Fly season is here!

Several years ago I went to a session on flies put on by the University of Mn for horse owners to learn about these pesky insects and how they affect our horses. There are about 17,000 species of flies in North America, north of Mexico, so it is no wonder that flies bother both humans and horses! As we all know, flies are more of an issue in rural areas around animals. House flies are dirty and annoying but don’t bite. Stable flies are the biting flies! Blow flies are sometimes called blue or green bottle flies because of their color. Face flies are the flies that sit on and around our horses eyes. Bot flies are probably the most harmful and cause us to have to deworm our horses in the fall with ivermectin.

As you can tell, I and Tez (Mr. Sensitive) do not like flies but there are things that we can do to keep our horses comfortable. First of all we clean our stalls everyday. We do not have a manure pile on our property for flies to lay their eggs in. We actually haul the manure off site every day! We are located on a hill and the breeze helps keep flies off our horses and there is very little stagnant water around our property which helps keep gnats and mosquitoes down. We mow the pastures when the weeds and grass grow up and that helps too. Our chickens definitely help by eating the larvae and they also eat ticks!

Yes, we do have flies but we recognize the problem and have procedures in place to help keep both horses and humans comfortable and able to enjoy the beautiful warm summer days!

Are you a horseman or a rider?

In one of my recent posts I said our goal here at Apple Treat Stables is to develop excellent horse people. So what is the difference between a horseman and a rider? A horseman is skilled in caring for and managing horses as well as riding.

We teach our riders to be “students of the horse” by example. Alisha and I have spent years with our horses observing and living with them, feeding and grazing them, camping with them, raising foals, and riding 1000’s of miles on trails as well as in arenas to develop our horseman skills. Horses communicate with each other and us using body language. We translate what the horse is showing us for our riders.

Our riders learn about running a barn and the horses individually by helping out around the barn. They learn how to lead a rambunctious horse to and from the pasture on a windy day. They may hold a horse for the farrier or the vet. They learn to watch the weather conditions; mainly wind and rain to keep the horses healthy. They learn that hay is fed by weight and some horse are “easy keepers” and others are “hard keepers”. At Apple Treat Stables we have a good variety of breeds, ages, and personalities of horses to learn from.

Introducing Cadenza; lesson horse extraodinaire!

Cadenza is our very well trained beginner lesson horse. He is fun to ride! He is retired from eventing but is still working teaching people to ride. He knows he has a very important job and he takes it very seriously keeping inexperienced riders in the saddle.

He stands patiently to be groomed offering each foot to be cleaned before you ask him for it. He loves to be “fussed over” by his riders, knows that he looks good with his mane braided, and is man enough to wear pink!

He teaches riders to take charge, he knows riders are in charge of direction and speed but he will wander around the arena until the rider learns that important lesson! I can almost hear him chuckling to himself as he joins a buddy with a young rider on his back! He also knows exactly how long an hour lesson lasts and takes his inexperienced rider to the mounting block when the hour is up!

Cadenza is a grey Quarter horse/Percheron cross about 16 hands tall. He weighs about 1200 pounds and is your classic “gentle giant”. Even though he looks more like his Percheron side he has the classic easy to ride quarter horse jog. Everyone at Apple Treat Stables loves and respects Cadenza!

Saturday’s are jumping days!

Saturday’s are busy and fun at Apple Treat Stables! The riders come early to set up the arena according to Alisha’s specifications. The older girls start chores by putting the horses outside for the day, bringing in the tractor and trailer and start cleaning stalls. The first, of four groups of riders, groom and tack up their horses. On Saturdays parents and younger siblings often stay and watch, chatting together. Curt usually brings in donuts to go with morning coffee.

Before riders may jump they must go through warm up exercises which may include no stirrup work, posting no stirrups. or trotting in two point. In nice weather jumps could be set up in the outdoor ring or out in the hay field. When the riders and horses are warmed up Alisha puts them through the lesson of the day. Apple Treat is a busy place on Saturdays!

What exactly is Dressage?

Dressage is the French word for “”training” but it is also an equestian sport with competitions held at all levels from amateur to the Olympics.

In dressage training the rider must learn to sit balanced in the saddle and use their aids; seat, weight, legs and hands to direct their horse. The horse develops elastic gaits and strength to perform the movements. Classical dressage has a training scale which is a pyramid with Rhythm on the bottom followed by Relaxation, Connection, Impulsion, Straightness and Collection at the peak.

In a dressage show the horse and rider perform a series on movements to illustrate how flexible, responsive, and balanced you are as a horse and rider team.

Dressage was developed to train horses for war. Horses can do all of the movements in the pasture but when we add equipment and rider on their back it changes their natural way of going. To help us to understand this concept, think about if we get down on our hands and knees and a child gets on our back for a “horsey ride”. We drop our back, as does the horse when we sit on their back. But to actually walk forward on our hands and knees we have to round our back to carry the child. This is the basic concept we have to explain to our horses, round your back to carry us. It is more difficult to do this initially but they will remain working, sound and moving fluidly for a longer time if they learn to go this way.

When we ride “dressage” we are training both ourselves and our horses.