The title of today’s post isn’t about the miniature horses in the photo but more accurately is meant to sum up how I felt after my adult beginner horse class on Saturday. It was 4 hours, only about an hour and a half of that was spent actually on the horse, but I still felt sore EVERYWHERE. I forgot how many little random muscles you use when riding horses… and now, I remember! OH YES! I remember. I would have written about this sooner but I had major soreness and cat drama issues (One of mine cost me a small fortune in emergency vet bills and a litter of kittens is taking over my game room; their mother, our feral mommy cat, is trapped in a cage outside in my back yard waiting for her SAAF spay appointment so she will stop getting knocked up!! Stupid TRAMP! Blarg!!!). SO, without further ado…
Here is the website and description for the class at Valley Water Mill Park Equestrian Center here in Springfield, MO:
Adult Horse S.H.O.E. Program: This class is designed specifically for the adult who always wanted a horse or just wants to get back into something they did in their youth. This program will teach the basics of all-around horsemanship including safety, grooming, handling, tacking, and riding techniques. Each student will have their own horse. Come join the fun and learn how to care for, ride, and simply enjoy the world of horses! Each class is limited to 6 students.
Valley Water Mill Park Equestrian Center 833-3291 or 833-9673
Age: 18 years and older
Date: Saturday, , August 20
Time: August class: 8:00 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.
Fee: $40 per adult/per class
I arrived about 15 minutes early after taking in some medication for my high dollar cat at the Emergency Veterinary Clinic on Glenstone. I talked to Jen, our instructor, for a few minutes before the couple that was taking the class with me showed up. It was their 36th wedding anniversary and their daughter had given them the lessons as an anniversary gift. They seemed somewhat less than amused but please NOTE: I would ecstatic to have ANYTHING like this for an anniversary present. Seriously, Matt and I were jealous. This is a very cool gift. There were only 3 participants in this class. We walked down to the barn and the first hour and a half were spent touring the facilities and explaining all the different stations in the barn and their functions. Here are some things I learned during that time:
~You can store grain/feed for horses in broken down freezers. No, Really! You can find them for nothing (because why else would someone want to keep a broken deep freeze). Mice can’t get into them and they keep the feed sealed up air tight so it lasts longer. I thought this was very efficient. Jen, the life long horse woman, came from California and said she first learned about this here in MO. In CA they had used big plastic tubs, which are also good to use if you can’t score a broken deep freeze.
~I learned about the multiple types of bits, bridles, and saddles, and what the purposes are for each of the different kinds. This picture is of their tack room. There was a lot more to the room but this is the only picture I took of it. I was anxious to ride, please forgive me. There were closets and a room designated for a vet, cleaning supplies, etc… as well. Jen said she was very particular about the equipment and nothing could be dragging the floor.
~Something I found pretty impressive were incredibly specific notes and instructions written on a white board in the vet room. This room is not really used expressly for vets, the stable hands use it most of all. The notes were regarding two of the horses who had a sore here or there. There were diagrams as to where the sores were and what treatment they were to apply and directions that they weren’t to be ridden for X amount of time. I thought this attention to detail was pretty amazing. That’s the difference in quality you get from a well managed facility as opposed to a low cost, low maintenance operation. These horses are pretty lucky.
~Jen said they don’t keep the horses in the stalls much, even though the barn and stalls are fantastic there, because the horses need more diverse diets (from grass feeding) and long periods of exercise as well as sunlight. I think she said they graze for approximately 20 hours a day. A horse left in a stall would not be as healthy as these were, for obvious reasons. They grain them once (maybe twice, can’t remember) a day to fill in the nutritional gaps left over from the pasture feeding. Each horse gets one scoop of grain unless they have issues with easy weight gain, in which they get half a scoop. There again, her attention to detail impressed me. Speaking of feeding, all seven horses were brought in and fed by one of the paid hands, a 19 year old pre-med student who you will see in the videos later. She was pretty impressive, she helped me clean my horse’s hooves out!
Jen (pictured here) used my chosen horse, a black Quarter horse named Sully who was approximately 16 hands (maybe 15, again, can’t quite remember), to show us how to put on a halter. She showed us two ways: one for regular sized people (I’m assuming anything over 5’7 would work on this one) and then one for short people. I, of course, standing all of 5’4, had to use the second one. This was a piece of cake. Jen taught me the proper way to hold his lead rope, which frowned upon wrapping the rope around your fingers. I had the lead portion of the rope in my right hand and a sort of upside down U in my left hand… no coiling it around my fingers. She kept having to remind all of us of this rule. It is such a natural tendency to want to wrap it around your fingers, it is also a good way to lose some fingers. Live and learn I guess!
We had to do all the day’s lesson in the indoor riding arena because it was raining and thundering pretty crazy like. Here are all the horses that were used: The grey and white one is Levi and belongs to Sheriff Arnott, it looks like a silver dapple but is actually registered as a blue roan due to the darkness of its color when it was younger; Skipper is the red dunn on the end and the most good natured, get up and go, non-lazy of the three; Sully is the black one, and he was not feeling his oats this morning. He did not want to be ridden that day. I’m sure my awkwardness and the fact that I should be on a hobbitt sized horse instead of him wasn’t helping much. Just a NOTE: I have videos of a lot of this stuff but am having trouble posting them due to a learning curve with YouTube. I will get them on though and eventually link to them in this article. Patience, my precious, it must have patience with us!
Next we learned how to brush and groom the horses, each one of us being given a bucket with our horse’s name on it. We used the curry brush the most, a small, rubber knobby looking thing that strapped to my hand, to rub in circular motions which all the horses seemed to adore to the point of falling asleep. Then we used a bristle brush to get out the dust and to clean the curry comb between portions of brushing. After that there were the mane and tail, which we used normal hair combs on, and then cleaning out the hooves which required this giant scarey tooth brush looking thing with v shaped metal hook on the back of it for getting out huge clumps of dirt and rocks. Apparently horses can feel almost nothing inside the bottom of their hooves because I pulled a big rock out of one of Sully’s.
Doing the front legs wasn’t a big deal, I really enjoyed it actually, but doing the back legs frightened me. I have been kicked in the chest by a horse before (many years ago and YES, I was being an idiot when it happened). In this instance, I wasn’t looking forward to stumbling and being kicked in the head too. This is where the red-haired 19 year old helper came in and kept trying to get me not to be so nervous. I wasn’t really nervous about much of anything after the back hooves were done. To her I have an apology to make for not remembering her name. Honey, if you see this, I assure you, I will find out your name and insert it at a later date because you deserve it! You helped me so much!
After that we bridled our horses and then put on the blanket and saddle. Then came time to actually get on. There was a step to help us get on. I was waiting for it patiently when Jen looks at me and says something to the effect of “What are you waiting for?” I said “Um… hello! I’m waiting for the step!” She looked at me and laughed. “You used to own a horse, I know you can get up there on your own. Did you even try?” I looked at her scornfully “No! Are you kidding me? I’m too short and too fat!” She laughed and goaded me into trying, so I did, and now, after the humiliation of not being able to pull my short fat butt up onto that horse, I have a nice horribly painful pulled muscle in the back of my left thigh as reward for my effort. Harumph! All jokes aside, Jen was a great teacher, I appreciated how down to earth she was. It made me feel like I was around my brother in law again, and that was one of the things I had hoped to gain from this experience. I can’t wait to hang out with her again when I go along to watch my sister to take the class in October.
Sully was very grumpy about being forced to saddle up and carry my big butt but in all fairness, I don’t think he would’ve wanted a skinny butt either. He tried to nibble on me and nip at me a couple times out of grumpiness for which he got swatted by the younger red haired trainer chick. I learned the difference between direct reigning and neck reigning. I tried to neck reign him only, because it is gentler, but he kept turning around and going where I didn’t want him to go, which was always back in the direction of the entry gate.
I felt like I was being too forceful at times, yanking him this way and that, forcing him to do a complete 180 to the other end of the aren when he pulled around to go back to the gate. When I asked Jen if I was being too mean to him she replied “NO, you need to be much meaner than that, Don’t let him lead you, You lead HIM. If he goes somewhere you didn’t tell him to go, you need to correct him. Show him who is in control.” So, I did as she said. Again, and again, and again. We did this test where we walked over weird things like plastic tarps and pool noodles and play mats, an exercise designed to show the horse that even though you are making him walk over things he would normally avoid, he can trust you to lead him safely. Compared to the other two, I thought Sully and I did pretty well.
Next we practiced weaving through cones in a serpentine pattern; He did well when facing the gate but when I asked him to turn around and go back toward the other end of the arena, he kept trying to turn around and go the other way on me, so again, I had to direct reign him and force him to turn back around away from the gate. Once I made him walk to the end and then turn around and asked him to speed up and he was so looking forward to getting back to the gate that he cantered a bit; it was nice to canter again, even if it was just for 3 seconds. I wanted to do that more after that. He did NOT.
After that we played with giant inflatable soccer balls. The goal was to make the horse push the ball in between these cones that were set up as the goal. It was fun, and I think we did well on that too. Jen accused me of trying to steal the show once, in a playful manner, and it made me laugh because I knew she was just trying to make me feel I was doing well. I wish we had gotten to ride outside. I hate that it rained. Playing soccer was pretty awesome though.
After about an hour and a half we walked them back to the barn, took off their saddles and bridles and brushed them again to check for anything that may have caused a saddle sore while we were riding. Getting out of the saddle was a shocking experience. I was immediately sore. I voiced that to Jen and she just kinda laughed and said “Really? That soon?” Yes, Jen, Really, that soon! That’s what happens when you sit in an office chair day in and day out for years. I need to start walking and doing my lunges and squats again. I feel Pathetic.
So all in all, I had a pretty great time. I wish I had taken the class with some friends or something though. I guess I am going to start taking riding lessons once or twice a month if I can afford it. I want to get better in the saddle and better at saddling and bridling so when I do eventually buy a horse, I will be more confident than I was last Saturday. Ultimately I am looking for someone who would let me ride their horses but I know that’s pretty difficult to find these days, especially since I know so few people with horses. Maybe one day, I guess. One day.
I would definitely suggest this class to anyone. The people at this facility are friendly and I look forward to talking with them again during heather’s lessons next month! If you have a horse, I hear this facility also has some pilates on horseback classes that will blow your mind! I am jealous that I don’t have my own horse to be able to take this class, but again, maybe some day. 🙂 Please comment and tell me about YOUR horseback riding experiences!!!