Horse Lessons

For the last three weeks I have been giving my niece, Aurora, lessons in horsemanship. It is fun for the both of us to see where each lesson will go. The first lesson I had fairly planned out but each lesson after that has depended on what skills I believe need reinforcing.

Lesson 1: Groundwork

When working with horses groundwork is more important than the actual riding so she did not ride on her first lesson. She was a bit bummed but she understood how important it is to know the groundwork first.

  1. Haltering – She has to be able to catch the horse before she can do anything with it.
  2. Leading –  Aurora has to be able to lead him from place to place safely without him stepping on her feet because she is only 7 and has short arms I ran a lead rope through a 1 1/2 section of plastic pipe so she can hold it at the bottom of the pipe to give her room to maneuver him without him walking on her.
  3. Brushing – This is fun for the both of them!
  4. Hooves – I have been teaching her to pick up his feet and clean them to be sure he has no rocks in his hooves. She has a hard time with this because Jack does not always pick his feet up nicely and it can be an awkward position until you get used to it.
  5. Lunging – She has been learning how to lunge Jack on a lunge line. This is an important skill because it teachers Jack that he needs to listen to her and it teaches her how to get his attention. They learn to listen to each other.

Lesson 2: Balance

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During our second session she completed all the skills she learned in the first lesson while I gave her a little more responsibility of them.

  1. Bridling – The bridle is what you put on the horse when you ride. The bit gives you control over direction and speed. Aurora learned how to put the bridle on over a small rope halter so I could lead him while she learned how to work the reins.
  2. Bareback riding – Riding bareback can be a little trickier than riding with a saddle because you need to have better balance and there is nothing to hang onto but the horse itself so I started with this. She could feel how Jack moved better and learned how to sit up to keep herself centered.

Lesson 3: Saddling

We went through all the groundwork from lesson 1 before we moved onto new skills.

  1. Saddling – The saddle gives you more stability while riding. I taught her how to put the saddle on although she is not tall enough to put it onto his back. I may find a stool for next time so she can do it all on her own. 🙂
  2. Reining – After Jack was saddled and bridled I hooked the lunge line to a small rope halter that fits under the bridle. Arora worked on keeping him in the circle space and away from me (he kept wanting to see me and complain of his troubles). She had a bit of a hard time with this. I think I am going to try different reins that are tied together so she doesn’t have to keep adjusting length. It’s second nature to me so I didn’t think about it before.
  3. Pace – She also worked at keeping him at a walk. Jack’s a bit lazy and would rather stand there and eat grass so she had to keep him moving.
  4. Unsaddling – What goes on must come off.

When he was unsaddled she wanted to ride bareback again so we finished with that.

We’ve been having a great time and I’m glad she’s sticking with it.

 

Make Hay While the Sun Shines

It’s haying season!

Winters in Wisconsin are long and the summers are short so we have to make hay while the sun shines. Farming is completely dependent on the weather. It can be hard to understand what that means unless you have had to bale hay rather than go out on the lake with your friends or have spent the better part of the day on a tractor in the sun.

It sounds terrible when I put it like that but it’s not. Usually all it takes is careful planning to figure out how you can bale hay while still having a bit of fun. Also driving a tractor can be therapeutic in it’s monotony. Up and down the field, watch whatever you are pulling to be sure it is working properly, up and down the field. As long as nothing breaks the process can be mind numbing.

For those of you who don’t know the process:

  1. Mow the grass.
  2. Let is dry.
  3. Rake it over so the bottom side can dry.
  4. Let it dry some more.
  5. Bale
  6. If the bales are small squares they need to be unloaded or larger round bales need to be hauled off the field.

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I drive tractor for my dad in the summer and he pays me in hay for the winter. This last weekend we brought home a wagon load of hay from his farm and we had to get it unloaded before it rained so everyone helped. I unloaded the bales from the wagon onto an elevator that runs them into the hay mow, Lucian pushed the bales closer to me on the wagon, Trenton stacked the bales up top, Fiona manned the truck, and Jack (the horse) tried to eat the hay so we wouldn’t have to move it.

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Lucian had a great time until he pushed a precariously perched bale and fell with it along with three other bales. When I dug him out and he needed a little snuggle and a break but he was back at it 5 minutes later. He did awesome! We finished in about 45 minutes while Fiona fell asleep in the truck. Afterwards we all went for little swim to cool off. There’s half our hay for the winter settled in the barn.