Back to School: Keeping Horses in Your Life

Written by: Emma Knight

I go back to school in three weeks. THREE weeks.

Where has the summer gone?

As our thoughts go to difficult math equations and dry literature, remember that horses de-stress and relax us!

Here are a few ways to keep involved with our four-legged friends, whether you’re leaving your best friend at home while you move states, live an hour away, or live a few minutes away. This also applies to middle and high school students or college students living at home as schooling is distracting and stressful at any level, from any place.

  1. Ride as Normal After School
    This is the most obvious option. If you are close to your own horse or still in middle/high school, this is probably the option for you. This also works if you are blessed with the funds and means to drive to a lease horse or lesson barn near you!
  2. Start an Equestrian Team or Club
    This is what I did last year at my school a few states away. This club had less than 10 members, but it was a fun way to meet other equestrian people and motivate each other.
  3. Join an Equestrian Team or Club
    If you are serious about riding as a career or part of a career, seriously consider going to a college that already has a club or team.
  4. Ride Your Horse/Lease Horse on the Weekends
    This may seem simple, but it’s a good idea. If you’re a partier, ride in the early afternoon to give yourself plenty of time to recover from the night before and to give you time to get ready to have fun again in the evening! (If you’re not, like me, go whenever you want!)
  5. Working Student
    If you are organized and able to handle multi-tasking, becoming a working student may be the job for you. In exchange for cleaning stalls, turnout, or feeding, you can ride for free! This will usually give you lessons (free or discounted) and a variety of horses. (Warning: this is not an easy choice!)
  6. Volunteer
    Volunteering for therapeutic stables or rescues is a rewarding way to work with horses for free. Often these positions are non-riding, or you may have to work your way up to riding. Grooming and loving on these horses is very important!

Let me know what you do with horses during school!

Balancing A Life with Horses

 

Written by: Sarah Lewandowski

Balancing work, school, and a job in horseback riding is difficult at times. Sometimes you feel that you almost can’t juggle so many tasks at once. I’m here to tell you that it is possible, and I’ve been doing it for over 10 years.

One important thing about juggling so many different activities is that you need to know how to be organized as well how to prioritize your tasks. I work over 40 hours a week as well as riding horses 4 times a week. I also go to school which I study about 10 hours a week for, and I also have a social life.

What I found to be the best way to keep everything organized, as well as prioritized, is to have a planner. Usually on Sunday night I sit down for half an hour and write down what needs to be done the following week. If I have any major projects at work, I’ll write them down in one color; if I have a paper to write for school, I’ll write it in red pen; if I have any horseback riding lessons/riding just for fun, I will write it in a purple pen. When I do this, I can see what I have to do and how close activities are together, and then I can see if I need to change anything or if I need to move some activities around.

Dos and don’ts of organization:

  • Do you make sure that you leave enough time for yourself – it’s really important to have time for yourself because you don’t want to feel overwhelmed.
  • Don’t squeeze everything into one day. Make sure that you don’t overlap activities because you will need to finish one activity before you start another.
  • Don’t I learned the hard way that there’s no point in procrastinating on projects or assignments that you need to get done. Try to get it done ahead of time!
  • Do make sure that you still have fun!
  • Do make a schedule to know what you have coming up that week, for appointments, or activities.
  • Do make sure that you dedicate one place to keep your things. You don’t want to be running around in the morning before school looking for your book. When you keep all your things in one place it will make life easier.

Learning to Fall

Written by: Sarah Lewandowski

How do you prepare for a fall?

Anyone who’s been riding horses will tell you that they have fallen off before, but how do you actually prepare for a fall? There’s no guarantee that you will fall without injury but the following tips may help you reduce the impact from the fall while riding.

Why would you fall?

There are some reasons why you could fall, including but not limited to: the horse could refuse a fence; they could be naughty and buck you off; they could fly over the jump and throw you out of the saddle; they could trip or spook.

Before you get on:

Before you get on a horse make sure that you and the horse match each other’s skill sets. Make sure that you aren’t riding an advanced horse that you can’t control. Make sure that are riding in a safe environment for your skill level, for example, if you’ve never ridden outside, make sure you don’t go outside. Make sure that your stirrup lengths are correct and that you have the right size saddle. The most important part is that before you get on, you should make sure you check your girth so that it doesn’t slip when you are riding your horse.

What should you do when you do fall?

When you do fall it’s going to be very fast; everything will be happening in milliseconds. What I learned from riding is that what you do for make sure that you follow almost into a ball.  When you do fall into a ball you’ll be less prone to injuries because you are in a smaller, confined body position. For instance, if you did fall and try to spread your arm out or legs out you put more pressure on that certain body part which could cause injury to that arm or leg. If you do fall into a ball this will give less of a chance for your horse to step on you.

*You should always try to land on your feet or back, but if these are not an option, falling in a ball will protect you as much as possible. Think “Tuck and Roll.”

Should I grab onto the reins?

This is a huge debate. Should you grab onto the rains when you are falling? Not everyone agrees with holding onto the horse once you have fallen off. If you do hold onto the horse this increases your chances of your horse landing on you or stepping on you. It can also painfully the horse’s mouth or nose, depending on what type of headstall you are riding in. Not only could the horse injure you, but it could also injure itself if it feels threatens or too confined. If you do decide to try and hold onto the horse when you fall, never wrap the reins around your hand. This is extremely dangerous because your horse could start running with you, dragging you by the hand.

*Every rider should practice emergency dismounts to prepare both horse and rider. This means dismounting at a moving pace, usually at the walk or trot. Be sure to drop your stirrups before dismounting so that you don’t catch your feet and make an emergency dismount into an actual fall. This is a good time to teach your horse to immediately stop and stand after their rider falls.

How can you prepare?

You’ll never know when you are going to fall, it might be at a lesson, a hack, or even at a show. There are a few ways that you can prepare:

Make sure that you have an approved helmet, and make sure that it fits you correctly. Don’t use someone else’s helmet, a helmet is supposed to fit you.

It’s very important that you check the girth before you get on. When you check the girth, this will make sure that the saddle is sitting properly and that it won’t slip if something were to happen.

Have a cell phone on you. This is why I always have it on me, just in case something were to happen so that I can always call 911 right way. If you do decide to carry it make sure that it is on vibrate or on silent so that you don’t spook the horse. Invest in a good armband or breeches with deep pockets to carry it

You can also practice falling off a small stool onto some mats. This will give you the feeling of a fall. This way you can practice how you will fall and protect your self.

Practice emergency dismounts. Every good rider should know how to do these. Start on a steady horse and eventually work up to any type of horse.

Stay safe!

The Value of Volunteers

Post by: Emma Knight

Well, they’re really invaluable. Priceless. Irreplaceable. Exceptional.  Whichever way you write it, volunteers keep eventing going. It would be literally impossible to run horse trials the way they are now without volunteers. For example, you need scribes and runners for dressage, jump crew and timers, cross country jump judges and timers, and that’s just the beginning.

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I was inspired to write a little blog about and for volunteers by the USEA. The US Eventing Association has recently started a new Volunteer Incentive Program, or VIP for short (Apps in the Apple Store and Google Play). It’s a way for organizers of the horse trials to keep easy tracking of volunteer sign ups. I also believe there are certain “incentives” for the volunteers as well, although the information on that is lacking. Be sure to check the VIP site for updates! One of my favorite event hosts, Stone Gate Farm, is trying the program at their spring event, the Winona Horse Trials (Hanoverton, Ohio – Area VIII).

My hope is that it makes volunteering easier and incentivizes more people sign up to volunteer. Volunteering is an important way to give back to the eventing community. Not only is it a form of community service, it’s a fun way to get to know the rest of the eventers in your area. There are usually multiple events throughout the year, as well as smaller jumper or dressage shows, so there should be at least one you can volunteer at in the year for farms near you.

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Here are a few things to remember about volunteers:

  • They are there all day: rain, sun, freezing cold, or sweating and hot.

Remember that volunteers aren’t just there for one ride. They are often outside all day, through all sorts of weather, doing jobs to make sure riders can get the best ride possible. Especially with cross country judges, who usually sit in isolated spots, giving a smile or a wave can make their day!

  • They are there to help you.

Volunteers are usually riders or family members of riders. They know what it’s like to be in the place of a rider – so, anything you need (that isn’t unauthorized assistance), volunteers will usually be happy to help!

  • They are committed to the sport of eventing.

If there is one way to tell if a person is committed to eventing, it’s volunteering. Like what I said before, volunteers are out all day to help you. They take time out of their days to volunteer so that you can ride.

So, smile, say hello, and volunteer if you can. Make sure to thank a volunteer the next time you’re at an event – they are there for you!

I am planning on vlogging my volunteer day at Winona Horse Trials on Sunday the 14th, so keep an eye out for that on my blog or YouTube channel!

– UEquestrian
www.uequestrian.blogspot.com
www.instagram.com/knight.eventing
www.youtube.com/channel/UC5PCpQfhlAMa_fDbQ4ZEprw

Tips For Switching Barns

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Photo provided by Emma Knight

 

Written By: Sarah Lewandowski

We all know the time will come when we need to switch barns, but there are a few important questions to answer. When is the time right, what do we look for in a barn, and how do we tell our trainer and barn owner that we are leaving the barn?
Thinking about making that choice of moving barns from my experience, I’ve made a list of tips:

  • Don’t change barns because of one bad accident. Try it again, get comfortable!
  • Do change barns if there is poor or careless management
  • Do change barns if you feel that the trainer isn’t caring about you enough, or if they are no longer challenging you.
  • Do switch if there is a lot of barn drama, and you hate going to the barn.
  • Do switch if you feel like your horse isn’t getting the care that they need: This is your money after all!

If you do feel that you want to leave the barn, you need to grab a laptop and look up a few places and then call or email them to make an appointment with the trainer to talk to them in person. We live in a world where technology is so advanced now that you can go online, find the barn, see reviews of what others think of it, and see pictures or even videos of how the barn looks like.

When you go out to talk to the trainer, look at how the barn is – how far away is it from your house, is it clean, are the horses kept for, or are there any fences falling over? These are very important factors when looking at the barn.
When you talk to the trainer ask them how their lesson plan is, how many times a week their riders ride, what shows they go to (if you’re interested in showing), what type of footing they use, if the trainer shown in any competitions, is the trainer good with kids, and very important, talk to the people at the barn. Ask them if they like the barn, if the trainer is good – listen to their opinions of the barn.

If you have a horse, ask about the care: how many times a day do the stalls get cleaned, how often do they give hay to the horses, when do they feed the horses, and what is their turn out like?

When you go see the new barns, make a rating sheet. On a scale of one to ten, put down the barn, the trainer, location, horses, lesson costs, etc.

Ask if the trainer to do a trial lesson. See how the trainer is during the lesson: what kind of pointers do they give you, what does this instructor do differently than your current one, do they like teaching, and can you see if they have a passion for riding?

Take your time in making the choice; you don’t need to rush to make your decision. Make sure that you are happy and that all your needs are check off on your list.

So, you found the barn that you love, and you want to make the switch. How do you tell your trainer that you want to leave them?

  • Make sure you’re one hundred percent sure that you want to leave the barn for a good reason.
  • Write down why you’re going to leave. Try to gather all your thoughts and get a clear reason why you want to leave.
  • When you do sit down to talk to the owner/trainer make sure you’re very professional about it. Thank them for their time and their service and tell them why you are leaving.
  • Don’t feel guilty about leaving your barn. We live in a time where people are going to be changing barns, and it’s normal. Horseback riding is very expensive and you shouldn’t be throwing around your money at a place you don’t want to be at.
  • Don’t give a last-minute notice. Many contracts require a 30-day notice. If you do own a horse make sure you look at your contract and read it to see how much of a notice you need to give. Barn owners may not like it if you’re moving less than 30 days without notice.
  • Don’t burn any bridges. You might see this person again,
    so make sure you’re professional, nice, and reasonable.
  • When you do leave the barn, don’t talk about them behind their back. Chances are they will find out what you are saying, as the horse community is a small one, and everyone knows everyone!

Changing barns can be a new and exciting experience. While it can be a stressful time, these tips will help to make it as smooth of a transition as possible, allowing you to focus on starting a better experience at the new barn!