Spring has sprung which means it is time to start riding my horses again. Last year at this time Penelope was 2 months old so I didn’t really ride. I have a good support system but it was hard to go anywhere when my newborn infant refused to drink from a bottle. My horse is also not trustworthy enough to take a passenger with until he has been ridden all summer long.
Before I saddle up in the spring I work on groundwork:
- Stop/Go Signals
- Grooming/Foot Work
- Lunge Line Work
Jack is 24 years old now but he still needs a short review of the basics before we get started. If I were a good horsewoman I would ride all winter but I don’t like to be cold. This means feisty springtime horses for me.
Last fall we brought home a new horse, Melody, and I didn’t have a chance to ride her before it became cold. We worked on ground work with her before the weather turned but I didn’t get out for any rides.
This year is turning out to be a good horse year. So far I have been working with horses at least twice a week and each horse has had two little rides on them. While both rides were difficult because of recalcitrant horses I still had fun.
Horse lessons with my niece have also resumed for which I am grateful. She is 9 1/2 now and has grown more confident with groundwork but more skittish with getting on the horse. I have been having her work with Melody most of the time because Melody is half her horse. Our lessons always start with groundwork and I have a general outline of what we work on for the first few lessons.
- Lesson 1: Grooming, foot work, gate safety, and leading. During this lesson I get the horse from the pasture while she learns how to open and close the gates safely. Then she learns how to groom her horse and pick-up and clean hooves. Lastly I have her lead the horse while I walk alongside her to give pointers. While they are walking around they work on stop/go commands, turning, and maintaining correct position next to the horse.
- Lesson 2: Haltering, grooming, footwork, gate safety, and leading. This lesson is basically the same as lesson 1 with the exception of learning how to properly catch your horse. Melody is a little hard to catch and sometimes likes to run away so it is good practice for my niece.
- Lesson 3: Haltering, grooming, footwork, gate safety, leading, lunging, and saddling. We repeat the basic horse care skills from lesson 1 at each lesson. Lesson 3 adds lunging which is a simple way of both establishing dominance and exercising the horse. We also went over saddling Melody to fit her to the saddle we would be using on her.
- Lesson 4: Haltering, grooming, footwork, gate safety, leading, lunging, saddling, bridling and riding. Most lessons are a review of previously taught skills with the addition of one or two others. During this lesson my niece completed most of the skills from lesson 1 on her own. After lunging Melody we saddled her and I took her for a ride in the hay field next to our property. When we got back my niece worked on mounting. She was nervous about this part but she did it. I led Melody while my niece “rode” her . As she gained confidence I let her ride while I walked next to her offering advice.
The next lessons will include more riding skills as she grows in confidence and builds muscle. It is also her job to help clean the barn where the horses have been housed all winter. I’m hoping with a little work she will gain muscle tone which will help her when getting on and off the horse.
After my ride on Jack I let each of my kids, nieces, and nephews take a little turn on him. Jack is a temperamental Appaloosa who thinks he is still a stallion but he is GREAT with kids while Melody is skittish and has a proclivity to bolt. At our last horse lesson my nephew was a bit put out because he wanted to ride Melody but I wouldn’t let him. While he likes the horses and will occasionally brush them or take a little ride on Jack he hasn’t shown an interest in being involved with the lessons. He would rather play on the trampoline or on the hammocks which is perfectly fine but if he wants to go for an actual ride he needs to do the work. Riding is the fun part but there is a lot of work involved with horses before you get to that.
We’ll see what next week brings but I am looking forward to each lesson!