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Pony Clubs and Summer Horse Camps

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In association with Healing Horses Sanctuary (operated by BC Healing Horses Society) Equutrails will be running summer horse camps in August 2012. The summer camps will be aligned with Pony Club philosophy where the principals are not just about being on a horse but on caring for and understanding your horse. What does it take to truly be horse owner.

Excerpt from Central Jersey Sun…

Although the name may be deceiving at first glance, the Pony Club offers a lot more than just pony rides. In actuality, the Pony Club fosters knowledge and education about all aspects of horses and horseback riding.
 
The Amwell Valley Hounds Pony Club is part of a larger, worldwide organization known as the United States Pony Club (USPC). The USPC is a reputable organization that has had a number of its members recruited for all aspects of the 2012 Olympics and past Olympics, ranging everywhere from riders in the pentathlon to torchbearers.
 
“There are different Pony Club regions all around the world,” Crawford said. “I’m in the New Jersey region, but there are other ones in other states, too.”
 
Aside from learning how to ride horses, the Pony Club requires its members to learn the anatomy and upkeep of a horse, how to properly clean a stable, how to distinguish between a horse’s different injuries, and almost all of the other aspects that pertain to taking care of and maintaining a horse.
 

The Pony Club also requires its members to read several books about ponies and horses to develop a distinct familiarity with both animals, and designates each of its riders by different ratings.

 
“I’m a D-3,” Crawford said. “The ratings work like this – a D-1 is the beginning where you pretty much have to learn the pony parts, how to trot, canter, and walk. Also, you have to know about cleaning the pony, if the trailer is clean enough for the horse, and stuff like that. It’s more basic. Then, the D-2 is all of that, and you start to do more jumping, and it starts to get more serious in how your cleaning is. Then, D-3 gets even harder, so you have to have the right position and know more about all of the technicalities. Now, I’m working on my C-1, which is even harder.”
 
Essentially, with each level a rider advances to — A-1 being the highest level —  the information they need to retain becomes more challenging and labor-intensive in order to fully educate each rider to the USPC’s standards.
 
“It’s a very holistic way of looking at horse life,” Crawford’s mother Jennifer Curtis said.
 
In order to advance from one level to the next, Crawford has to read a book specific to that level, and pass a two-part evaluation that involves a written test and physical test (riding).
 
Not as easy as just looking pretty on top of a well-groomed horse, right?…
 

Getting over a fear of horses while horseback trail riding near Vancouver

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The beautiful weather is bringing out riders of all levels as our summer season begins. Paula had booked a half day trail ride at Pitt Lake for Jim’s birthday. Arrangements were made to meet at noon in the parking lot. Paula had asked in advance if it would be ok to bring their dog on the trail ride. I agreed as long as it got along with other dogs and the horses as I would have my dogs with me. On the day of our ride, with only one wrong turn enroute, they arrived just a few minutes late of our scheduled time. I had assigned Jim to Rocky and Paula to Maverick. I was riding Gem, my 4 year old who is green still.

After brief introductions, Jim confessed that he was very nervous as he had a very bad experience with a horse when he was 12 and had been bucked off. He hadn’t been on a horse since and this was his ride to get over his fears. Knowing that, I switched riders to horses and put Jim and Maverick and Paula on Rocky. Maverick is very calm and quiet and is an excellent teacher whereas Rocky can be a bit more head strong. Not in a bad way, just that it takes a slightly firmer hand and guidance especially when it comes to turning. Both horses are extremely easy and responsive otherwise. Also Rocky is quite large, 16.2 hands, and Jim found his size a bit intimidating. I assured Jim that Maverick would take good care of him and if this didn’t get him over his fear then nothing would.

After providing our basic safety and handling instructions we set off on our way. I lead the way on Gem, asking both riders to be patient as Gem was in training and had never been ridden on this trail before. She’d been ponied here before but never with a rider. In addition, she was taking the lead which for her was a pretty scary thing still. She started out a bit hesitant but found more confidence as we went along. Paula’s dog, Bueller, Charlie and Ben following along at different places in the line. None of the horses seemed to mind the strange dog along and Bueller took to the horses like he had always been on walks with them.

After a good warm up walking along the river trail, we took to doing a little trotting and cantering. I provided tips and hints to both riders to ensure that they had a comfortable ride as well as ensuring the horses didn’t get hurt along the way. Unbalanced, bouncing riders can put out a horse’s back never mind the rider’s back. It took a bit of coaching but soon both riders were starting to get the rhythm of the different movements. Meanwhile the dogs were having glorious fun running up and down the banks to the various watering holes along the river bank. Unfortunately for the horses though, there was no easy water access for quite a ways though they didn’t seem too bothered by the heat.

We stopped for a short snack break at the midway point where we turn off the river side and loop back to the marshes in the reserve. Here I was able to draw water for the horses in a collapsible bucket I was carrying though none of them seemed terribly thirsty. I can tell when they really need water because they start turning their heads toward and sign of water frequently. They hadn’t been doing that to this point.

At this point I let Paula take the lead with Rocky as we continued along a gravel road for a bit along what I have now termed Berry Lane. The lands around this area have become home to blueberries and cranberries hence the name. I used to refer to it as Bear Lane as years ago I quite often spotted bear and or markings in this general area but haven’t seen many over the past few years since the wilderness has been take over by farmers.  Once across the main road and on the other side, we travelled a bit further before getting to the marshes again. The scenery on this side is spectacular as it was along the river as well. We stopped for a leg rest and watered the horses once more before setting off for the back third of our trail riding  adventure.

Along this leg we could do a bit more trotting and cantering as the ground is nice and solid but not rock hard. The horses were still willing, not too tired, but the riders were beginning to feel it in their legs. We were now 2 1/2 hours into the ride with still another 1 1/2 hours to go. Better to take it easy or the riders wouldn’t last until the end of the horseback ride. The sun was still toasty warm and we were getting sleepy as the gentle rocking motion of the walking horses and the still, peaceful, quiet of the surrounding area lulled our senses.

Soon we were on the last mile or so back to the finish with the lake and beautiful mountains on our right and the marshes to our left. We saw a pair of lovely swans that must have decided to stay after the others moved on from this winter’s lay over. The marshes are full of swans during the winter months replaced in spring by a variety of other water fowl and the occasional Sandhill crane. We also saw eagles and osprey fishing over the lake. We watched as the fishing scene played out before us. Osprey fishing relentless for the offspring we could see in the nests while smaller birds would try to scare them off with a group attack. And before we knew it we had reached the end of our trail ride.

After dismounting and giving the horses some much needed nourishment in the form of carrots and grain, I asked Jim how his experience was and was he over his fear of horses. He claimed that yes absolutely, and he couldn’t believe it had taken him this long. I suggested that he was just waiting for the right horse to call him to the task. Jim remarked that the experience far exceeded anything he could have imagined.  I look forward to having them both back again soon.

 

 

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