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Learning the Obstacles

This is my quarter horse, Lakota. Not much to look at, but he is a very good trail horse. Not much in the arena, but then I rarely ride him in the arena. He is just a good dependable trail buddy. Goes through anything and over anything. Although, he is always hungry and does like to snatch a leaf now and again.

I have recently started building a trail obstacle course to teach the horses and my students more about trail riding. We have a lot of fun learning to walk the horses through the obstacles and then to ride them through. This is a great way to get over fears for both and to have fun with your horse.

Fall is a great time for riding with the days cooler and a lot fewer biting bugs. It is also a great time to have your horse in training as well as through the winter months when you won’t be riding quite as much. Here at Baymount Farm we train the horses from ages two years and up. We start them out in the round pen and continue through until they have plenty of saddle time to understand what is wanted of them for the basics of riding. More on our training at Baymount Acres Training.     We take our time in making sure the horse understands the lessons from the ground up before we get in the saddle. Then we build on each task or skill being sure to repeat as often as necessary until they have a good foundation before we move forward.  After we have established a routine for the horse that is safe, we invite the owner to take as many lessons as time allows for them to learn everything we have taught the horse.    This ensures safety, knowledge and an immediate fix to any problems that may arise when we are not there.  Training both the horse and the rider is high on our list of priorities when we are in the process of training the perfect trail horse. 

Contact me at sherry@baymountacres.com or  704-902-7345.

This is Alex. I adopted Alex a few years ago from Ohio. He is an ex-race harness horse. He was retired at 2 and went to a riding school after that. The school apparently stopped using standardbreds and once again Alex was put up for adoption. So, he is with me now.

I love this little horse. He is so much fun to ride. I have used him for lessons. He does jump. But I have had more fun with him as a trail horse. He attached quickly to my daughters appaloosa mare and he dearly loves her. He will follow her around like a puppy dog. I have recently set up an obstacle course for training and Alex has had no trouble going through the obstacles and around the trail. But he does like to have his best friend near him, so he will whinny for her on on occasion when he notices her nearby in the pasture.

Alex will walk, trot or pace, depending on what you ask him to do. If you ask, he will jump logs. Alex is only 15 hands high and he is 12 years old. He is what some would call an almost black in winter, but he is a dark bay. He is tatooed on the neck. I have several horses that I don’t have time to ride regularly and Alex is one of them, so I have decided to sell him.

Alex would be great for anyone, but I like to sell my horses to adults whom I know are set up for taking care of them properly. He would be a great trail horse for anyone and is easy to ride. contact me through sherry@baymountacres.com or 704-902-7345.

 

This is Our Sister Gina,  we lovingly call her Sera for Seranade.  I acquired Sera two years ago at a small farm in North Carolina where she had been rescued by a wonderful woman along with two other thoroughbreds.   I brought her home, plumped her up, had her vetted and started riding her.  We have had a lot of fun and learned a lot about dressage riding on this mare.  She knows a lot more than I do.  We have also ridden her on trails and had lots of fun.  Sera does jump, but I am not huntseat trained and feel I am to old to start jumping horses now, so…

I have been taking lessons on Sera from time to time over the past two years.  She has also been ridden by some of my more advanced students and taken to a show or two.  However, the shows were hunt seat shows and she was shown in equitation.  I have come to the point in my life where I want to slow down.  I would much rather ride a smaller horse (Sera being 16.1) .  So I have come to the area where I am putting Sera up for sale.   She would be a wonderful horse for an advanced intermediate teenager or adult student who wants to learn dressage.  She is very well train, has a wonderful trot and easy going canter.  I have no doubt she would do well in shows, but I am not into showing. 

If interested you can contact me through sherry@baymountacres.com or call 704-902-7345.

I love to go trail riding.  Sometimes I get a little bored on the trail just walking along waiting for the next great place to trot or canter.  Last year I joined ACTHA.   That was a lot of fun and a great place to start learning to accomodate obstacles on the trial and have fun.  After a few trips going to ACTHA rides, I decided to bump it up to NATRC.  

I went to my first NATRC clinic to learn about some of the obstacles and what the judges were looking for as far as vet checks, etc.  I have to tell you that this has me entirely intriqued.  I cannot wait for my first NATRC trail ride where not only will my horse and I be judged on how well we do on the obstacles, but the vet will check my horse to see how well he does overall.  Now I am thinking that I need to use this to prepare me for endurance riding!

Here are some of the obstacles we were trained on:

                                                                                                              

                                                                         The trick to teaching this is to teach it on the ground FIRST before you saddle up your horse and ride.  There were tons more obstacles than I have here and we were each put into groups with an instructor to learn how to teach the horse to approach and accomodate the obstacles.  All in all it was a very good clinic.  Check out NATRC.org for more information on these trail rides, what to expect and where they are.    Baymount Farm is in the process of preparing some of these obstacles for training and will have a course open by mid summer for those interested in renting the facilities for training.   More information on this at www.baymountacres.com.

Many of us take riding lessons to become better riders.  But have you realized that you are also transfering what you learn to your horse and therefore becoming also a trainer while your horse is improving?  Whether you take lessons on your instructors horses or you bring your own horse to a lesson, what you learn from then on will be the way you ride your horse or someone elses horse.  Neat huh?

So when you take your lesson, ask questions about riding theory: why, what, where and how does this particular skill you just learned help you and your horse.  Therefore, when you go back to apply a new skill to your horse that may not know what you are asking, you will be able to think thru the steps and teach it to your horse.   Lessons aren’t just for the rider.  On a well trained horse that knows more than the student, you may feel like you are the only one learning.  Still, what you learn is immediately transferred to your mount.  So, if you keep repeating a skill poorly, you are ‘retraining’ that well trained horse.  

Pick out a few books that explain the mechanics of riding.  This will help reinforce what your are learning hands-on with your instructor and you will be able to ask those questions in a way that he/she will be able to understand what it is you are asking.  Here are Baymount Farm, I have started creating lesson plans for my students so I will know what they have mastered and what they still lack.   This is another way of reinforcing a skill, because it opens they pathways of discussion.   

I serve a large area in the riding industry here in Statesville, NC.   I also serve riders from Hickory, Mocksville and Mooresville, NC.   When you are looking for riding instruction, pick a rider that has credentials: a certificate in riding instruction.  And ask them where there students come from.  Then you will know that the more diverse the riders are the more diverse the instructor is in teaching.   Also look for an instructor who continues to take lessons him/herself.   A good instructor will always be improving their own skills.  Consider it continuing education for their business.

For more on what I do, check out my website:   www.baymountacres.com.   Have a safe and happy riding experience.

Riding in all this mud!

Spring is here and so is all the rain that comes with it.  I do not like riding in the mud, but if I am going to ride I haven’t much choice.  There are always different boots you can put on your horse that prevent skidding.   You can use shoes with studs that help, but….   I, personally, don’t want to spend the time or the money pursuing that preventative option.  So here is what I suggest.   Ride barefoot.

Horses were made to slop through the mud in a natural foot.  So don’t be afraid your horse will slip and fall.  They don’t want to fall anymore than you do.  Just be aware of where you are going and your speed.   Also be aware of your balance on your horse.  Sit up tall, don’t lean side to side, forward or back, keep your heels down and your hands still.  All this will help your horse keep it’s balance and make a safer ride.

Teach your horse to go through mud.  Many horse don’t like to walk through sloppy parts of the trail.   They will avoid that area trying to go around it, which can cause trouble in so many ways.   Perhaps there are trees that you can rub up against, or hanging vines you and your horse can get caught in if your horse decides to avoid a mud pit. 

Make a practice area in your yard or pasture that you can fill with water and make really muddy.   Then take the time to teach your horse that it is ok to walk through this.  Walk by hand first then ride him/her through it at a walk moving slowly up to a trot and canter.   Please be sure your horse has had all the preliminary training of following all your cues on command and is a sound horse before you start.  You don’t want to force this issue or get hurt in the process.  After a few times passing through this mud pit you created, riding through one on the trail will be a piece of cake.

I finally made it.  It started one year ago this month.  I volunteered at a Therapuetic Riding Center in Concord, NC and become hooked.   After that 8 week volunteer stretch, I decided that I had found my niche in life.  I loved teaching riding anyway, but teaching people with disabilities was the most rewarding thing I  had done since becoming a new mother 27 years ago.   So, I made the committment to study, take the tests, and student teach in order to get my certification.

It was a long process, and at times I became very frustrated trying to juggle that with my own riding business and lessons for myself, but I made it.  I just came back from 4 wonderful days in Ocala, FL at the Marion Therapuetic Riding Association where I attended a four day workshop and certification program.  Two and half days of classroom and hands on experience learning about disabilities, adaptive equipment, safety in teaching, plus a day and half certification in riding skills and teaching a 20 minute class to students with disabilities was enough to wear my nerves to a frazzle.   I was second in line for my evaluation to see if I had passed.   I have never seen 15 minutes pass so slowly while waiting for them to call me in next.  I just new I had blown the riding test, because I got so nervous I forgot the riding pattern.   But the test wasn’t about the pattern, but about my riding abilities.   So I passed!  

Then on top of that a biggie, and I mean a very biggie is remembering to close the gate after the riders enter the ring.  On the role playing part where I taught, I FORGOT to close the gate.   In a real situation that could have been disasterous.  And had I done that during my certification while teaching actual students I would have failed.  But I remembered to close the gate, however, in reverse, while they were bringing the horse up to the ramp for mounting, I FORGOT to have them OPEN the gate during the actual evaluation.  But this did not count against me because I remembered before I have the student mount, so all was safe.  Anyway, you had to be there to understand how important this is in the certification process. 

The important thing it, I PASSED!   And I am very proud to be a Registered Riding Instructor for NARHA.    Now this simply means that I can work at a center teaching people with disabilites to ride.  Eventually, I may open my own center, but that is a long way down the road.  My next step is to work toward my Advanced Certification.   This is a lot harder, requires more teaching hours, 120, and a lot more knowlege of disabilites and their relationship to riding.   This may take me a couple of years to achieve. 

Thankfully, I had three wonderful, and I mean really wonderful evaluators.   One was the Advanced Riding Instructor at the MTRA center in Ocala, FL, Kate Robbins.   She did an excellent job as host of the workshop and was extremely helpful in telling us the things we needed to know about the center while we were there and provided breakfast and lunch for us everyday.  Thank you again, Kate.  The other two were Lily Kellogg and Gail Pace from Texas.   They were just as wonderful at putting us at ease, answered all our questions, made sure we did not miss anything and were very forthcoming on constructive criticism and how to do things properly, safely and professionally.   Wonderful ladies, I really enjoyed them.  They all are great teachers full of compassion for people.   

Please look up the NARHA website    www.narha.org.   You will be amazed at how detailed and involved is this organization.

A New Direction In Riding

This was a very special time with a very special horse for a very special little girl.  Baymount Farm hosted a camp and one of the most favorite things to do during the day was to paint the horses!  The kids loved it.  Hands on experience with horses gives children something they can take with them for the rest of their lives.  I have seen them beam as an adult when they are remembering the time they were here at the farm and spent time grooming, picking feet, or just leading the horse around and letting it graze.   Think of the memories and joy they must feel when reflecting on the time they actually painted a horse! 

It always amazes me how being with a horse opens up a person’s awareness of who they are and what they can do.  I have found a new niche in life after changing careers and re-opening Baymount Farm to the public again for lessons and training.  I have also found a new direction in riding that earlier I did not know existed to strongly in our society.  That is using horses for therapy for people with disabilities.   I volunteered last year with a NARHA (North American Riding for the Handicapped Association) Center in Concord, NC called Wings of Eagles.  That was a life changing experience for me literally.  Since then I have been working on getting certified as a registered riding instructor for NARHA.  

I will be leaving soon for a four day on-site workshop and certification program for NARHA.    I am a little nervous and have been studying a lot for this OSWC program.  I have two and half days of workshop with role playing, then a riding test (which should be a peice of cake?), then actually teach a 20 minute class to people with disabilities.  That I am really looking forward to doing.  Hopefully, after all this is over, I will be able to volunteer more time to NARHA centers in our area when I am not busy teaching my own lessons.   The great thing about NARHA certification is that is does not limit an instructor to people with physical disabilities.   We are trained to teach people of all levels; mental, emotional and physical disabilities and people without disabilites.   It has really opened my eyes in learning how to communitcate my instructions about riding to my students. 

There are many certification programs out there for riding instructors and I have looked into quite a few of them.  But the NARHA training is the only one that I have found that offers me what I wanted in training.   I have had to hone up on my horsemanship skills, riding skills, people skills, communication skills, barn management skills, training skills, and get CPR and First Aid certified before I could go to the  OSWC program.  I also had to take tests about NARHA standards and accredidations, learn about many disabilities, get 25 hours of teaching people with disabilities and learn to look at teaching in a whole new light.  In preparation for this I started taking more riding lessons myself in different disciplines just to make sure I was well rounded in my teaching practices.  There has been a lot of preparation for this as I said, but it has been well worth the process and I am excited to be going to the workshop finally.  Hopefully, my next blog will be about my actuall certification.  Wish me luck.

This was a wonderful day in January where I took a group of ladies trail riding at Latta Plantation in Charlotte, NC.  The weather was beautiful and the temperature zoomed to a warm 70 degrees by mid afternoon.  We were able to ride out to the lake and picnic on an outcropping overlooking the lake and watch riders on another part of the lake walk their horses out into the water.   Everyone had a wonderful time.   This is one trip we will be repeating this fall. 

This is part of what we do here at Baymount Farm.  Not only do we teach people to ride hunt seat, equitation, western or just to trail ride, we also train the horses for the trails in order to have save and fun all day rides.  I am lucky enough to have a wooded area in my back property for training.   We cross creeks, mount and dismount on stumps, go over gravel areas, learn to back uphill, walk over or jump small logs, accomodate hanging vines, trot over poles, open and close gates, walk calmly by scary objects, but much, much more.  We often have running and barking dogs, turkeys flying by when spooked, large equipment next door, or horses in nearby pastures wanting to play.   All these distractions just help in our training efforts to get a horse ready for the trail, so they can be ridden anywhere.    We also have a large pond for training them to go into a lake or cross a river.  The more exposure the quicker the horse becomes accustomed to different areas and the safer they are to ride. 

Take your horse out and have fun, but be safe.  Spring is here, they days are warmer and longer.  It’s the best time of year for training.

Stay in the Saddle

Like most riders I am sure at one time you have taken a fall.  I, myself, have taken several.  At one point in time I assumed, like most riders, that I could ride a horse and ride well.  Each time I wanted to take a guided trail ride and was asked if I could ride or what level of riding I had done, I said, sure I can ride.  I’ve ridden lots of times and didn’t fall off.  How hard can it be?  The horses are trained, right????   So how could I not ‘ride’.  It’s easy, just jump on, take up the reins, kick and go……

That’s when we get in trouble, when we (ass)u(me).   I learned quick and I learned well.  Not long after I started ‘riding’ I also started taking lessons.  I wanted more than just to hang on for the thrill of my life at the moment.  I wanted to know I was secure, well balanced and knew what to do with those reins when I was pulling, pulling and pulling and the horse still wasn’t stopping!  So needless to say, just because one stays on the horse does not make one a good rider.  Anybody who stays on a horse can ride.  Correct.  But not anyone who stays on a horse knows what they are doing.  What most beginners and occasional trail riders don’t remember or realize is that these horses are trained to respond to certain ques.  Therefore, it is our responsibility to take the time to learn what those ques are and how to use them correctly.  Otherwise, we are telling our horses to do something and they are saying “WHAT????”, because we don’t really know what we are telling them ourselves, we just ‘think’ we do. 

For instance, if you are riding along and talking to your buddy, looking here and there, moving your hands around and twisting this way and that in your saddle, did you notice that your horse may meander off the trail, walk into the horse next to you or do something else you don’t want it to do?  Do you realize that all that commotion you just made while talking was also communicated to your horse in many different ways and he is trying to figure out what you want?  Your horse feels and hears everything you are doing and trys to stay balanced himself while balancing a bobbing object and sometimes heavy object on his back. 

Think about it, next time you take a walk, hoist a small child up on your shoulders, give them something in their hands to play with and see how balanced you stay in your walk, especially if that child is giggling, moving or bouncing around. 

Take a few lessons, have a better ride, learn to communicate with your horse and be safer on the trail.  Spring is here and we will all be out riding longer hours wanting to have fun.  Make it more fun by becoming a better rider.

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