I wrote this article some time ago – but it is always important information to keep in mind when working with first-time riders…
Many people know that I have had horses for years. And like me, I’m sure you get frequent requests from people who want to ride your horses. Does this sound familiar? “My children love horses, they have always wanted to ride a pony!” Or, “I used to ride horses (at summer camp), I know all about them, could I ride yours some time?” The automatic answer is “Sure, just let me know when!” But afterward, we realize that this is not just a “ride”.
Tip 1: Any first-time rider should have instruction before they take their first ride. This takes extra time on your part, but it is a very necessary step. If not, it could be dangerous for them, as well as you.
I talk to numerous people, and many times the subject of horses comes up. About 90% of one-time riders tell me the same story. “Yes, I rode a horse, got bucked off and that was the last time I will ever get near a horse.” The accounts amaze me; horse bites, riding run-away horses, saddles that fall off, getting kicked, and all because the horse owner did not give any instruction beforehand. I try to explain that if they would have known a few simple things before they got on the horse, they truly could have had a wonderful experience. Most people shrug and say ”never again.” With a little instruction, we can help put a stop to these incidents and make first time rides safe and enjoyable.
Before a rider ever gets near the horse, we need to explain some key points. Riders of any age should know that you will be assisting them, and they must listen to what you tell them for their safety.
One of the first steps we can take to help ensure a great experience is with attire.
Tip 2: Proper helmets should be worn, as well as a protective boot or heavy shoe with a heel. Flat-soled shoes increase the risk of the foot slipping through a stirrup and getting caught-up.
Tip 3: If you have protective vests, use them also.
Tip 4: During the warmer months, let parents know that long pants are the best attire. Although shorts may keep their child cooler, a pair of jeans will be much more comfortable than a child’s bare legs rubbing against the leather of a saddle.
Some other basic instructions should include:
Tip 5: How to touch the horse by gently petting, not patting, with easy movements. Explain that horses can spook with fast movements.
Tip 6: Voices need to be kept at indoor levels for smaller children, not outside voices.
Tip 7: Explain how to walk around a horse at least 2 arm-lengths away from the horse’s haunches and tail. If younger children are involved, walk with them explaining how far this distance is.
Tip 8: Talk about walking around the front of the horse, touching him as you go, and talking to the horse.
Tip 9: Small hands, as well as adult hands, automatically reach to the horse’s head and mouth. Show new riders how to hold their hands. If you allow people to feed your horses treats, show your guest how to hold their hand flat and feed with their palm instead of their fingers.
Tip 10: Explain that you stand on the left side of the horse to hold, lead and saddle-up.
Tip 11: Show how to lead properly by having slack in the lead rope and allowing the horse to carry his head at a natural level.
Tip 12: The lead rope should NEVER be wrapped around a hand or arm. If smaller children have a hard time with a long lead rope, find them a shorter one or help them hold the horse.
Tip 13: . Demonstrate how to brush the horse, with a curry-comb first and a brush second. Show them how to follow the direction of the horse’s hair. Also, explain the “ticklish spots” and areas where gentle brushing needs to be done.
Tip 14: New riders should never ride a horse that is not a calm packer. If older (or younger) riders ask to ride a horse because they like the way it looks, but the horse is too spirited, tell them “no”. It is better to have a bit of disappointment than the consequence of an accident.
Tip 15: Once you have groomed and saddled the horse, be sure to use a lead rope or a lounge line with the horse. The best scenario would be to have a small paddock or round pen to ride in, in addition to using the lead rope or lounge line. This will give the new rider a sense of security, helping them to relax.
Don’t forget how it feels to ride for the very first time. It seems very high from the ground, unbalanced, almost like you could fall. It feels like you’ve lost control, and there isn’t much to hang on to! Take these thoughts into consideration and you’ll realize that a short, well-guided ride is better than a long, unsupervised experience.
Tip 16: Due to liability issues, be sure your insurance will cover any mishaps. It is an issue that most of us feel will never come up, but many accidents can turn into more than ever expected.
Tip17: Be sure all young riders under 18 have parents present with consent to let their child ride. Be sure all older riders understand that accidents can happen, and they are not going to hold you liable.
Tip 18: Contact your insurance company, the experts in this area, and get their advice before you let friends ride. It’s worth it.
Tip 19: Additionally, check the equine liability laws in your state. Some states require that signs be posted throughout a facility, while others require signed waivers. Some require both. Make sure that you follow whatever your state requires so that you, your horses and all riders and spectators are protected.
Tip 20: Give the gift of kindness when you think about allowing someone to ride your horses. Be sure it’s a safe, informative, and fun experience. After all, we all have our passion because we truly enjoyed a horse ride-way back when. Pass it on!
Copyright 2010 Ramm Fence Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
Share and Enjoy
Pasture rotation and having a sacrifice area is one of the best ways to combat ‘happy horses’ on damp ground or mud in a pasture. Cross fencing your pasture allows you to let one or two pastures rest while you turn your horses out in a sacrifice area.
This area does not have to be especially large but big enough to accommodate the number of horses you are turning out with adequate room for horses to freely move away from each other. The key to this area is drainage. Be sure your sacrifice area is either on high ground or has drainage tile installed to eliminate standing water.
Remember to provide a grass hay (roughage) so that your horses can ‘graze’ as this area will most likely be a dirt and/or sand mix.
Once your pastures begin to dry, you can rotate your horses between pastures and your sacrifice area allowing pastures to rest. When it is wet in the spring or you have standing water from inclement weather, move to the sacrifice area. This should help to alleviate mud issues and give your horses firmer and stronger ground for pasturing.
- In the spring, drag your pastures to knock down manure piles and seed resting areas with a pasture mix that you can get from your local seed company. They can advise you on the best mixes for your horses and your area. Be sure to wait long enough for strong grass growth before turning out horses.
- aeration can help pastures in spring along with seeding consult local farmers or seed experts
- Fertilize pastures before a good rain. Ask your local seed company how many days you need to keep horses off after rain. It usually is only one or two days.
- Tile and adding a sand/dirt mix to low areas will help to keep standing water at bay. This is important to discourage bugs and mosquitoes that can infect horses.
Want more tips from Debbie? Visit our “Ask Debbie” section, or submit your own question.
Share and Enjoy
As the horse industry continues to “boom”, more and more people are owning horses for the first time, or finally bringing them home from boarding. With that comes the task of fencing, building or renovating a barn, and many other things that go along with horse care.
While every fencing situation is unique, there are some general guidelines that first-time fencers should follow:
TIP 1: Planning is key for any project.
Allow yourself enough time to choose a fence system and then complete the job properly. Finding a knowledgeable source for help can mean the difference between a fence that will last for years, and a system that needs to be replaced after a few years.
TIP 2: Remember that you get what you pay for. Fence posts are the backbone of any fence system!
Trying to save money by not using bracing and concrete, or buying posts that are not pressure treated often costs you more in the long run. Proper structure is crucial to the life of your fence.
TIP 3: So many times, the difference between a good fence and a bad fence is one vet bill.
Think about this when determining your budget and ask yourself, “Am I allowing enough in my budget to purchase a system that will provide my horses with a safer pasture?” Consider the long-term maintenance of your system as well. A cheaper alternative may cost you more down the road because of maintenance and replacement costs.
TIP 4: Choose fencing that is made for horses.
While this may sound simple, so many people choose a fence just because they are familiar with it, not because it is the best fence for their horse. Barbed wire and bare high-tensile wire may work for some livestock, but these fences were not designed for horses. The material is hard for horses to see, and if a horse runs into the fence, it can cause nasty cuts and gashes. While PVC fencing looks pretty, it was not designed to contain livestock. The material can become brittle in cold temperatures, and should your horse kick or run into it, the fence can shatter and leave sharp pieces. PVC is best when used as a decorative fence, but if you do decide to use it for horses, adding electric fence with it can help keep your horse from contacting the fence.
TIP 5: There are many factors that determine which fence system will get the job done for you.
The size, breed and temperament of your horses, whether they are mares or stallions, your soil conditions, if the area is grassy or a dry lot, how much time the horses will spend in pasture, dimensions of the area you want to fence and many other things all come into play. Give as much information as you can so the right recommendation can be made.
When planning your fencing project, it’s important to work with a reputable company that is concerned about you and your horses. A true professional will take the time to help you put together a project that will get the job done right, the first time. Contact us today and let us help you through your project, from planning to completion.
Copyright 2010 Ramm Fence Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
Share and Enjoy
Some areas on your farm will have higher horse traffic, therefore will be more prone to mud.
Many areas of our country are experiencing a winter that brought colder than normal temperatures and higher than normal snowfall totals. For more than a month, Michigan has remained below freezing temperatures and the snow has kept piling up–many of us are literally running out of places to put the snow! This means when things begin to thaw out in the coming weeks, we will be faced with a muddy mess!
Since we know this mess is inevitable, what can we do to prepare? Below are some tips to help you mange the mud!
Suit up! Be sure you are properly outfitted for a trip to the barn.
- So I can be prepared for a trip to the barn whenever the chance arises, I keep a pair of insulated muck boots at the barn during the springtime. A great tip to help your older boots last longer is to put large plastic bags over your socks. This will eliminate that terrible moment when you “find” the hole in your boot. Wet socks are no fun!
- Have you ever found yourself walking through mud when suddenly your foot comes up with no boot attached? A great tip is to NOT pull your foot straight up, which is likely to cause your boot to stay with the mud. Pull heel first, and you’re much more likely to keep foot and boot attached.
Protect your horse! In addition to mud, spring brings with it many difficulties for the horses themselves.
- Read this Michigan State University (MSU) Extension article on common springtime woes for Michigan horses to brush up on ailments such as colic, thrush and laminitis. (Good article for non-Michigan horse owners, too!)
- Beware of rain rot as spring rains commence.
- Here’s information to help you understand scratches, the equine ailment found often in wet environments.
- Additionally, you may have some questions on what your horse should be wearing. When considering blanketing or not, it is most important to provide your horse an opportunity to stay dry. Wet horses are more susceptible to hypothermia in cold temperatures and dermatologic issues (such as rain rot).
Prep the farm! To best answer the question of how to prepare your farm for mud management, I reached out to some of my horse-owning friends to see how they cope. Their useful tips are listed below!
- It’s best to recognize that whether or not we like it, parts of our horses’ turnout may be destroyed during the springtime. The soft footing that leads to mud will likely kill any vegetation growing where traffic patterns are high. To minimize the damaged ground, designate a sacrifice lot.
- You’ll also want to eliminate low-lying areas as best you can, especially if these are in high traffic areas. This can be done in a variety of ways. Bringing in sand, wood bark, sawdust, gravel or crushed asphalt are all ways to help prevent mud at gates and entries to barns and arenas.
- Another unfortunate side effect of mud is ruts and holes in the ground. It’s a good idea to smooth out these ruts as best you can when the weather is above freezing and the soil is still pliable. As temperatures fluctuate, which they tend to do in Michigan, these deep ruts will freeze when temperatures drop, leaving dangerous holes and uneven ground.
Feed wisely! These tips can help you minimize waste of feed.
- If you’re feeding hay on the ground outside, there are several ways to prevent waste. Feeding on a rubber mat can keep hay from being lost in the mud or water. Additionally, it can minimize the amount of dirt or sand the horses will ingest. Eating sand can potentially lead to sand colic.
- Another way to minimize mud is to encourage horses to change their traffic patterns. Feeding in a different location of the turn out lot each day can help prevent high traffic areas.
While we can’t eliminate the problem of mud altogether, using these tips can help us cope with the inevitable mess of springtime!
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu.