Newbie Horse Rider

Blog for new adult horse riders

Month: December 2016

Funny Friday: Holiday Style

Shopping, food preparation, gift wrapping…my to-do list goes on and on.  Consequently, I will not be posting anything significant today.  Wishing you all a joyous and peaceful holiday.  When you need a little alone time away from all of the relatives you love so dearly, but appreciate in small dosages, head to the barn.  Spending quality time with your horse, or any horse for that matter, is a marvelous way to recover from holiday stress.  Enjoy!!


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Make the Most of Barn Time to Keep Off Holiday Pounds

No one loves holiday time more than me, but the constant influx of cookies, all things chocolate, and wine put my figure in serious jeopardy.  In addition, finding time to workout can be a challenge when you find yourself in the midst of holiday preparation.  Hopefully you’re still finding time to ride amid all of this chaos because spending time at the barn can burn some serious calories.


If you were wondering how many calories you actually burned while at the barn today, look at the chart.  Very few of us spend an hour grooming or an hour galloping around an arena, so how can you maximize your caloric expenditure while at the barn?  If you have to walk out to a paddock or field to get your horse, you’re already ahead.  You’re even further ahead if you have to chase your horse around a field in order to catch him.  When it is time to start grooming, really take your time.  First, start with a curry comb and, using firm pressure, make small circles along one side of your horse.  Switch arms and move to the other side, using the same amount of pressure.  Next, use a brush to remove all loose hair and dander, making sure to use each arm for equal amounts of time.  Move on to his feet and do two squats before reaching down to lift up each of the hoofs.  Grooming is a wonderful bonding experience for you and your horse, and can also put you in a state of mental calm which is important before getting into the saddle.  If you ride Western then saddling your horse will provide your arms with some wonderful weight lifting benefits.  I speak from experience when I say that carrying a 35 plus pound saddle from the tack room and lifting it onto a horse’s back is not easy, especially when you are also carrying the saddle pad and headstall at the same time.  As you lift the saddle try to tighten your abdominal muscles.  Doing this will help to support your back while also working to strengthen this important muscle group. Don’t forget to bend at your knees when lifting.

In the saddle, stand up in the stirrups, pushing your heels down and focus on  stretching those calf muscles.  Warm up at the walk and move into a vigorous posting trot, followed by some cantering.  Completing even 30 minutes of active riding will burn some serious calories.  Of course riding is good for so much more than burning fat, it also tones muscles, and improves balance, coordination and flexibility.
If you really want to keep track of your fitness while riding, consider investing in a fitness tracker.  The number of fitness trackers now on the market is staggering, and a number of them claim to be able to track horse related activities.  Some of the more popular fitness gadgets for the equestrian set include the Fitbit Charge HR ($129) and the Garmin Vivosmart HR ($100).  There are also a number of apps that can be easily downloaded onto your smartphone to keep track of fitness goals.  Do your research before plonking money down for one of these costly devices as some work better for equestrians sports than others.  Hmmm, maybe that can be another blog post…
If you’ve found a fitness tracker that works well in the saddle, please let us know!
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Haunted by Ghosts of Negativity: Past, Present, and Future

Every time I climb into the saddle I am reminded of how riding is a metaphor for life.  It rarely goes as planned, and I find myself rehashing my ride over and over in my mind – what went well, what went wrong.  More often than not, I find myself focusing on the negative rather than the positive.  Why is it that I am spending so much of my precious time thinking of all the things I did wrong instead of embracing the things I did correctly?

Riding is difficult, very difficult.  Whenever I hear someone remark that the horse is the one doing all the work, I have to use every ounce of willpower not to reach out and slap them.  Riding is not just hard physically, but mentally as well.  As with any skill based sport, the mental strength it takes to overcome that negative voice in your head can be an ongoing challenge.  I am convinced that this voice gets louder the older we get.  In my head it goes something like this: What the heck are you doing?  What made you think you could actually do this?  You look ridiculous right now.  You’re bouncing all over the place, get a grip!  And so it goes, on and on.

If I have learned anything since taking up riding in my 40’s, it is this: riding, just like life, never moves in a linear fashion.  With every advance, there is a setback.  There are days when we feel like we’ve got this, and days when we feel out of control.  Some days the negative voice inside our head is so loud, there is no chance of drowning it out.  Every past failure, insult, and humiliation comes back to haunt us, creating a road block that prevents us from moving forward.  How do we break down that wall and prevent it from coming back? Is it possible to look into the future and see ourselves in a state of peace and confident tranquility with our horses?

While my journey toward positivity is an ongoing one, here are a few things that have helped me to focus my energy on the good, rather than on the bad:

1. Keep a journal:  I think that this is especially important when you are a newbie rider, such as myself.  After you ride, write down your feelings about the ride.  Try to give equal space to the good and the bad.  No ride is perfect, just as no ride is entirely terrible.  Keep track of what you did correctly and what you need to improve on.  Taking the time to write down your feelings will allow you to look back and see the progress you have made.

2Avoid seeing things in terms of black and white:  This tends to be one of my greatest downfalls and can lead to a downward spiral of negative thinking.   Time with your horse cannot be seen as good or bad.  Even if you have a less than stellar ride, you can reflect on the time you spent with your horse on the ground and see success.

3. Find humor in what you find most challenging:  My frustrations in the saddle are what led me to Fergus.  Looking over a few Fergus comics always lifts my spirit and makes me understand that my challenges are universal.

4. Talk with other more experienced riders:  Think you’re alone in your feelings of self-doubt?  You most definitely are not.  Even the most experienced riders question their ability on occasion and have to fight off those feelings of negativity.  Finding solace in the experience of others can help to put our own emotions into perspective.

5. Spend time with your horse out of the saddle:  There are a number of reasons why you chose to make horses a part of your life, and a love of riding is only one of them.  Go to the barn with the sole intent of connecting with your horse on the ground.  Spend time grooming him, take him outside for some grass, braid his mane, whatever it is that allows you to feel that connection.  I guarantee that this experience alone will lighten your mood and put you on the path to positive thinking.

6. Communicate your feelings with your instructor:  Hopefully you have an instructor who is willing to listen to your concerns.  If not, find a new one, now.  A good instructor will provide you with feedback that allows you to see how far you’ve actually come.  You know the expression – sometimes it’s hard to see the forest through the trees.

7. Practice mindful meditation:  This is so important that it should really be listed as number one, and I will get into this in more depth in another post.  For now, try this:  find a quiet place and sit.  Close your eyes and pay close attention to your breathing.  Focus on your senses, thinking about what you can hear and smell.  Give time to your thoughts and emotions, and recognize that what you are feeling at any given time does not define who you are; our thoughts and emotions are temporary.

How do you fight off feelings of negativity when they arise?  Share your thoughts and let us know what works for you.

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6 Gift Ideas From the Heart

Who doesn’t love a sale?  If you’re a last minute shopper then you will reap the benefits of your procrastination over the next few weeks as stores cut prices the closer we move to Christmas.  If you are stressed over what to get the horse people in your life, know that you don’t have to spend a lot to show that you care.  Often times it is the unique gifts, rather than the expensive ones, that touch our hearts the most.  No matter how small your budget, unique and personal gifts can be a meaningful way to show someone you care this holiday season.

Moneigh by Street Sense

  1.  Give the gift of a ‘Moneigh’.  Moneighs are paintings made by horses to help horses.  These unique paintings by some of the world’s greatest horses, are auctioned off to benefit Rerun, one of the oldest Thoroughbred retraining and adoption programs in the country.  Moneigh items for sale include note cards ($20.00), tee shirts ($35.00) and original prints, some of which are signed by the horses ($40.00).  All items are available from the Rerun shop on Ebay.

Horse making an original Moneigh.

2.  Want to give a gift that’s even more personal?  Make your own Moneigh.  With some non-toxic paint and a canvas you can make a gift that will be treasured forever.  Simply put some non-toxic paint on the horse’s muzzle, and give him the canvas to make his own special contribution to the art world.  If your horse will hold onto a paint brush, that will work too.  Let him autograph his masterpiece by putting some paint on the bottom of his hoof.  Attach a little clip of horse hair to make a gift that will be one-of-a-kind.

3.  Turn a photo into a custom made gift at  For less than $20.00 you can turn any photo into a unique poster, or create a custom made Christmas ornament or shirt.  Photos can also be burned onto a canvas in a variety of sizes.

The Horse’s Glass

4.  Consider giving a one-of-a-kind gift from The Horse’s Glass.  Choose from one of their unique glasses ($30.00), or send artist Marci Voorhees a photo of your horse and she will transform it into a custom-made glass that is sure to be treasured by its lucky recipient.   Choose from either Whimsical Style ($48.00) or Portrait Style ($68.00).

Tara’s Equine Designs

5.  Looking for a special gift that will be cherished for years to come?  Look no further than Tara’s Equine Designs.  Tara is an immensely talented artist who makes one-of-a-kind jewelry and other mementos out of horse hair.  She has stock items for sale, or you can send her your horse’s hair and choose from one of her many unique designs.  From rings, to bracelets, necklaces, and earrings, every handcrafted piece is made to reflect ones’ individual style .  Prices range from $20.00 to $250.00 and up, depending on braid style and pendants.

Dalecarlian Dark Chocolate Horses with Punch Filling

6.  If you’re looking for a gift that can satisfy both a passion for horses and a sweet tooth, consider a box of Dalecarlian Dark Chocolate Horses from ($11.99).  These delicious chocolates are made in the shape of the Dala Horse, the red-painted wooden horses that have become a national symbol of Sweden.  Each piece of candy is made from rich dark chocolate, and filled with a Nordic liqueur called Punsch – a traditional blend of arrack with either brandy or rum, sugar, and water.

Embrace the spirit of giving rather than allowing yourself to feel stressed over what to give.  Often times the most simple gifts are the ones that touch our souls the greatest.

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Meet Fergus: Everyone’s Favorite Horse.

When I first met Fergus, about five years ago, I had just returned to riding after a 15 year hiatus.  I was riding my daughter’s horse one beautiful summer day, when suddenly she spooked so quickly that I hit the ground before I even knew what happened.  Luckily, I was o.k., but it definitely rattled my confidence.  That evening, a friend posted a Fergus comic on Facebook in which Fergus has spooked and thrown his tiny rider to the ground.  I laughed so hard, and suddenly my tumble seemed comical rather than scary.  I have been a loyal fan of Fergus ever since, and turn to him when I need to be reminded of how wonderful and crazy our equine partners can be.

Fergus is the brainchild of Jean Abernethy, a remarkably talented artist and horsewoman from Ontario, Canada.  Jean grew up on a small family farm where, as a child, she learned to explore her world on horseback.  Jean pursued a college degree in Equine Studies from Humber College, after which she earned an art degree from OCAD University in Toronto.  Her comical horse cartoons have graced equine print publications for over 35 years, while her passion for horses has led her to work in a variety of equine jobs, including saddle making, stable hand, carriage driver, and trail guide.  Jean’s star character, Fergus, has brought laughter to over 300,000 Facebook fans around the globe, and through his bestselling comic treasury The Essential Fergus the Horse.  His latest book, Fergus a Horse to be Reckoned With, is hot off the press, published by Trafalgar Square Books. (

Jean Abernethy and her horse, Willow.

Even for experienced riders, age brings with it both challenges and rewards, forever altering our perspective and deepening our bond with horses.   I recently asked Jean to reflect on how riding has changed for her over the years, both physically and emotionally.  She explained, ” Riding keeps me connected to what is real, and visceral about life.   As I’ve aged, I find that I get stiffened up when sitting for hours at my computer making illustrations and comics. I’ve also found that the grooming and tacking up part of a ride, feels more therapeutic than it did in my younger years. It’s all quality time with my little horse.  About one hour into a ride, I feel welded into my saddle, and it just gets better after that.  I always come in from a ride feeling freshed, more limber, and creatively inspired.  Why join a gym when you can join a barn? ”  Why indeed!  Jean is proof of the physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits that can be had through riding.

Jean and Willow

I urge you to check out Jean’s wonderful comics, and guarantee that Fergus will quickly become an addiction you will not want to stop.  Please find the links to Fergus’ books and merchandise below.  You can also find Jean and Fergus on Facebook.

To find Fergus’ books:

To find fun Fergus stuff:
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Your Panty Problems Solved!

Breeches can be unfriendly to older women.

Breeches can be unfriendly to older women.

It seems so unfair.  We finally get to a point in our lives when we have the time and financial means to reconnect with our horse dream, but slipping on a pair of breeches if you’re over 40 makes you want to hide in a closet.  It doesn’t matter how slim you are, time can be cruel to older bodies.  Eventually everyone’s parts start to head south, no matter how hard you fight it.  Feeling good about how you look has a tremendous impact on your general confidence, even in the saddle.  Many older women refuse to wear breeches for this very reason, but the seams on jeans can be uncomfortable and over time will damage a leather saddle.  Even under jeans, regular underwear can bunch up and cause painful chafing.  Luckily there are some terrific products on the market that can smooth out unsightly panty lines, prevent chafing and cushion delicate areas, so you can feel great and look great too.



FITS Wonderbreech – ($39.00) Very likely the greatest product ever made for female riders, young and old.  When worn under breeches, the Wonderbreech eliminates all unsightly panty lines and smooths out lumps and bumps even under the most form fitting breeches.

After wearing FITS Wonderbreech.

After wearing FITS Wonderbreech.

Unlike regular shaping underwear, the Wonderbreech is breathable, and fits like a second skin under breeches.  This miraculous pant is so comfortable, you’ll want to wear it under all of your clothing.

Cover Your Assets Equestrian Underwear

Cover Your Assets Equestrian Underwear

Cover Your Assets –  This high performance underwear by Equi-Logic includes a CoolMax® padded seat that protects and wicks moisture away from the skin to prevent chafing.  Cotton-Lycra fabric allows for flexibility while the above-the-knee-style hides panty lines.  $32.95 from Riding Warehouse.



JellyPantz – (Starter kit $49.95)  No, this is not going to compete with any Victoria’s Secret underwear, but it will protect your delicate parts in the saddle.  New and experienced riders alike will love the protection it provides against chafing and bruising of the pelvic region.  For newbies, a more comfortable ride will allow you to focus on improving without the distraction of pain and discomfort.  For more advanced riders, JellyPantz allows a more effective seat, increasing the connection between horse and rider.  Made from a quick-dry and wick-able nylon spandex blend offering superior fit and comfort.  Each kit comes with one pair of underwear and one removable jelly pad.  Additional pairs of underwear and pads can be purchased separately.   JellyPantz generously donates 10% of all profits to animal charities.

Back on Track Boxers for Women

Back on Track Boxers for Women

Back on Track Women’s Boxer – Back on Track® Ladies’ Boxer Shorts provide soothing warmth that may relieve groin and hip discomfort. Made of Back on Track’s ceramic-infused Welltex fabric, the boxers reflect your own body heat and create soothing for infrared thermal warmth that increases circulation, reduces inflammation and helps ease tension and soreness. The fabric is smooth and thin for comfort under your clothing.  Available from Dover Saddlery.  $38.00 S-L, $45.00 XL.

Smarty Pants

Smarty Pants

Smarty Pants – Made from a lightweight polyester/lycra blend, this underwear is a perfect choice for active women.  This super stretchy, non-binding fabric actually wicks moisture away from your skin, and provides a smooth appearance under breeches eliminating those nasty panty lines.  $24.99 from Equestrian Collections.

For additional styles, check out Andiamo Cycling Wear which promotes numerous styles suitable for horseback riders.


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Holiday Tipping at the Barn




Ahh, the holidays.  What a wonderfully expensive time of the year.  I’m not trying to diminish the inner sanctum of holiday traditions, but this time of the year can hit us where it hurts the most – in our wallet.  Your gift budget may include extended family members, as well as other people in your life to whom you wish to show gratitude.  If you take lessons or board a horse at a barn, then it is essential to include these folks in your gift giving budget.  How much you give and to whom largely depends upon your level of involvement with the barn.  If you board a horse (or two) then it is especially important to show your appreciation for everyone who helps to take care of your large fur baby.  Think about all of the people who help to take care of your horse: those who clean the stall and feed, the farrier, trainer, and particularly the barn owner.  I know that many people don’t feel that barn owners should be tipped during the holidays, but trust me, they deserve it.  Most barn owners are not living a life of luxury.  Owning a barn is an expensive business and most owners charge less for board then they probably should.  All of these individuals make horse ownership possible, and it is important to let them know how much you appreciate their hard work.  What follows is simply a guide to help you figure out how much you should give and to whom.


Stall Cleaners/Stable Help – $10.00-$50.00 a piece, depending on how many stable hands work at your barn.  Pay in cash or in the form of a credit gift card.

Riding Instructor – The equivalent of one weeks’ worth of lessons.  Cash or a credit gift card is a nice way to say thanks.  If you know your instructor well, consider giving a gift card to his/her favorite store or restaurant.

Trainer – This is a tough one as it largely depends on how well established the trainer is.  Our trainer, while becoming well known, is quite young.  Since he trains two of our horses, I usually give him about $200 in either cash or a credit gift card.  For the head trainer who is also an owner, we usually give a gift that costs somewhere around $100.  In addition, we also give both trainers a box of the most incredible toffee from Texas.

Farrier – The equivalent of one trim or shoes, depending on what usually gets done to your horse.  If you know your farrier well you may also want to include a personal gift, such as a bottle of scotch.

Barn Owner – A nice gift or cash in the amount of $50.00 or more.  Look at how much the owner does directly for you and your horse.  Does he/she blanket and unblanket your horse at no additional charge?  Does he/she go above and beyond on a daily basis?


This is simply a guide, one that I came up with after doing much research on the topic.  But let’s face it, some years we are just really strapped for cash and can barely make the board every month.  If this is you, don’t panic.  There are plenty of nice ways to say thanks without cleaning out your bank account.  Homemade cookies/treats in a decorative container make a great gift, as do bottles of wine or spirts.  Check out for some creative gifts at affordable prices.  Take advantage of before Christmas sales which seem to get better the closer we are to Christmas.    Most importantly, remember to say Thanks! to all the people in your life who make it possible for you to follow your equestrian dream.

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