Horse Crazy Kid Holiday Guide!

Earlier in the week we made some suggestions for great gifts for your equestrian adult. As promised we’re following up on that post with ideas for your horse crazy kids. We’ve also included teenagers in this guide.

When kids like something THEY REALLY like something. I know, I have a nephew who was OBSESSED with cows last year. So for Christmas I made him cow shaped and decorated sugar cookies AND got him his own cow barn for Christmas and he LOVED them. (I think he’s moved on to Dinosaurs this year so…new cookie cutters for me!)

Anyhow, horse crazy kiddos are no different. I will caution you about kids, especially horse kids, they can be very specific. So it’s VERRY IMPORTANT to know if your horse crazy kiddo rides English or Western. Namely, is a cowgirl or not. Trust me, the kids care. It’s usually much easier to find horse “stuff” of all kinds for Western riders. A good rule of thumb with horse toys of all kind is: if the saddle is brown on the horse it’s probably a Western Saddle. If the saddle and tack are black then it’s usually english. ALTHOUGH there are exceptions just know, if it looks like John Wayne would sit on it it’s a Western horse. If it looks like it galloped out of a painting of Napoleon then that’s English.

Okay.

Like with adults, it’s good to know if your kid has a specific color they consider their riding color. These colors are important, they help them remember which stuff is theirs and also make a statement when they go to shows.

As with adults you certainly want to know their horse’s name, color and breed. If you’re going to get something personalized, consider having it personalized with the horse’s name, not the kid or both.

Here are some good ideas for horse kids (12 and under):

1: Clothes for the barn. Yes, clothing might not be the MOST exciting gift, but if it’s clothing to specifically be worn while riding that’s totally different! T-shirts with horses on them. Riding breeches and hoodies are all good options. Most of our kiddo students are really excited to have JUST BARN CLOTHES and are always showing us their horse tee’s and breeches. For specifically kid friendly, affordable, useable horse themed clothing I suggest Kerrets Brand. They are durable and well made for riding, and don’t break the bank. Kerrets brand is available for purchase on Amazon.com. As an added element of fun Kerrets clothing comes with Carrot seeds. Ariat also makes really nice kids clothes for slightly more money, Ariat clothing is also available on Amazon.com

2: Supplies As a child I asked for a manure fork as a reward for good grades. I still have that fork. Kiddos want the weirdest, most boring horse supplies. They see adult riders or their coach has something and even if it seems kind of silly or boring to you if it’s for the horse it’s exciting. A full tack cleaning set with their own bucket is a nice gift! You’ll need little hand friendly sponges, saddle soap, saddle conditioner and some rags. For bonus points in your tack cleaning kit, add a can of Never Dull which is an amazing, oddly smelling product that miraculously and easily polishes metal buckles, spurs, stirrup irons and any sort of metal work at all. Often times horse kids have just the bare necessities when they start out. Horsemanship is a consuming hobby. We have to take are of our horses AND our equipment. Shampoo and conditioner for horses would also be a fun gift, especially paired with some Show Sheen or Cowboy Magic detangler and a nice scrubby brush. Again, not exciting UNLESS you’re horse crazy then it’s AMAZING.

3: Breyer Horses. Breyer horses ARE THE VERY BEST horse crazy kid gift for kiddos under the age of 10. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, they all want them they will be treasured and played with forever. I still have mine, and in fact I have my mother’s Breyer horse as well. They come in several sizes and there are options for barns, horse trailers, tack and everyone’s favorite “Brenda Breyer.” As mentioned before, make sure your Brenda is the the correct Brenda for how your kiddo rides. This is when you need to remember the “John Wayne or Napoleon?” rule.

4: Riding gloves. Like all gloves, kids lose them so don’t worry if your horse crazy kid already has a pair, they need another one. (True for adults as well…seriously where are all of my gloves???). They need them they’re an under appreciated piece of safety equipment for riders of all kinds. Useful in the saddle and also if you are leading a horse or loading into a trailer. At LEC we have discovered that baseball gloves fit the bill really well for riding. They’re durable, washable and have good grip and are more readily available than horse specific riding gloves.

5: Little horse details Maybe you have your gifts already and want to add something horsey in to the mix as a stocking stuffer. Stickers are a great add or a journal for them to track their progress. Horse treats, especially candy canes are extremely fun things to give kiddos. Horses LOVE candy canes and kids LOVE to feed them to the horses. So when you’re putting your stocking stuffers together don’t forget about the pony! Add a little note with a horse’s name and stick it to a candy cane. Kids too will be excited and happy you thought of their horse.

….Now for teens.

Teens aren’t quite kids and they’re not quite adults. They are THE HARDEST people on Earth to shop for who aren’t my mother.

1: Matching saddle pads and wraps/Saddle Blankets and boots Teens have a penchant for wild colors (unless you specifically know they don’t). I say for Christmas go big or go home. Get the wildest combinations you can find. Teens love to show their style at the barn, and if you think your 16 year old is growing up too fast, she probably is, but she’s still in love with her horse and definitely wants to dress him up a bit for Instagram.

2: Equestrian Specific Backpacks and Equipment bags. There are lots of great bags out there for Equipment. Ariat and Noble Outiftters both make wonderful bags for all things horse, from clothing to grooming. Backpacks in a horse setting are often referred to as a “Ring Bag” owing to the fact that people carry them to the show ring with things like water, towels and snacks for the horses. Teens who are showing will appreciate a matched set of garment, boot and helmet bags for horse shows. Matching is kind of a big deal in the horse world.

3: A Show Trunk. IF you’re looking for a great big showy horse present that isn’t a horse I suggest a show trunk. You can go as fancy or as approachable as your budget allows. Many people use Stanley Tool chests as show trunks. They are durable, and have wheels for easy transport. Depending on the setup of your horse teen’s barn they may use them daily. Look to ETSY for a custom decal with their name or horse’s name. Dover, Smartpak and many of the major equine retailers also make custom wooden trunks, however it will be a bit late in December to receive a show trunk in time for Christmas.

4: Monograms OMG you guys. Monograms, everything monograms. If you have a teen, seriously, just go to ETSY right now and order some custom vinyl Monogram Stickers in their favorite range of colors and be done with it. Your horse kid can tag as much of her equipment as she sees fit. Although fading in popularity, it’s even possible to get custom helmet monograms for your teen. Buy several sizes for different types of items!

We hope these gift guides have been useful to you be sure to share them with Grandmas and others who are looking for just the right gift for their horse person. Sometimes being a horse kid/teen can make a kiddo feel kind of like an outsider because horses are just not as popular or cool as basketball. Kiddos don’t want their passions to be skipped or ignored because family members think the things they want may be hard to find. It’s not as complicated or difficult as it may seem. I’ve mentioned this before, but if the ONLY thing you do that is horse related this Christmas is to stick a carrot with a bow in your Little’s stocking for their horse you will have successfully included your horse kid’s passion in the holidays!

 Happy holidays to all of you out there!

Happy holidays to all of you out there!

Gift Guide for Horse Loving Adults

December is here! Time to hit up those holiday closeout sales and shower your friends and families with meaningful gifts. Alas, being a horse person at any age can certainly complicate things! So here’s a handy guide of ideas for your horse loving adult family members and friends. There will be a second post all about gifts for kids.

Know before you buy:

What does your equestrian consider his or her “Color” everyone has one. Mine is electric blue. Find that out, because if you CAN buy horse stuff in their official color you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD.

What is their horse’s name, breed and what color is it? Again, if you’re going to go custom with something you may consider customizing with the horse’s name. Make sure you know how to spell it! Checkout their Facebook or Instagram pages for the correct spelling or barn name. I’ve got a horse named Diamante, I always call him “Bling.”

Five Solid Ideas:

1: Bags and organizers: Does your girlfriend’s car look like a tack trunk exploded? Does your wife often go from work directly to the barn? Organizers for the backseat or trunk of a car are a great gift for your equestrian! Your equestrian can easily store her riding gear neatly away from her jumper cables and grocery bags. Along the same line, a stylish equestrian backpack or customized canvas bags also make ideal gifts for dragging your horse equipment around. Little stylish zipper pouches are excellent gifts to go along with bags. They hold on to bits and bobs from work outfits or small things, like spurs.

2: Technology: Are you constantly being asked to video your horse loving friend when you come out to the barn? Have you really been a jerk lately and seriously need to make up for it with a wonderful Christmas gift? Look no further than self-tracking cameras. There are several companies out there who make a self-tracking Camera. The Pixo robot camera man ensures your horse person can video each ride all by themselves! This system works indoors as well as outdoors. For jumpers, eventers, barrel racers a Cambox under helmet camera is a lighter, safer and smaller option to the ever-popular GoPro.

3: Treats for the horse: You may not want to spend the time trying to track down actual equestrian items for your special person. You can however, add something into your gift giving plan just for the horse. Most all horses LOVE peppermints. Yup, peppermints, available at Walgreens for like $2.00. Simply thinking of the horse on the holidays can be enough to really make an equestrian’s holiday.

4: Music to their ears: One thing equestrians may or may not tell you is they 100% have a theme song for their horse. They certainly love to listen to music while they ride. Wireless bluetooth ear buds are a great idea for your horse lover. As are small, sturdy bluetooth speakers they can keep in a tack locker. Pair your wireless bluetooth speaker with some saddle soap, and new rags and your equestrian will swoon at how thoughtful you are.

5: Photos Horse people LOVE photos of their horses. Is their Instagram or Facebook profile photo of their horse? Print those photos off on a larger scale and gift it to your horse loving friend. Better yet, find a great local photographer and pay for a photoshoot for your loved one and their horse.

So where do you find this stuff?

Horse people buy “horse stuff” all over the place, not just specialized retailers.Believe it or not, Amazon has a wide assortment of equestrian items, be sure before you buy that you know what size you are looking for and what color. As with all things Amazon you sort of need to know what you are looking for. Reliable brands on amazon that sell some of these things are: Ariat, Noble Outfitters, Equine Couture, Classic Equine

In Lincoln you can find “Tack” or horse equipment at The Fort Western and Tractor Supply Company. In Omaha, there are two tack stores: Reg & Wally’s and The Paddock, both places will be more than happy to assist you in finding something horsey for your loved one.

We Learn Together

Just finished hugging a 9 year old girl a million times. A young lady I’ve taught for 2 years. She’s moving out of state with her family and today was her last lesson. I 100% cried, there isn’t any way around it. I will miss this little lady and I’m so grateful to have been a part of her journey with horses.

The young lady has taught me a lot about being a teacher to children, which is a particular skill. Teaching children is not a particular skill I knew I had until I had done it, and this little lady is one of my first. We learned a lot together about overcoming our nerves, growing and communicating with the horse and with each other. I can’t believe in two years how tall she has become, how confident, how articulate, skilled with the horses…they really do grow up quite fast!

The thing is, I care. I really do. I care about all of my students and how well they are doing. Doesn’t matter if you are nine or 49 years old I’m absolutely cheering for you and hoping beyond all hope you’re enjoying your horse and figuring things out and having a lot of fun while doing both. Teaching riding at any level is a two way street, although as a student you might think the instructor has all the answers and all the knowledge. In part, yes but as an instructor I certainly learn from my students.

Each of the students I have worked with over the years has taught me something different about riding or people or teaching. Each student has helped me to understand better the sport I love so much and even how to read horses better than I ever have before. Most especially, working with beginners of all ages I’ve learned to appreciate certain aspects of horsemanship I had perhaps become complacent about. I’ve learned to talk about horses and riding more clearly.

Horse body language is a good example. I see it, I appreciate it, but because of years of work with my horses I for the most part just move seamlessly with and around the horses without thinking twice about what the ears are pointed at….until someone asks me a question. It’s a good question…but one I haven’t had to think about in like 30 years. To have to slow down, think about it…and then translate it into words that make sense to someone just starting the process. These explanations have given me a reason to re-experience horse behavior with a fresh perspective.

Generally speaking I think many advanced riders and trainers have a bit of a negative attitude about people who start new riders. As if, perhaps, we’re not qualified enough to do anything else. And maybe just maybe that is the case for some folks out there. The United States has absolutely NO regulation on who can be an instructor or what kind of qualifications you need in order to teach. You can opt in to those regulations, but no one is required to explain why a horse has a chestnut or explain what muscles you use to post the trot in order to teach beginners.

As with any journey, in horsemanship you want to learn from someone who knows where you are going. I’d have a difficult time telling someone how to get from Moscow to St. Petersburg. “So…you’ll need to be in Russia… and then like…I guess Google it?” Horsemanship is no different. When I start new riders, I have a good idea of where they are going, mostly because I ask what they want to do. If I start someone who later wants to jump, well we work like always on good balance, right posture and great steering. However their lessons morph as I get ready to hand them over to our hunter/jumper trainer. Beginners wanting to pursue dressage, well, it’s on guys. They start right away with quiet aids, and precision riding so that all of their instincts and motions are purposeful.

I have a plan for my beginners. It’s the same plan every time: exemplary horsemanship on the ground, exemplary riding position, kindness to horses, and grit. I’m cheering them along each step and I am authentically excited every time LITERALLY EVERY SINGLE TIME someone figures out how to post the trot properly. I love the smiles on people’s faces when they canter. I feel the frustration during the hard growing periods. “I don’t understand why this is so hard for me!!”

I’ve been there, you’ll ride through it, and I’ll be on the ground helping you to get to the other side. If I ever seem frustrated its probably because I can’t figure out the magic words to make it click. After all, for everyone involved in a lesson, the horse is the real teacher. I can tell my students, and they can listen but ultimately, the horse gives the answer. For me, it’s pure magic when I watch a beginner learn to feel what the horse is saying, and respond in kind. It’s amazing how quickly people learn how to ride a horse. It’s amazing how different and how similar all riders are in their habits, strengths and impulses.

I greatly enjoy teaching. After so much time in my life riding my own, showing and training it’s an interesting, inspiring and refreshing way to enjoy another aspect of my sport.

So to my little who is off to new adventures and new instructors…Keep those heels down. Believe in yourself, don’t be afraid to try new things….and to the rest of my newbies, beginners thanks so much for teaching me how to teach. Thanks for reminding me daily to not take for granted this life with horses.

The Journey of A Journeyman

In the midst of the Missy Fladland Clinic this past weekend (October 13-14) there was anticipation. I was at home working away, keeping things going and Zack was in LaMar Missouri, taking his Journeyman Exam. He had two portions to pass, the written and the bar shoe. Every where I went I thought of him, and the challenges ahead, wishing that I could be there to support his big effort. Although, sentimental though it may sound, we are always together in these endeavors, even if geography keeps us apart.

On Sunday, during the second to last ride a text came through.

“I Passed!!”

I cried. Zack has put so much work into his Journeyman exam. Its been a year of studying text books and flash cards. A year of watching DVDs about anatomy. A year of having a freeze dried horse leg in our living room. He forges his bar shoes at night. I got him a kitchen timer to stick on his work station to keep time. All to add one important letter to the middle of his credentials: J

Apart from hours and hours of study what does that “J” mean?

Well…J stands for Journeyman. According to the American Farrier’s Association (or AFA) who issues the certification, a Journeyman is:

“The highest level of AFA certification, are open to candidates who have at least two (2) years horseshoeing experience and have completed the CF level. Farriers sitting for this level of certification are expected to display in-depth knowledge and highly developed performance skills evidencing a level of professional artistry. The process requires successful completion of written and practical testing, as well as the forging of a specific bar shoe within a prescribed time limit.  The shoe must fit a pre-determined foot pattern.”

To have your Journeyman is to be proven, tested and certified as knowledgable. The journeyman is a three part exam: a written test, fitting a horse with a handmade shoes in 2 hours (known as “the horse), and making a bar shoe that fits a pattern in 35 minutes.

Zack passed his “horse” first. Managing a very high score. All aspects of “the horse” section are judged. The hooves need to be balanced, the shoe has to be made well to specifics and fit properly. As if that wasn’t enough, the finish must also be perfect.

For the bar shoe section, using straight steel the prospective journeymen have 35 minutes to make a perfectly shaped bar shoe to a set pattern. Bar shoes are tricky, because the two branches of the horse shoe have to be turned and welded together securely. This is where the art and science of farrier work comes together! Carefully making the turn and understanding the chemistry and timing of forge welding.

So now, having passed all three sections of his exam he is proud and relaxed, finally achieving this wonderful long-sought goal of his to be “A Journeyman.” So what’s next? Well, Mr. Hamilton will be out competing at farrier contests and is probably going to seek other endorsements through the AFA, perhaps even some international certifications as well. His desire to be an exemplary farrier is boundless.

Passing his Journeyman is not only a big deal to us, but also to his clients. Having an AFA Certified Farrier or AFA Journeyman Farrier is one way you can ensure your horse is receiving quality hoof care. A Farrier who has passed his/her CF or CJF exam is one you know has had their knowledge and skill tested by reputable organization.

You might not know there is NO licensure requirement, no testing, no schooling mandated in order to become a farrier. Some farriers learn from their families. others go to school and as a consumer, unless you ask, you may not be aware that the farrier you are using has only been to school for a 4 week program of if he or she attended a reputable horse shoeing school followed by an apprenticeship.

Certainly a great deal of a Farrier’s skill comes from directly working with a horse. None the less, a farrier’s work does have a HUGE impact on how horses perform. A farrier who is serious about his profession and his work will be a member of the AFA and will work to stay current on biomechanics, shoeing practices and forging techniques.

If I have learned nothing else from the freeze-dried leg in my living room it’s this: There is a lot happening from the knee down. Horse shoes are more than just steel and nails keeping the hooves from cracking. I certainly only want someone who knows what’s going on inside that leg, and hoof capsule to work on my horses.

Zack and Dobby.jpg

Zack Hamilton CJF

Congratulations to Nebraska’s Newest Journeyman!

An Homage to Auditing or more than just sitting there

Perhaps you were not quick enough to get signed up for a clinic. Maybe we didn't hear about the clinic in time and think "well shoot.  I wanted to ride!! I really wanted to get some feedback from This Wonderful Teacher" Guess what?  Even if you aren't riding you can still learn a great deal from auditing a clinic. Clinicians by nature, are teachers. Their classroom is the arena and EVERYONE in the arena, not just the one on the horse, are the students.

Having sat through numerous clinics over the course of my life both valuable and perhaps not so much I've been able to pick up a lot. Yes, it's certainly wonderful to be the rider but if for whatever reason you've not scored a riding spot all hope is not lost. For a fraction of the cost you pay to ride, auditors have the pleasure of observing the ENTIRE DAY of rides...that's right for anywhere from $0 to $200.00 (depending on the clinician/symposium) you can go home with tons of knowledge and insight. 

Here are the top 5 reasons to Audit a Clinic:

 1: It's Cheaper than Riding   Yes, that's right. It's worth repeating. Auditing a clinic is a more affordable option than riding in a clinic. Throughout the course of two days a rider can absorb a lot of the same lessons as if you'd ridden in the clinic. If you think you only learn riding techniques by riding them, well, to be frank.  You're wrong.  You watch videos, read magazines and books.  A clinic is just the same.  Most riders when paying attention will have some of the bodily feelings of riding even while sitting in a chair while they watch a horse go, so in a way you're riding every ride and getting that feeling. Every clinician has a trademark or an emphasis...that will be repeated and worked on throughout the clinic. Guaranteed you'll go home from even a day of auditing with that idea imprinted in your mind and YOU'LL TRY IT AT HOME!

2: Clinicians Interact with Auditors Ever watched Youtube and wished you could ask George Morris a question? If your answer is yes, then you should know many times clinicians will answer questions from auditors.  So long as you are polite and wait until it's a good time most clinicians are happy to answer your questions. It's also not all together uncommon for clinicians to engage with auditors with non-mounted learning experiences especially as it relates to riding position.  If you stick around for lunch there are often plenty of chances to interact with clinicians.  

3: Try Before You Buy Has someone in the area brought in a new clinician? Perhaps someone you haven't heard about, and your budget is already shot from buying fancy stirrup irons?  Not certain you are ready to pay $150.00 for a lesson? Audit the clinic. Watch this new person teach and see if you think that person is someone you'd like to work with or if their methodology is something that's helpful to you. If yes, then you are certainly poised to immediately speak to the clinic organizer and get a spot in the next clinic.  If no, well then you just saved a whole bunch of money.

4: Support Your Community If there is no interest, people won't organize clinics. How do clinic organizers know if people are interested in clinics? Well, folks sign up to ride and people come to audit. If perhaps you're too busy to ride in THIS clinic or can't do a clinic right now because your horse is injured...well audit. Let the organizer know that you're interested. Organizing clinics takes time and energy, if there is no interest there will be no clinics, and it could be a long time until someone in your area tries again to bring someone in. Auditors ARE part of the clinic experience, they bring an essential vibe to each clinic that's appreciated by both rider and clinician alike.

5: It's fun Don't tell them, most especially if they aren't famous for a sense of humor, but clinicians are funny. It's a great time to be with your horsey friends over the course of a couple of days learning and enjoying the horse world without having to haul the horse and do the thing. It's relaxing, entertaining and good to experience something a little different than your normal weekend of cleaning the house once you get home from the barn.

Not enough yet?  Okay...how about 2 more BONUS reasons to audit a clinic.

6: Get Inspired!! Inevitably there will be at least one great ride and one ride that's got some pretty awful moments.  Both types of rides are totally inspiring. One ride is the one you want to have and the other fills you with pride in the person who gets through that tough spot. Auditing a good clinic will really inspire you to go home and try some new things. 

7: What's Happening? Just moved to the area? Audit the clinic, meet new people who are active in the community.  Looking for a new trainer? Go to a clinic and watch them ride. Trying to sell a horse/buy a horse/check out a barn...AUDIT a clinic. Go to the place where the people who you need to talk to are going to be. 

 

 

Hellos and Good-byes

School is starting up all across the country. We know, because some of our beloved girls who have been with us for some time are now no longer with us because they've started their freshman year in college.  Our younger kiddos are also back in school and coming out to the barn for lessons with stories of school adventures and spelling lessons to share while grooming a pony. Still other students are coming back to the University of Nebraska Lincoln, and we are so excited to have them back "home" for the year.  

Back to school is it's own special, sentimental season at Lincoln Equestrian Center.

For me, this community feeling at the barn is one of the best parts of being here. Although it is rather heartbreaking when our students move away to far off colleges. Like an empty nester I do sometimes walk by the newly vacant stall and miss our people and their horses. We keep in touch, but it is hard to let go of our community members, even if the only reason they leave is because they have an incredible opportunity to pursue their dream career.  

Sigh.

This summer we have had to bid farewell to 3 very cherished boarders. Three tremendously kind women and their excellent horses. All off to differing corners of the nation, all in pursuit of their life goals. That they are off in new exciting places doing great things does act as a salve for the pain in my heart, none the less I do find myself longing to hear their voices or to scratch their horses and ask how their ride went.

I know we'll get at least three more wonderful people in the barn, not to replace these ladies but to bring new and interesting personalities into the barn. Yes, my job is to care for horses and to teach riding. Somehow though it's more than that. It's more than a job I don't quite know what the best word for this feeling is. I guess love. I love our people and the contributions they make to our barn just by being here with us. Every person, and every horse makes up the beautiful and diverse community of Lincoln Equestrian Center

Winter Wonderland

"I wonder if it's going to snow today?"

"I wonder it is warm enough to ride?"

"I wonder if I can fit all of these socks and layers under my boots?"

Weather in Nebraska is a special thing, we get extremes and wild variations. For horse owners this can be a perplexing problem. In our current season, Winter, cold weather is an important consideration for the health and well being of the horses as well as the riders. 

In terms of daily life, a horse acclimates to cold weather quite well. It's important to remember our horses have a warmer normal body temperature than we humans have (Normal horse ranging from 99 to 101 degrees F). Their hair grows out long and fluffy in winter, and their body is covered with heat generating muscles. Most all horses living in a stalled situation like LEC can easily endure very cold temperatures, especially if they are blanketed during the coldest times.

Riding and working horses in the winter is when things become both confusing and frustrating. There is no actual veterinary medical recommendation for when it is TOO COLD to ride. The trick with winter riding is to ride at an appropriate level for the temperature you are riding in.  As the temperature drops, the riding should decrease in intensity.  If for example you normally ride 45 minutes of walk-trot-canter if the temperature is below 20 degrees reduce the amount of time you spend cantering, and give your horse more walk breaks. A long warm up walk and a long cool down walk are recommended. For horses who are clipped, or tend on the chilly side a quarter sheet is a good idea for warm up and cool down. 

The reason for the decreased intensity is two fold.  One: to protect lungs from any possible long-term damage. Just as we find it difficult/uncomfortable to breathe outside in harsh cold weather so do our horses. Overworking of your horse in extreme colds may produce problems year round. Two: Maintaining body temperature. When horses work hard they warm up and can sweat. If a horse is not properly cooled down in winter it is possible for them to begin to shiver, get muscle cramps and to feel distressed. To prevent this, NOT riding your horse to a lathered state in extremely cold weather is a good start. Horses who are sweating, or producing steam after a ride should be covered in a wool or polar fleece cooler until such time as the condensation on the horse has burned off.

NEVER put a winter blanket on a wet horse, the sweat or water will leach into the winter blanket and take a very long time to dry out. Horses wearing wet blankets will certainly become very cold quickly.

Riding instructors and horse trainers have varying standards for when they believe it is to cold for lessons and rides. Most instructors usually fall between 20 and 15 degrees F as their limit for when it is too cold to ride. Please heed your instructor's limit. These limits are for the riders, the horses as well as the instructor's health.

All this said, one of the big concerns about cold weather is Colic. Generally speaking horses like people are not as active in Winter. A horse's digestive system is designed to function best when horses are able to move about. Even if it is cold, it's a good idea to at least come out to the barn and hand walk or walk under saddle for 20 or so minutes a few times a week. This helps keep your horse energized mentally and physically. Light working also helps prevent stiffness in their joints.

For the riders: cold weather is dangerous for you as well. Make sure you've got layers on when you come out to ride or groom. Be mindful of your extremities. Try to find thin layers that will work underneath boots. Insulted jeans, and breeches are a nice option. Don't be worried about your fashion when trying to stay warm.  If while riding your hands (in particular) begin to have a burning or tingling sensation IMMEDIATELY get off your horse and run warm water over your hands to help return circulation to areas effected by the cold.

Nebraska's weather presents all horsemen with a myriad of challenges. These very cold days certainly make us all look forward to Sunshine and spring flowers.  Although it might seem a chore to pile on the clothing to head out to the barn its a task well worth doing. In these polar months it's good for you to keep moving and your horse certainly enjoys the attention. 

When You Don't Get What You Want

I really want gold bell boots, for a horse I own who many believe is named "Feet are Gold."  His name is not Feet are Gold but I won't fault you for thinking so.

Horsemanship is a lifestyle riddled with wants. If you're riding Second Level you'd really like to be riding 4th. If you're showing the Grand Prix you want to try out some CDI shows. If your horse is injured, you just want to ride. When first learn riding, you want to be able to post 4 times around the circle on the longe line without missing a beat.

In a way, the wants keep us going. Want is a kin to "I wish" or "Someday I will."  However, I do as an instructor, barn owner and a rider hear "Want" in another tone. This want is said in the key of defeat. "I JUST WANT THE DAMN HORSE TO GET IN THE TRAILER."  "All I want is to ride outside."

Want is as much about frustration as it is about dreams. In both cases sometimes the WANT(s) of horsemanship get in the way of the HAVES. I want gold bell boots, but I have perfectly good black ones, and a horse "Fidergold" who goes just fine with or without them.  Instead of wanting more for his feet or wanting more people to understand how to say his name, I should be more focused on the fact that he's an incredible horse, great teacher and I'm lucky to have him.

I'm lucky to have any horse. This whole sport starts out with WANT...and I think in the race for improvement we sometimes forget to stand in  awe of how far we have come from when we merely wanted and now we DO.

When challenges inevitably arrive at the barn: injuries, learning plateaus, frustrations I like to remember and list to myself the things I have going for me and my riding. It's my coping strategy. First diagnose the Want: Why do I want this? What is this want? How far away from achieving this goal am I? What is the frustration the word WANT is demanding? What can I do to fix this? 

And after that: gratitude. "Well, I WANT to ride in the clinic but I'm rehabbing Bling. I'm grateful to be riding him, and I'm learning a lot about our training as we recoup." Perhaps gratitude is a search for a silver lining, but it's a helpful salve in times of heartache. If your horse is injured you may want to ride but don't blind yourself to the fact that because of an injury you can improve your relationship with your horse. An injury is a good time to bond and build trust between horse and rider. Perhaps when you're not so focused on riding goals you now have a chance to talk to more people at the barn and really connect to a great new friend.

Want is not all bad. We can't let the dreams of tomorrow blind us to the greatness of today. The heartache of the moment likewise shouldn't defeat you forever. The next time you WANT so badly, stop, give yourself a second and realize first, how much you already have. The gratitude for what is now in your life will certainly help make the road to achieving your "Want" much more joyful.

Calling all Hunter Jumper Riders: BIG NEWS

Exciting news everyone! After a years long search, Lincoln Equestrian Center is pleased to announce we have hired an in-house Hunter Jumper Trainer, Taylor Schmidt. Taylor hails from Chicago, currently resides in Omaha and will be available for lessons starting August 19, 2017 $45.00 per individual lesson, $35.00 per 2 person group lesson.

We are very excited to finally be able to utilize all of our equipment and to have an experienced person on hand to assist those already in the barn, and in the Lincoln Metro area with their riding. Our mission at LEC is to make people's goals possible through great horse care, facilities and instruction. Taylor is part of that mission.

Taylor comes to us as a graduate of Kansas State University, where she received a degree in Animal Science. At KState she was a member of the very successful NCAA Equestrian team.  She has an extensive show record including championships at : Maclay Regional Finals in Kentucky, WEF, Hampton Classic. She qualified for, and competed in all major Equitation Finals 5 years running.

She will be available for lessons on weekends. Taylor is a talented rider with lots of experience and she would love to help you grow your skills. Whether you are showing the circuit or just starting out she is here to assist you in achieving your Hunter Jumper goals. Haul-in lessons are welcome.

Contact Margo to arrange lessons at margoreham@gmail.com

Taylor 2.jpg

Taylor Schmidt

 

Welcome to LEC!

HOrsemanship: A Beginners Guide

Strictly speaking “horsemanship” is a term that simply means: the art and practice of riding horses.  However, many (including myself) would argue that horsemanship is a broader term, extending beyond simply riding. In my mind horsemanship is a skill set which encompasses the competent handling, management and riding of horses. 

Horsemanship in my mind covers: knowledge of breeds, colorations, markings, standard brands and anatomy of horses. Knowledge of all pieces of tack, how and why they are used. A functional ability to manage a horse through an endless array of situations: loading in a horse trailer, riding, leading down a barn aisle, familiarization with new places, hand grazing. A horseman should also know equine first aid, the equine digestive system, giving a horse a bath and basic biomechanics…

This is a short list. Because identifying suitable hay, changing tires, mucking stalls, providing and maintaining proper housing, riding correctly, training horses, communicating with vets and farriers, and the entire giant subcategory of "horse showing"  also appear on this list.

When you own a horse you need to know A LOT of things relating to the animal you own and ride, apart from simply how to pilot your steed.  Horsemanship is a broad ranging topic. Becoming a competent horse person is quite the undertaking.

There are many styles of horsemanship.  Traditional, natural and all things in between. Between disciplines and styles of riding and driving good horsemanship means something different. Truly, there is a broad spectrum of expectations.  All of them are hoping to achieve the same thing: happy healthy horses, and good safe riding.

There are a few things a person needs in order to become a true and competent horse person:

1: Time.  Spending time in your riding stable around horses and horse people is important. Becoming aware of the rhythms and patterns of horses and how things are done. Becoming part of the local culture and of course time enough to become fully comfortable around horses, and the situations that present themselves as part of horse life.

2: Observation. A lot of time the best way to learn about horsemanship is through simply watching. Observe horses and observe horse people. Watch what other riders and trainers do, then see if you are capable of emulating what they do. Posture, timing of corrections and asks. What do horse people wear (gloves are a good example)? Observe horses moving and how they act when they are in turn out, when they are in their stall. Watch other people ride, both in clinics, lessons and just for fun. What does posting look like or asking for a lope off? Head set, over-stride. Observe your horse’s reactions to things and the environment and the interactions you share with them.  If a horse is scared or nervous, what makes them better? What makes them worse?  Watch and see. 

Observation includes listening as well. The equestrian world is filled with its own special vocabulary. Listen to how seasoned horse people communicate, pick up the lingo, the special terms and when they are used. 

3: Mentors. If you’re new to the sport or looking to increase your skill, after spending your time in the barn, and observing things, also find the person or people whose horse skills you most admire and refer to them, if possible for help and advice. “If this was your horse what would you do”  Watch how they wrap legs, or handle a spook. Watch how they get a stubborn horse into a trailer or how they lead and handle their horses. Horsemanship is a skill which has been handed down for millennia. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice from people who know more than   you. All horse people get a large portion of their information by asking for help. 

4: Education. Where possible seek out reputable educational materials and experiences. Take riding lessons and askyour instructor or mentor to help you learn how to do things you are unsure of. Read books and magazine articles from reputable sources. Be wary of self-published books, miracle cures for problem horses and guarantees of expertise within short periods of time. Be mindful that ANYONE can post videos on YouTube and the technique you may be watching on YouTube is perhaps dangerous, improperly done or just simply ineffective. 

Good books and magazines have the information you are looking for. “What does the bit do?” “Why do I need to change my posting diagonal?” Becoming a good horseman is primarily an experiential endeavor but a wealth of knowledge can be had from publications. Reading and watching videos can communicate the same concepts you are learning but in a different or more in-depth way. 

Reputable Sources include: (magazines) Equus, Practical Horsemanship, Chronicle of the Horse. (Books) Pony Club Manual of Horsemanship, Complete Equine Emergency Bible, International Encyclopedia of Horse Breeds.

5: Find your own Style. You don’t have to be a horseman like Buck Brannaman. You can be and should be your own horse person. It’s okay to meld natural horsemanship techniques with more traditional methods. So long as it’s safe, and effective develop the style that works for you and be confident in how you do it. The shared language between on rider and one horse may not necessarily work exactly the same for another rider and a different horse. 

Becoming a knowledgable horseman takes time and effort, but it’s worth it! In horses there is no end to the opportunity for expanding your knowledge base. Just when you think you have seen everything and done most everything something brand new crops up to challenge what you know. Horsemanship is something you can take pride in, and that pride will carry over into the rest of your life. Giving you more confidence than before you started your great journey.

Life with Horses

A study was released this year from Sussex University in England which showed that horses can recognize human emotions. To any person who lives with horses or has had a horse for a considerable amount of time likely would exclaim "duh" upon seeing this news crop up in the headlines.  Of course they can! Most everyone has a story of coming out to the barn after a hard day and getting a snuggle or a whinny from their horse.

The reason for this is *Spoiler alert* in large part due to the fact that equine and human have been working together for thousands of years. Over that period of time our horses have learned what our faces, body language and tones mean. Just as we have learned that pinned back ears and snarling muzzles are trouble, they two can recognize a scowl and prepare. 

Humans and horses have existed as a partnership for thousands of years. Across the globe, from China to Chicago there is now and has been: horse culture. Every place is a little different or a lot different but the motives and the feelings are probably pretty universal across the globe. There is something inside of horse people that just connects with this other species. Lord knows human beings have tried to replace equines as work machines and to remove them from our lives but despite, trains, bicycles, cars and mopeds there is no replacement for a horse. 

For me it's the feeling. Simply being around my horses, especially if it happens to be quiet makes me feel very complete. I own 5 horses, and they are all very different animals, with distinct personalities. Some are more independent than others. Some more confident. Some kinder but all good and pure souls. Horses simply are who they are when they are with you. They are genuinely themselves and for this I am usually always grateful. 

I like the first breath I take when I sit down in a saddle on my horse. The moment of connection. The exhale that says "okay, now we're gonna do something together." The first thing I do when I sit down on the saddle is to thank my mount "good boy" because gratitude for the experience is a daily occurrence.

We humans and they horses we are tied together, truly bonded. Somewhere along the line there was a horse and a human someplace. They looked at each other in the eye and they made an unspoken pact "I will take care of you" they both said in their own way. And from there I think, al the rest of it must have began. 

Every day, literally every single day I am excited to see my horses. I have been riding horses for over 30 years and I still every day get excited to ride. I dream about riding. I feel the riding in my body when I watch students move. I do not dream of my car, and no matter how badly I may want a Vespa I'll still never love it so much as I do any horse I've ever owned. 

The connection that can be cultivated between one human and one horse is incredible. Man and horse, we elevate each other to something greater than we would be on our own.

 

It Takes all kinds

It will be 3 years ago in June when Zack and I took over Lincoln Equestrian Center. We had plans to renovate and ideas about what it would take to manage and own such a facility. And dreams, lots and lots of dreams. You have to be a dreamer to be a part of the professional horsemanship world.

There is a lot of advice out there about how to run and manage a successful boarding facility. Things like, cutting costs where you can, managing labor, offering events and specials. One bit of advice was to specialize in one particular type of riding. Apparently, it's a GOOD idea to limit your barn to English or Western. Jumping, or Dressage. Barrel Racing or Reining. It's easier to advertise and market to your target demographic, and supposedly it cuts down on the much despised "Barn Drama." Apparently English and Western riders, according to the Internet are like the Jets and the Sharks. Misunderstanding about the various disciplines apparently creates problems.

Zack and I never adhered to this piece of advice. Yes, certainly, get the best deal on hay you can but maybe just maybe you can build a community of all different types of horse people without the drama. We set out to do exactly that, build a community. Over the past 3 years we've had all different kinds of riders from across a range of ages, and specialties, and not yet have we had a Jets and Sharks dance fight break out in any arena between English and Western riders.

...what we do have is diversity, of horses and of riders. Dressage Queens riding with Barrel Racers. Pleasure riders mingling with jumpers and instead of there being a divide based on tack we at LEC have found harmony because regardless of the shape of your saddle, and if you affix it with a cinch or a girth we are all horse people.