Our first "Saddle Up Saturday" of 2014 is one month away!
One Saturday a month your 7-14 year old child can register for a one hour group session to learn about horses and ride. Kids will have 30 minutes of barn instruction and 30 minutes of mounted instructions.
Here's how it works- Register and pay the $25.00 fee on line, by mail or by phone. You have three time options for each Saddle up Saturday; 9:30 AM, 11:00 AM or 2:00. Each session is limited to 12 kids and will be split into 2 groups. Half will ride while the other half has barn instruction. Barn instruction will be on such topics as grooming, leading, safely working around the horses and tacking up. The riding lesson will focus on position and control of the horse at the walk. Riders who participate in enough Saturdays to safely progress to the trot will be allowed to do so.
What makes this program unique?
Regular lessons are the best option for riders who really want to learn how to ride well but there are often reasons why that may not be possible or desirable. Regular lessons require quite a commitment of time and money. Often our children have to decide which activities to focus on and that can be a hard decision if they have never tried a sport before. Sometimes kids want to try something new "just for fun" but riding horses must be done with safety in mind. Saddle Up Saturdays are a solution!
This is a great program for:
kids who can't commit the time/money to regular lesson kids who want to see if they even like riding kids who just want to enjoy something different one weekend a group of kids to do together!
What does my child need to wear?Long pants and a hard soled shoe with a 1/4 to 1/2 inch heel. Riders must wear helmets, which will be provided.
What if it rains?We have a small indoor arena so if it is a LIGHT rain, wear a raincoat and we will ride anyway. The arena has a metal roof so in a hard rain it would not be safe or productive and we will cancel. Riders will be given the option of a full refund or a credit.
How do I know if the session I want is full?When sessions fill we will note that on the registration form ASAP however it is possible that you could register for a full session. If this happens we will contact you to see if another time will work, so have a second choice in mind. If no other session will work for you you will be given a full refund. If you are registering siblings or a group PLEASE contact us to verify availability.
Is there a group discount available? Because we break into groups of six, if you sign up six riders one of your ride will be FREE! ($125.00 for six riders) Groups must all ride in the same session. Please contact us so that we can verify availability before you sign up
I knew I wanted a horse from the time I was a little girl. My family was not "horsey" and I did not think owning one was a realistic possibility before adulthood. As it turned out, I was able to get my first horse at age twelve but for many people that can't happen. Horse owning is a huge responsibility and waiting until you have the time, resources and knowledge are a must. So what do you do if you or your child are dying for some "horsey time" right now? Here are some options!
1)Take lessons- All riders need to learn the proper position, aids (the way you tell your horse what to do), safety rules and care of horses. Books are great but not a substitute for having someone watch and evaluate what you are doing.
2) Join 4-H- The 4-H horse program has many opportunities to learn about horses without owning one. Horse Bowl and Hippology Contests are a chance to learn about horses and compete against others that love horses. Horse Judging teaches you how to evaluate a horses conformation (the way they are built) and their performance in different events. Some clubs offer clinics and other learning opportunities. Each club is different but if there is not a club in your area, find an Adult that will help start on, contact your County Extension Agent and get one going!
3) Volunteer at a Horse Rescue- Don't expect this to be a glamorous job- you may wind up painting fences and cleaning water buckets but that's what owning a horse is like.
4) Lease a horse- If you have taken lessons and learned the basics there are often opportunities to lease a horse. Many leases are "farm leases" meaning the horse stays with the caretaker it is with now. Leases can be for a month, a year, or what ever time is agreeable to the owner. Some horses are availble for "partial lease" meaning you can ride them a certain number of days per week
5) Exercise a horse for someone- Please be careful about this one. Horses all have quirks and sometimes owners don't realize that their horse may not be for everybody. You also have to worry about liability on this. That said, there are nice older horses out there that the owner may not have the time needed to keep them in shape so it is a possiblity
6) Go to Horse Camp- There are hundreds of camps out there that will give you a great introduction to horses
There are many statements out there regarding the benefits of childrens being involved with and showing horses. Some, like being outdoors or having to struggle through learning a difficult skill, could be cited for many other sports as well. It is also true that riding is an expensive hobby. So why let your child getting started in riding? Here's a list of benefits I can think of. Some of which can be gained in other sports and hobbies, but others you may have a hard time matching. Adults such as myself are still learning and working on these lessons, but horses sure have helped. Feel free to comment and add to the list!
1.) Physical Activities/Exercise
2) Fresh Air- out from in front of the TV and computer
3)Learning to stay calm in an emergency- It is imperative that riders learn to control their body and relaxes when a horse becomes frightened or difficult to manage; a great skill to have later when driving a car!
4)Controlling emotions such as anger or frustration- hard to learn but the only effective way to ride is to maintain control over yourself
5) Learning that body language can convey confidence and contol. A great skill for anyone but especially for young girls.
6) Independence- When your child is in the show ring, whatever happens, good or bad, has to be handled by them, both physically and emotionally
7) Learning to accept that we do NOT have control of everything. Riders can only influence their own performance, not the arena footing, weather, judge or other horses and riders so they have to let go of all those things
8) learning that in order to keep things going smoothly, you must plan and take care of your animal
9)...but sometimes things go wrong anyway- we can plan for a big show for months, drive 800 miles, pay our entries and pull our horse out on the day of the show,only to have them be lame
10) Your relationship with you horse is not based on your looks, weight, race, religion or any other external character- only on how your treat them
11) You can tell a horse anything-cliche? Yes but true
12)You can do your best to care for something but you can not always protect it- the recent Oklahoma Tornado tragedies are an example of this...and.....
13) ...Things that you love die- I hate this one, but it is part of the lesson
14) Every animal is different and you learn from all of them (very much like the humans in our lives)
We riders often complain about the lack of respect our sport gets from the general public. I have heard similar complaints from cheerleaders, dancers and other sports. Personally, I don't care what the general public thinks, riding is a sport. What everyone else thinks about it is irrelevant. The concern here is how we, as rider, treat it. As a whole I believe we tend to pay lip service to the sport idea, but so not treat ourselves as athletes. Our horses don't give a flip if we are skinny but I guarantee you, they want us fit. Last summer and fall I was eating healthy and working out, my mare was clearly working better and benefiting from my stamina and strength. Eventers get this, they realize that they must be fit to do what they do and keep themselves and their horses sound. The rest of us often slide because our horses will pick up the slack, but that's means we are settling for less than our best. We are the dance partner, fifty percent of the puzzle! How can they balance, use themselves, stay comfortable and give you their best if you are not doing the same.
As instructors and trainers, ignoring this aspect of riding is a disservice to our horses but it is also missed opportunity to encourage a healthy lifestyle among our biggest demographic, teenage girls. Here is something that is immensely popular with a group of individuals that struggle daily with self-esteem and body image, often hearing messages that "skinnier is better" Here is a chance to encourage exercise and healthy eating, not to be skinny, but to be more effective. Core strength, stamina, flexibility and energy come from working out and eating right. Modeling that, encouraging that, and teaching that is part of our job!
I'm not a exercise trainer or a nutritionist but I don't have to be. There are some principles of health that are basic- exercise, eat fresh vegetables, limit fat and sugar, drink water.Our goal is not to try to get a certain "body type" that they look for in the equitation- it's the judges job to learn what an "good" rider rides like. They either know their job or they don't and you have no control over that. You do have control over your fitness and that will help you be a good rider. This makes you safer, more comfortable and a much better partner for your horse regardless of whether you are doing Maclay Finals or a thirty minute trail ride.
Time for me to "walk the walk"...for at least thirty minutes a day! I mentioned that last summer I was living a healthy lifestyle. Over the last few months I have slacked off. That's okay, it happens. What is not okay is to give up. I am rededication myself to healthful living and encouraging you to do the same. For my students (old and new) I am issuing a "Mountain Dell Health Challenge" I have made up a chart of several steps that I will be taking to improve my strength, energy and stamina. I encourage students to do the same. Each activity has a minimum number of days that it should be accomplished. Meet that minimum on each activity in a week and you will earn a point. Earn four point and get a free lesson. Participants must be taking regular lessons. This program is on the honor system so you will keep your log and when you have four weeks worth of logs, bring them to me and we will schedule your lesson. I will be posting my log in the barn and would love to post student logs, but only if they want me to.
What I tell prospective parents when they call asking if their child is old enough.
Often I get parents calling and asking what age their child should start riding. So what is the "magic" age for riding horses? Like most of life, there is no one answer. Like horses, humans are all unique, with strength and weaknesses that have nothing to do with their age. The key, I believe, is to have reasonable expectations of progress.
While my literature says I give lessons to children six and older, I am far from hard line on this. I have started lessons for children as young as three. My daughter rode her pony almost daily from just before she turned two. There are some things parents need to be very clear about.
1) The lesson price is the same because I almost always spend just as much time with the child however the I will follow the child's lead regarding how much time they spend on the horse. We play games and make it fun, but there is only so much a three years old can do and if they want to be done, they're done.
2) There will be things they should not learn yet. Motor skills are still developing and some things they would have to learn "wrong" to compensate for this.
3) They still may develop some "bad habits" for the above reason. They will have to "unlearn" those later on.
4) An eight year old that starts at three will probably not be that far ahead of an eight year old that starts at three
5) If they LOVE it, it's worth it. There are motor skill that can be learned more quickly by children who are enjoying what they do and feeling accomplishment from taking care of and riding. It is a great teaching tool and they learn much more than just how to ride. (I continue to be amazed at the number of adults that don't realize that to unbuckle a halter one must not hold the strap up against the buckle)
6) Some children would be better waiting until they are six, or even eight. If they are very prone to frustration or impatient with themselves, waiting is better.
The best course of action is to discuss the goals and concerns and be willing to reevaluate if it looks as though the child is not enjoying themselves. It is hard for a parent to hear that the child is not ready but it's more important that the children learn that horse riding is FUN!
My last several posts have been thoughts on how we view our horses and equine activities. They have been a bit like sermons on riding and showing. I think this week we should lighten it up a bit. Several of our riders will be attending an Open Show this Saturday. It's a varied group of horses and riders going; one young adult and four children, one has shown most of her life, three kids have shown a bit and for one it's her first time. The horses are all very experienced in the show ring. Tally, Ember and Parks, old campaigners that know the ropes. Here is what I hope for these five students and for anyone showing this weekend.
I hope you stay safe.
First and foremost.
I hope you take care of your horse.
Think about how conditioned they are, how old they are, if they have issues. Do they need extra care, cooling off, shade. Some horse won't pee unless they are in a stall or unsaddled. Please meet their needs...plus a bit more.
I hope you talk to someone you don't know.
This is a wonderful social outlet but you have to remember to be sociable. Sincerely compliment someone, it will make their day and maybe yours too!
I hope you focus on your riding.
Keep the socializing to time when you are taking a break. While you ride, think!
I hope you set and meet some realistic goals.
Plan some things that you hope to accomplish, determine whether it's in your control and if it is, go for it! Bear in mind that your placing is NOT in your control, only your performance is.
I hope you learn something.
This is easy, you will learn, just be open to it.
I hope you have fun.
Remember what it is you love about horses, why you wanted to show and how BLESSED you are to have this chance. Take a minute to press your face against your horses neck and breath deep. Laugh at your mistakes and celebrate your successes. Have a great weekend!