Ground work is smart work when it comes to horses. One thing my horses are is well-behaved on the ground! I get compliments on it often from folks who handle them at the farm. They don't need chains. They don't need gadgets to handle them. They have been taught consistently and repeatedly to respect humans and their space.
Respectful horse manners is my pet peeve! No walking behind me, on me, past me, pushing me! My horses halt with one word. They back when I turn around to face them, if I move an arm a certain way, if I jiggle the lead, or say "Back up."! They drop their head with me saying "Head Down" or with a slight downward pull of the lead rope. They automatically turn to face me when I lead them in a pasture to turn them out. They stop on a dime when I do. It's a safety thing...it's a respect thing! This doesn't mean they don't spook or get scared, and act like a horse....but it does mean I can break through their natural "flight instinct" and get back their focus and attention in a pinch! Super important because they are after all 1000+lb dragons- when fired up!
I can move herd of 10 + horses that I've established a rapport with off a gate by use of body language, a raise of an arm, a look, and sure, use of voice if needed, because they understand my communication to them in a language they understand. Because I speak their language, they respect me.
I am seeing a need to teach more youth- especially in the hunter jumper realm- more about the fundamentals of "speaking horse" through the use of ground manners and body language! Heck, I see cases at our boarding farm now of many well-trained riding horses need work in this area-especially when I have to lead them in and out. I am amazed at how many walk on me, right behind me...won't get out of my space, push past me, won't back....try to run out the gate.., their sheer size makes this extremely dangerous because they don't have any respect for people space. I don't trust that like my own horses, should they spook, that there is enough solid ground training in them for them to even consider my presence to spook around me at very least...not on top or over me.
Ground-work training in your horse should teach respect for personal space and boundaries and it should be consistently instilled in horses through positive reinforcement of good, repeated, behaviors on the ground. No exception! Common misconceptions about groundwork from hunter folks are: That ground work is boring- understanding horse behavior is essential to safety and corners shouldn't be cut here. What about longeing...that's groundwork, right? In a circle, to get the energy out, right? Actually, it's to assess the horses mental state that day, to see how their moving, and to do mental run-down with them to see how well they are focusing on you before you ride. Are you able to get your horse's attention and keep it?
Ask yourself this: Do you need to be in the right frame of mind to ride your horse? If you are frazzled, nervous, impatient, tired, short-tempered, in a bad mood, angry, anxious, relaxed, happy, content, focused, confident....does that affect your riding ability? Well, same for your horse, Ground work lets you assess where your pony's mind is at before you hit the saddle and take your chances. Ground work does not have to be longeing. It may be just be a few quick few exercises leading the horse to focus attention on you. To see how willing they are to pay attention to your cues and to get them to move their feet. If they aren't listening, you know you are good to up the ante and either do some more intense ground work or throw that leg over for a ride. Maybe riding is not a good idea that day based on the lack of attention your horse gives you EXAMPLE: a windy day, lots of activity going on outside the arena, butterflies, invisible monsters, and "creative thinking".
And horse peeps...btw, it is always okay to not ride and only work your horse on the ground! That is okay! That is good training!
Maybe you only ride 5, 10, 15, 20 minutes based on your horse's attention span fitness,, training level, age, or attitude? Maybe all you do is walk halt transitions. Maybe walk-trot....work your horse where their head is. Where is their mental state? Are you paying attention to that, or are you just running through a routine around and around a circle of walk-trot-canter because that is what YOU think your horse is supposed to do?
NEVER get in the saddle any day with expectations...meet your horse where they are and work them from where they are that day! Not yesterday...not tomorrow! Pushing too far, too fast creates big problems fast that are long lasting and harder to fix once created!
Start on the ground. If your horse can't canter a circle on the ground without shooting flames behind him/her then why on God's green earth would you think they'd be any different with you on their back? Think...use common sense...try and put yourself where your horse is! Would you be pissed off going around and around in a circle over and over with a bitting-rig forcing your head-down and having to use a hind-end that is not strong enough for that type of continuous, strenuous work in a circle? You'd likely blow a gasket too at some point too and try and run away from that! People with the best of intentions can create ticking time bombs in horses with a misunderstanding of horse behavior, ground-work do's and do not's- which is why I think all horse owners should be willing to focus as much willingness to their education of horses on the ground, as in the saddle. When in doubt...the old adage less is more is true to heart with that of a horse!
My lesson students should expect a new ramp up on this soon. It's time to return to roots and start training you how to speak better horse! Off to price some additional round-pen panels too. In the meantime, read this awesome article for a great breakdown of why groundwork is the bomb and very best tool for better riding too.
Click here for an awesome article with more information
As new students start riding with us, new equipment is required. Students, regardless of English or Western, must wear a hard hat. Also, students must wear hard soled boots with a heel. Paddock boots for English riding and/or cowboy boots for western riding.
IEA Horse show attire is more formal. Show team members will need beige breeches, a navy show coat, white show shirt, black gloves, and black tall boots. We recommend our riders visit Saddles N Such at 2135 S Germantown Road in Germantown, TN 38138 for fitting and sizing recommendations. Here are some examples of items we recommend:
Navy Show Coat: Like the below RJ Classics Coat below.
Tan Breeches: Like Piper SmartPak options below
Black tall Field Boots (laces) not hunt boots (no laces)
SmartPak or Dover. Can be synthetic or leather
We like One K, IRH, Ovation, and Samsung brands
MUST be white. We recommend getting a short-sleeved and long-sleeved white show shirt. Can NOT be a polo. Must have the correct collar. See Suggestion here:
Competition is a motivator. Competition can be fun. Competition can be a wonderful learning experience. BUT....Competition can also blur the boundaries between healthy and realistic learning about how the real world works when we fail to let kids/students fail!
So let me just cut to the chase. I'm a HUGE believer that the best way you learn is often to fail! If you do something wrong, you made the choices that led to the wrong occurring. You can learn from such poor choices with a good mentor, teacher, or parent who is wise enough to explain the reason your choices resulted in the failure in order to help you to see alternative solutions that may have led to better choices resulting in different outcomes...better ones! Now here's the tricky part....as parents, it can be SO HARD to allow kids to make choices that result in failure! BUT...it is unrealistic to always win.
It is unrealistic to be the BEST all the time. The real world is harsh. Success in the real world often comes to those that keep moving. Those that bounce back. Those that are resilient. Those that don't give up when something doesn't go the way we want it to. Pain is a reality of life. There is no way to escape it. Learning to cope with disappointment, hurt, unrealized expectations, mean-spirited people, embarrassment, ridicule, hostility, peer pressure, etc....it's all a part of life. Success is turning these experiences into positives and forging ahead! Being adaptable and flexible. Discovering your strengths and weaknesses.
Your kids can either learn to pout, cry, bully, give up, act defiant, behave in poor sportsmanship...or your kids can learn to cope, put on a game face, smile, show good conduct and manners, laugh it off, route for and support their friends, stand up to bullies, or shrug it off because, seriously....WHO CARES WHAT OTHERS THINK? I LOVE kids whose parents have instilled in them a sense of independence and who are strong enough to not give a flip what others think other than those people they look up to and respect!
It is good to strive to become the best you can at something...but you will never get there. Being the "BEST" is temporary. The learning opportunities along the way are what are important...NOT actually the short-lived achievement. The relationships made along the way are what count the most. The relationship achieved between a rider and horse. The working through a problem to a solution. The development of skill and true self-confidence because you work for it....overcome something. The developing friendships when you bond with others that you connect with because of an experience.
Students need to fail often in order to learn. Students need to experience trials, hardship, disappointment along with the joys of success and all the rewards and accolades that may go with it.
Parents need to be brave! Love your kids enough to let them find their way. Love them enough to step back and listen when your kid's teachers and coaches tell you something about your child's abilities that maybe you don't want to hear! Don't take offense to it, be willing to delve in and explore the reasoning WHY! There are very good, plausible, reasons for the WHY that can be solution-ed! Maybe your child is NOT as talented a horseback rider as another child you know of the same age group. Maybe the other child has been riding longer? Maybe the other child is more physically fit? Maybe the other child has more emotional maturity and control? Maybe the other child is able to focus more easily? Maybe the other child rides 5 times a week vs your child riding once weekly? After all, practice makes perfect! All of these reasons, give you a WAY for your child to work towards becoming BETTER for themselves not better than another!
LISTEN to your coach who knows more about horses and riding when they give you an assessment. HEAR what they say. If you do not have years of experience with horses as they do, then they have an expertise and knowledge that you do not! If you feel your child should be jumping big jumps because "Suzy So and So's" mother told you that her daughter is jumping bigger than your child, try saying BRAVO! Don't burden your child with your competitive drive to compete with that parent! That is you, NOT your child! Safety is far more important in this sport than ego! This can be a dangerous sport...especially when ego leads to corners being cut!
Focus on how your child can become better and step out of the way and let your child and an expert pave the way! Be a support for your child and praise them for not winning....rather trying! Praise them for putting in the effort. Encourage them to keep it up, that they will get there and that you think they are doing great! Your child wants to be praised by you for the effort they put in NOT for the end result!
Parents, don't focus on the Winners....focus on the Winners that are being grown! The winners in bloom! That is what the focus is and will be here at Meadowthorpe Farm. We like the color blue, but we like the way to it so much more! If you want to prepare your child for more than just winning blues...if you want to prepare your child to grow and win at life instead, while keeping the love and welfare of horses the main priority... Doing the right thing by your horses...Not pounding them into the ground when they need rest...Not jumping them daily, or multiple times a day in the heat or cold or wet or dry....Bringing them along slowly and steadily and taking the time to prepare and understand WHY your are doing something the way that you are for the horse....being able to articulate that and demonstrate it....while having fun and laughing often...if you care more about what's really important for your child and for horses, then reach out to us. We may be a good fit for working with your child, and you! #WinnersGrowHere #GoodThingsGrowHere
What better way to celebrate Meadowthorpe Farm's one year opening anniversary than at the Germantown Charity Horse Show this week! I can't believe it's been one year already?! I cut back teaching several years back to focus more time on my corporate career, family, a relationship, and my horses. It was a tough decision because I ADORE starting kids out with horses, but what felt like a good thing for me at that time (despite smacking my forehead plenty of times wondering what in the world was I thinking giving up my beloved students?!?!) turned out to be a blessing in disguise and just meant to be. Just as I scaled back, my mom had a massive stroke, which changed life as I'd known it completely for me. On top of that, my dad's dementia got worse. My world was rocked, my foundation & support system collapsed, relationships changed, and new one's emerged...life as I knew it, completely and utterly transformed and new, different, paths presented before me. I jumped from cruising down a country road not paying attention to the rear view mirror & flashers on all around me to FULL SPEED AHEAD on the expressway from HELL bumper to bumper, having to laser focus, face the insane chaos, & perform some slick defensive and offensive driving to arrive alive.
Long story short (likely for another time, lol) life required 200% of me in another arena. Magically, in this most difficult time of overwhelming hardship, the most incredible blessings began to unfold....and this farm was born. This first year goal has been on building the best boarding farm and foundation for our business model with the right barn family members for our unique atmosphere. Somehow during this time, the most perfect group formed...better than I could ever have imagined! I can never give enough kudos to our amazing barn family! Thanks for this crew for helping me grow into the Barn Manager that I am now and will be to come. This year, I'm back in the arena in another capacity. My focus is laser sharp on working with students again. Like this gal right here! My first and only student to ever mount a horse backwards. I'm so glad she's back and that some things can pick right back up where you left off BUT be better! Now, the posting trot is instinctive, natural, and done by feel. I had to rack my brain to come up with creative ways to teach this one the posting trot originally....but EUREKA, she's got it and made me laugh yesterday talking about how easy it is now.
Thanks life for changing! Thanks for working out for the best for me always. Thanks for making me better and teaching me to roll with it and trust in my talents. I am in awe of it all often, and have plenty of challenges daily still. But this year and past few years have taught me that when you can tread water and keep your head afloat, when you can BELIEVE IN DREAMS and yourself and look for the positive and authentic meaning in life when struggles present themselves... when life makes no sense, when you can have the self-confidence and courage to let go of nonsense that is a waste of your valuable energy, bless it, and stand true to yourself, know and stick to your boundaries- with class and integrity...growth occurs like magic! Dreams start to become reality! This is my life AND Meadowthorpe Farm! I'm so proud and happy for our One Year Anniversary. I know great prosperity, fun, and future adventures are to unfold and I am so excited about student and horse progression stories to come.
There are lots of great horse camps in the Memphis Area this Summer!
I've got a "few" years of experience under my belt teaching horse camps and camps in general to youth both as a Riding Instructor, former Teacher, and former Program Assistant for Youth Education programs at the Memphis Botanic Garden. From my experience, here are some tips for selecting the best camp situation for your child!
Check out the Mid south Horse Review's May 2019 issue page 6 for more information on Summer Camps available in our area this summer.
Can we love our horses too much....I believe so!
I grew up in the traditional hunter/jumper realm which is popular in the Memphis area. Mainly because this is what is prevalent in this area. I just wanted to be around horses and ride anything! My mom had saddlebreds growing up in East Tennessee and also showed them when I was a young child. Although this breed was common in Middle Tennessee and East Tennessee, none were in the this area. I'd have given anything to ride these big, bold, flashy, fire breathing dragons. I thought it was normal for them to be kept in stalls, have crazy tail sets, harnesses, gigantic padded feet....I thought breezing them and warm ups down aisles while hooting and hollering and using fire extinguishers was normal too as a kid. This is a common training technique for "accentuating" their already animated nature. Oh my word....these poor horses, lol! At least back in the day, at the end of a show season in the wintertime, it was common to pull shoes, let them grow out their woolly coat and whiskers, and put them out for winter to let them have some down time, be horses again, and get a break from all the hoopla people put them through during the show season. That was probably their only saving grace to sanity.
Growing up hunter jumper, we had a routine. Horses stayed up summertime when hot, and were turned out in the evenings with buddies. Horses went out in groups- mares and geldings alike. Horses did not go out in turnout blankets- they were not an invention yet! They got their stable sheets and blankets if needed at night time. We let their coats grow to warm them. We didn't have armor-like bell boots and turnout boots or scrim sheets or hoodies or slinky's or sleazies...or whatever the heck they're called now, lol. Horses didn't show 12 months a year, and we often pulled shoes over winter too....but we still rode and played, and had fun when able to. We trail rode, did gymnastics, played bareback games...had fun. What's happened to the fun? What's happened to letting horses be horses?
I think we horse people often get caught up in routine and doing things because we see others do it without really thinking...what's the point of this? Why are we doing things this way...really? Is it out of fear...are we going along with the crowd...is it REALLY for our horse's benefit or is it for our benefit?
Thinking like this has helped me stay in touch with my horses...I stop and think is this going to make my horse happy, really? Here's the deal. Horses survived in the wild, with other horses, with no booties, ear bonnets, sleazies, in the rain, in the cold, in the heat, with the bugs, with dirt, mud, rocks, lightening, with wild boars.....now I'm the first to admit that some of mine would have been toast...natural selection would not have been on their side (which is why God placed them here, with me, the only owner that could love their special quirks....at this point in time, lol!) Point being, when we take our horses so far away from their nature and the things that they prefer....when we make them so delicate a creature that they can't emotionally handle life as a horse any longer....what are we doing??? The issues in our horses are created most often by owners Don't create problems in your horse by loving them so much that you take them away from who they are at heart! Horses are happiest when we allow them to be a horse, be with horses, and do the things that horses do true to their nature....not ours! There's a valuable lesson in this for people. When we can "let go" of our need to control, we become happier souls too. Worry is the tool of the devil. Contentment in the moment is peace and powerful and strong. Horses can teach us how to find this if we listen to their nature.
A goal of Meadowthorpe Farm is to encourage more youth to experience horses. To have an opportunity to learn about them, learn from them, and continue to learn and grow moving forward in life. Horses teach invaluable life lessons to people about life, about people, and about oneself. As manager of Meadowthorpe, I could have kept this farm all to myself, done my own thing with my own horses, focused on myself, my riding....gone the adult amateur horse show route. But that's not really me, and that's not the route I'm taking...at least not right now. I want to help introduce more Memphis local kids to horses for the fun of it, for the learning, and for horses. I want to inspire kids to pursue their horse interests in college-whether as a field of study, on an equestrian team, or as a career choice. I want kids to have more opportunities, like I did growing up locally, to participate in horse events and venues affordably and demonstrate through example that there is not "one model" for experiencing horses.
I'm fed up with the increasing elitism I see happening in our local area, throughout the country, and worldwide when it comes to horses (especially the hunter jumper disciplines). So, I'm using the opportunity God's graced me with and groomed me for to work towards finding more opportunities for average folks & kids to learn about and love horses. I want kids to have more opportunities to go to horse shows and compete. I want kids to have more opportunities to work together with other kids and adults and learn from each other about horses. I want to give adults opportunities to mentor kids and share their wisdom. Collaboration and learning is a powerful thing. I had these opportunities when I was a kid. Our area had more of this then.
I'm excited to see the re-emergence of schooling show venues that offer something different and focus on fun and affordability. I'm here to try and help keep this out of the box, alternative, friendly and forward- thinking mindset going, and work with others to "level the playing field" so to speak in our Hunter/Jumper area in order to offer something new, different, and transparent for folks interested. Kids are hungry for it, parents are hungry for it, and truth be told, I think many horse folks feeling "stuck in a rut" are hungry for it too. Inclusion and openness, collaboration, structure, accountability, alternative learning paths, hobbies, and motivators....our kids are begging for these along with parents and our community. We'll see what happens. More to come....