It’s trail season again, and at EPI, that means instructional trail rides are back! For the next six months or so (weather permitting), you can add trail rides to your EPI lesson program. This is a great way to refresh the physical, mental, and emotional connection you have with your horse. We take the time it takes, playing with the obstacles and adventures that we encounter on the trail. Trail lessons are limited to small groups for individualized instruction. For more information, see Instructional Trail Rides. (Or, to see what one student blogged about her experience, see Horsegirl on a Journey.)
If you are interested in trail riding but don’t feel like you or your horse are quite ready for the trail, I offer pre-trail lessons and training too. The EPI ranch offers plenty of obstacles to practice trail skills, from dogs and pedestrians to bicyclists to creek crossings and trailer practice. Pre-trail lessons focus on teaching students how to stay safe and have fun out on the trail.
Posted in Lessons - Instructional Trail Rides, News | Tagged Erin Murphy, natural horsemanship, penn valley | Leave a Comment »
I’m pleased to announce that the EPI lesson-lease program is back! This program is designed to accelerate your progress in developing the feel, timing, flexibility, and leadership that are the foundation of horsemanship.
The intent of a lesson-lease is to give you the time and the tools to progress with a horse without the financial commitments and other responsibilities of ownership. The combination of lessons and practice days ensure that you make positive progress while having the opportunity to learn and grow on your own — all while developing a relationship with a horse.
For more information about the program, see Lesson-Lease Program. To learn more about the horses currently available, see Lesson-Lease Horses.
Posted in Lessons, Lessons - Instructional Trail Rides, News | Leave a Comment »
Quest is a three-year-old Arabian gelding who came to EPI to be started. He recently had his first official ride, with my intern Maddie as his passenger, and I’m happy to report that the session went well from start to finish.
To start, Quest left his hay to be caught, even though the other horses in his pasture were still eating. When brought into the arena, he wanted to roll, so we offered him the rope. He had a nice roll and then he took a nap.
Maddie hung out with him for about 20 minutes, during which time Quest allowed her to touch him all over. When he was ready, he got up, and we began the games to prepare him for his first ride.
The first step is for him to accept the human without any tack. I helped Maddie lie over his back while he stood still, from the left side and then from the right. Then she lay over his back while I helped move his feet. She crawled around on him and sat up on him while I continued to help him move his feet.
His first “ride” looked like this:
Quest did well over all. He was bothered when we would pull on his mane, but he recovered well. We will do this for as many sessions as he needs until we feel that he is first tolerating us and then accepting us on his back.
Posted in Horse Development | Tagged Erin Murphy, natural horsemanship, penn valley | 2 Comments »
Barn cats protect feed, medicines, wraps, blankets, and other supplies from unauthorized critters. They also provide companionship and entertainment to the horses and humans who live, work, and play here at EPI.
Our newest cats, Piper and Cricket, came to us from a program that relocates feral kittens from cities to rural areas. We raised them in our home until they were old enough to transition to barn life, where they quickly became an exuberant and integral part of daily ranch operations.
Posted in News | Tagged Erin Murphy, natural horsemanship, penn valley | 2 Comments »
Do you have a horse-crazy niece? An uncle who secretly wished he could be a cowboy? Parents who remember your first rides on your toy bouncy horse, and the look on your face when you sat in the saddle of a real pony for the first time?
It’s not unusual for a holiday gathering to include an expedition out to see the horses. And it’s also not unusual for each family and friend in the group to have a different set of assumptions and expectations for what “visiting the horses” actually means. You’ll have one person who wants to get on and gallop around a-whoopin’ and a-hollerin’, another person who prefers to admire equine beauty from 10 feet away, and another person – usually a small one — who is content simply to be among horses, whether they are brushing a mane or sitting on a warm furry back.
Here are a few suggestions for keeping the equine expedition safe and fun for everyone, including your horse.
- Show Off On-line and at Liberty
Captive relatives make a perfect audience for you to demo some of the things you and your horse can do together. It can be inspiring for the family to see the relationship between you and your horse, and to realize that riding is not the only way to have fun with horses.
- Allow Your Horse to Invite People to Pet Him
Demonstrate the “horseman’s handshake” and explain why and how to stroke, not slap, the horse’s neck.
- Be Smart About Treats
Most people love feeding treats to animals. Have your horse do something to earn the treat, and make sure he is in a respectful state — soft eyes, forward ears — before you allow your niece to give him that carrot. Otherwise, your boon companion could turn into a pickpocket as soon as he realizes that all of the kids are loaded with cookies. If your horse can’t be respectful about treats, consider having the kids make a pattern of treats on the ground and then letting your horse go “connect the dots.” (And then add “respectful about treats” to your horsemanship program for next year!)
Typically, our equine partners are not experienced dude string horses, accustomed to carrying tourists on hours-long trail rides. They aren’t schoolmasters either. You horse will thank you for not putting a novice relative on board and handing them the reins while you pop inside for egg nog.Before you suggest riding or say yes to a request to ride your horse, think about your relative: can they put their ego aside long enough to take a passenger lesson? Or do they expect to ride like a cowboy in a 1960s Western movie? Are they afraid? Are they in the habit of kick to go, pull to stop?
Think about your horse, too. Is he tolerant of novices with poor balance and emotional excitement? Will your horse follow your lead as you walk around with your relative on his back, and stay calm and connected and responsive to you?
- Safety Equipment
Your relatives need to bring or borrow sturdy shoes and cold weather gear so that they can be safe and comfortable at the barn. If they’re going to ride, they need to bring, buy, or borrow helmets. Bicycle helmets are generally not considered appropriate for horseback riding.
- Listen to Your Horse
Your horse is your partner; relatives are just visitors. Your horse’s needs still take precedence over any plans you might have for the day. If you would not ignore your horse’s signals of unhappiness or discomfort or disrespect on a normal day, don’t ignore it on Visiting Day, either. It’s disappointing not to be able to show off your perfect partner and give everyone the wonderful experience of natural horsemanship, but don’t let your dream of giving all 27 nieces pony rides cause you to dismiss your horse’s opinion.
Posted in News | Tagged Erin Murphy, natural horsemanship, penn valley | 1 Comment »
Maddie has been working with four-year-old Ollie for a few months, helping him become a responsive partner without dimming his natural enthusiasm.
This is Ollie on the day he arrived at EPI:
Part of this process involves playing with him in all of his zones — nose, neck, side, haunches, tail — on both the right and the left sides of his body. If a horse is nervous about having a human around him, or gets tense when a human climbs up on a box to stand more “over” him, that horse is not ready to carry a rider.
This is Ollie a couple of months later, receiving chiropractic adjustments from Leslie Phillips, DVM, certified equine chiropractor and acupuncturist:
This relaxation is important even for horses that do not get ridden. Everyone who works with horses on a regular basis, including your vet and your farrier, appreciates a horse that is comfortable and tolerant about humans touching him anywhere.
Ollie did very well in his first chiropractic session. Since then, he has become even more relaxed about humans above him, and Maddie has been starting him under saddle.
Posted in Horse Development | Tagged Erin Murphy, natural horsemanship, penn valley | Leave a Comment »
Jan started riding lessons with me this summer. She has taken lessons with me before, playing on-line and at liberty with her pony. This year, she was ready to start riding, and we began with a foundation that will help her stay safe and have fun no matter where her riding journey takes her.
Here is what Jan has to say about her first 10 lessons:
I feel so fortunate to be having this amazing mid-life experience of learning something as incredible as riding a horse. I have always appreciated the strength and beauty of horses, but not being a horse-crazy girl, I never thought I would have the chance or the desire to learn to ride. And then, as a complete riding novice, to get to learn to ride from a gifted natural horsemanship instructor feels indescribably lucky!
It has been incredibly freeing to be going into the lessons with few, if any, irrational riding fears for several reasons. One reason is that as I approach my 50th birthday, I have made a personal paradigm shift about fear. Another reason is that I have no prior horse fear or pain experiences.
Another reason is that I completely trust Erin Murphy to teach me how to ride safely, which is exactly what she has done. She started by teaching me to safely mount and dismount. The more confident I became at dismounting, the more confident I became in everything else.
First I learned how to dismount from a stop, but I also have learned how to do an “emergency” or “flying” dismount while my horse is walking. (Next step: practicing the flying dismount at the trot!)
In my most recent lessons, I have practiced lateral bends and the one-rein stop, and we have started working on developing balance, feel, and an independent seat.
It has also helped to have been absorbing natural horsemanship concepts from a beloved, lifelong horse-loving partner for about three years before these formal riding lessons began. When you add the bonuses of getting to play with our own horses on the ground and to regularly help with ranch work on a natural horsemanship ranch with about 16 horses, it just feels like being in the perfect place at the perfect time. If you have an opportunity to just be with horses…moving them, watching them in a herd, and feeding them, before or as you are learning to ride, do it!
Posted in Lessons | Tagged natural horsemanship, penn valley, riding lessons | Leave a Comment »