a decision to stay put or run away from an eventual predator. Horses eyes are on the outside of their heads so they can see danger coming from any direction.

what is logical to the horse?

Your training must start by asking yourself if the horse you are training or approaching for the first time is seeing you as predator or not. You will observe the same instinct in the wild when lions, or any predator approaching a horde or prey. The hunted animal will judge the possible attack of the predator depending on its posture and psychical behaviors and once the predator made a kill in the wild as the horde of animal is still around you will notice the same after the predator relax then the horde will know that now they are safe.

The next step if the horse has accepted you is to be the one in control of the herd. Then use body language to get its attention and to establish yourself as leader. It is important to keep using body language as playing with your horse and when done correctly, there will be no need for physical restraints or physical punishment and the horse will never feel “attacked.”

When giving a correction or using physical method to teach a lesson to a horse, you only establish a relation of muscle against stronger muscle and translate training technique as method of other attack.You will not teach nothing to a horse using aggressive method. Scared and upset horses are usually confused in what you want him to do. Some trainers will use more physical condition like the tie down of his neck but in horse logic it will be only translated as an attack. By using horse logical techniques in the first place, the horse remained relaxed.

Getting the horse’s attention is the first bite of the string we call training. Learning how to train your horse is just like a big book you have a digest page by page. You will never be able to learn all in once and must break down task and go slowly at beginning to get the horse used to learn new things once at time. Use methodical series of actions to get the horse’s attention and direct the horse’s attention without threatening or attacking him. You must always introduce new shapes or tasks to your horse in a way that is logical to the horse natural instincts rather than human logic.

May 3, 2014 |

Why a horse spook? | Learn Horseback Riding

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horse trip vacation

What to do when your horse spooks?

horse trip vacation

Every rider even the most experienced have experience horse spookiness. The reason can simply by a mousse crossing the path of your horse, a tree branch falling, an unusual noise or an object they never been introduce before such as a plastic ball or a simple mailbox. (the list could be long…)

Facing unknown objects or situation, a horse first response is often how to save its own life also called “fight-or-flight” to avoid any potential threat. A natural instinct and essential for horses defense system. All of us would prefer having a horse that do not spook so we can ride with a better safety and fun, but it doesn’t exist at 100%.

The best remedy to “de-spook” is to “desensitize” your horses.

But be aware as it is always a unfinished training. You can control a certain level by making your horse more familiar with foreign situation but you will never have a horse that is spook FREE and facing an extreme danger the spookiness can comeback as fast than a gallop.

Understanding the origin of the spook is very important for the horse health, well being and of course safety of the rider. Some horses can be more sensitive than others as there is no normality to a horse spook. Some can simply run away, some will jump or simply make a sharp move in a direction and calm down after one second but other can cause serious injury if scared and can easily make a back flip even facing a simple flower or mouse.

Horses have many other reasons for spooking. If you notice abnormality in the spookiness then you better look if your horse is not suffering of vision problems, chiropractic issues or other thing that could discomfort him including teeth.

No matter the reason of the spooking you should take the opportunity to better train your horse to not being scared of its environment. However it is vital for wild horses as it is a natural instinct of survival.

Do not be upset after your horse for doing it. Try to reassure him and showing him he does not have to be scared and to stay in control in case he wants to runaway.

In case of run away, don t get hard on the bit or forceful, or you will be confirming that the horse should be scared by adding more pressure to his fear and it goes the same with spurs.

May 3, 2014 |

How to desensitize a horse? – Sacking Out

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horse spook

To avoid your horse becoming frightened in some situation, it is recommended to use the method of “sacking out,” which consists of a desensitizing process that teaches a horse to not fear certain objects or situations. Any object such as a plastic bag, or sound of music can cause spookiness. It can also come from any previous bad experience.

Always use a step-by-step process to introduce your horse to a new object. An example of a good method is to first let the horse sniff it, then touch it or you can rub it gently on his back and legs until the horse gets used to something like a plastic bag or blanket. As we all know, it is impossible to have a 100% spook free horse. To compensate for the fear of the animal, you want to focus the training on trusting the judgment of his handler. If the training is well done, the horse will look to the handler for safety first.

Other training methods include putting only slight pressure on the horse or using flooding techniques. Unfortunately, the last technique may be attractive because of quicker result, but is also by far more dangerous because the extreme exposure can cause a horse to panic, loose confined and risk injury to the animal or handler.

The trust between handler and horse must never be broken by putting too much pressure on the horse during a panic situation. That can create space between the horse and handler as you cannot rush a horse without violence or the fight or flight instinct will comeback as soon as the horse feels threatened at the least expected time.

May 3, 2014 |

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