Thursday, April 29, 2021

Best Riding Exercise

 Hello Centaurs!  

The way I see it, if you are here, then you like horses.  If you like horses, you qualify as a horse person.  Horse person=Centaur.  You with me?  Of course you are.  ;)

Let’s dive into today’s topic.  

What is the best riding exercise?

Whooo boy.  Talk about a loaded question!  Of course, the best riding exercise is going to be determined by the level of the horse, the level of the rider, the goals of the riding overall, the environment the riding is happening in, and the current confidence level of both horse and rider.  

It’s a lot to take into account.  

I will say, as a riding instructor, one of my favorite riding exercises is one where the rider simply acts like a passenger.  

The goal is to relax your body, relax your emotions, and just ride whatever the horse gives you.  If the horse walks, great.  If the horse stops, great.  If the horse turns in endless circles or stops every two steps, that is not a problem.  We simply ride what they give, and then ask for the gait we want again, without worrying about direction.  We get lots of practice at those pesky transitions!

This exercise can be done at any gait, at any level, and it does some really great things.

  1.  It helps the rider to gain confidence, relaxation, patience, and perceptiveness.

  2. It helps the horse to relax while learning to take responsibility for their speed.  

I have found that most people and horses come out of the experience with a greater confidence and trust with each other.  That’s huge!!!  That is what so many people want when they get into horseback riding!  

Smile and Ride, Centaurs!


Thursday, April 15, 2021

Get to Know Chelsea!

Q: What is your role at Bridle Ranch?
A: I am the Chief Vision Operator. I am also 50% owner. I answer both to "Captain" and "Hey, I need..."

Q:  What is your favorite treat?

A:  Hmm.  I love snuggling with my husband, taking deep breaths outside, and going to Disneyland.  But if we’re talking food, I would probably have to go with cheesecake.  Ooh, and Oreos.

Q: What’s your favorite color?
A:  Too hard.  I love them all.  Maybe pink?  Or green?

Q:  What hobbies do you have?
A:  I love to read, both for fun and to learn.  I love to build things, like businesses and business ideas, and fantasy worlds.  I also really enjoy putting together puzzles for other people to figure out, like treasure hunts and such.  Of course playing outside, especially with animals, is completely amazing.  Oh, cooking is fun too.  And hosting parties.  I don’t like going to parties, but hosting is a blast.

Q:  Where are you from and what was your life like growing up?

A:  Well, when I was young I was a pretty typical suburban kid.  I went swimming all the time, and my dad had me out on the tennis court from the time I was about 3 years old.  When I was 9, we moved out to my Grandma’s ranch near Hollister, CA.  I lived there for 8 years, and spent my days either reading or playing outside.  It was amazing being able to walk out any door and be able to climb a mountain or explore one of several different valleys and fields around us.  I learned how to ride horses, and move cattle, and the meaning of work, and how much crossover there can be between work and play.

Q:  Where are you in life now?

A:  Now… I am very happily married, with 5 absolutely amazing children.  Of course, I own and do a lot of behind-the-scenes work at Bridle Ranch.  I also homeschool my children, and am looking forward to the next several years of growing with my family.  This is actually an interesting time for me, because our last baby was born in September of last year, and she is the last we’re planning to have.  Right now we’re still in the baby stage, but as she gets older and more independent, I am looking forward to being able to work on some of my own goals.  I have wanted to improve my riding skills for several years, and I think we’re at the point now where I can start thinking about making that happen.

Q:  Any big plans in the future?

A:  So many.  So, so, so many.  I have like 5 different businesses that I want to start in addition to Bridle Ranch.  I’d also like to write a book.  Or 4.  Or 16.  I also need to work on building Bridle Ranch so it meets the vision in my head, as well as help my kids to get to the point where they can start to build their own lives.  

Q:  What is your experience with horses, animals, and ranches?

A:  Well, like I said before, I grew up on a working ranch in California.  It wasn’t everything we did, but it was a defining feature of my life.  After I went to college, I got a job working at a Residential Treatment Center, teaching troubled youth how to ride horses.  That was such an amazing experience.  I learned so much about myself, about teaching, about horses, about training, and of course about dealing with troubling behavior in teens.  After I left there, I ended up, a couple of years later, doing an internship at National Ability Center in Park City.  I worked in several different areas, but did a lot in their barn.  We worked a lot with kids with autism, as well as people with physical disabilities.  That was another amazing experience.  It helped to reconnect me with what a good horse program looks like.  I also learned that I don’t work very well with people with autism.  But, between my experience at the Residential Treatment Center and the National Ability Center barn, added with my own study into Natural Horsemanship, I was able to create my own ranch that, I think, is able to serve a lot of people in a different way than most barns out there.

Q:  Can you explain what you’ve gotten out of Bridle Ranch?

A:  Bridle Ranch has turned me more into a leader, I think.  It has also helped me get in touch with parts of my personality that I wasn’t expecting to find.  When I first started teaching horseback riding, there was a crazy learning curve.  I spent the first year just figuring out how to deal with an arena full of kids and horses that didn’t really want to be there, and trying to keep everything calm and sane while turning it into a fun experience.  After that, I learned a lot of details that helped me to teach actual skills.  That right there helped me to become a more confident person than I’d ever been before.  When I started Bridle Ranch, I had to remember a lot of those skills, but then also become comfortable with setting policies, asking people for money, and being an authority figure for those who came to me looking to learn.  As we’ve grown, I’ve also had to figure out how to be a good boss, and manager, and to do my job while letting my employees do theirs.  I’m starting to figure all that out (and hopefully I’m doing a good job with it all!) and I’m starting to get an overall feel for how business works, which may just transfer if I do decide to start these other businesses I have in my head.

The other thing I’ve gotten out of Bridle Ranch is some amazing friends.  I have absolutely loved getting to know all my employees.  There’s something about working with people that gives you a real sense of who they are and builds camaraderie as you’re working towards something.  There have been a few customers, as well, that I’ve become really close with.  As a pretty strongly introverted person, that has been an amazing bonus.  Plus, I just love being able to look at people riding my horses and knowing that they are able to grow and be happy because of something I have done, something that we’re all doing together.  Bridle Ranch has brought a lot of worth into my life, I think.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Western vs. English Riding

 Ah, Western vs. English.  Most people either learn to ride one or the other, and the two sides can get as prickly as those who pick either Team Edward or Team Jacob.  (I’m totally team Edward, btw.  Also, yes, I still love Twilight.)

English riders are prim and proper and stuffy and snobbish.

Western riders are lazy and sloppy rough-riders who only care about getting a job done.

Whew.  Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s dig into these styles a bit more.

Personally, I love riding Western.  It’s how I learned.  So, let’s explore that first.

Back in the Old West, people rode western because it was very practical.  The horses (usually Quarterhorses) were bred to be strong, level-headed, and steady.  They could also really move when the situation required it.  The saddles were built to be comfortable, both for horse and rider, for hours upon hours at a time.  The West was won on horseback, through cattle drives and fixing fences and exploring new territory.  Cowboys carried all their supplies with them, from the canteen, rifle, and lariat attached at the front to the bedroll, food supplies, and harmonica in the back.  They rode low and slow when they could, and tore off at a dead gallop when they had to.  

Nowadays, everything has been exaggerated.  We don’t really need to explore vast territories on horseback, nor do most of us have livestock that need to be herded long distances.  So, instead we go to shows.  Western riders still use Quarterhorses, but the game has changed.  

“Look how slow my horse can lope, and his head is so low!”

“Oh yeah?  My horse can lope even slower, and her head is almost to the ground!”  

Okay, that’s a little exaggeration.  Then again… have you ever watched a Western Pleasure show?  Their lope looks a bit like a limp, because they’re going so slow.  

Of course, there are other disciplines in Western Riding.  Rodeo comes to mind, as does Reining.  Still, the theme is the same.  

“We have a job to do.  But, we can mostly use trucks and tractors and corrals, so we’re going to turn what used to be work into competitions.  Hi-ho silver!”

I also love English riding.  It changed my thinking about riding horses.

Here’s the thing.  English riding is also very practical.  It just developed in a different part of the world than Western riding.  See, horses were used, for thousands of years, for war.  Those older saddles had a high pommel and cantle, which helped to keep a warrior secure on the horse’s back.  Eventually, though, societies developed in which horses were ridden more for hunting or sport than for war.  When fox-hunting became popular, the saddles changed with the times.  In order to keep up with the foxes, horses and riders had to jump over ditches, fences, hedges, etc.  Anybody who has tried to jump in  a western saddle knows just how uncomfortable that saddle horn is when your horse’s front end rises up underneath you.  It’s the same thing with the pommel of the saddle.  Having that thing punch you in the gut will convince you really fast that something needs to change.  English saddles, then, became much smaller, allowing the rider to move more athletically with the horse’s movements.

So, because the saddle is smaller, it changed riding in several different ways.  The most fundamental, for me, is that you can feel what your horse is doing much better than you can in a western saddle.  That also means that the horse can feel what you are doing better, which means that your riding must become much more intentional.  In order to communicate effectively with your horse, you need to be aware of what your hip bones are doing, where your weight is centered, how loose your abs are and whether or not your heels are swinging into the horse’s sides.  

Again, in our modern age, we don’t really need to go fox hunting, but have you ever jumped a horse?  That, my friends, is an exhilarating feeling.  So, of course, we have set up several different competitions involving jumping.  And then there is the discipline of riding a horse in war, which is not necessary for most people these days but is a truly beautiful art form.  Plus, with all sorts of different breeds and their unique abilities to show off, we have created multiple types of shows, many with their own version of the English saddle.  

In the end, we’re all the same.  It’s all about doing what we know to the best of our ability.  Edward was a fantastic vampire; Jacob was a great werewolf.  Western riding is a wonderful way to learn, and also has depths and nuances and speed and sequins!  English riding is fantastic for refinement and poise and elevation and top hats!  

Ride often, my friends, no matter what saddle you choose.


Thursday, March 18, 2021

Starting Bridle Ranch

The year was 2012.  I was 29 years old, and had just graduated college with a degree in Recreational Therapy and was raising two children under the age of 4.  It was the perfect time to start a business! Right?  Right?!  After all, I had no experience with business, or selling, or building a website, but, sure, let’s jump right in and see what happens!

Here’s a little background.  I grew up on a small cattle ranch in California.  Well, I say small… it was 600+ acres, but we only had about 30 cows and a couple horses.  My initial riding lesson was essentially, “This is how you go, this is how you stop, this is how your turn.  Keep your heels down. Have a good time!”  I rode Misty, a well-trained, ornery mare for probably 6 years on that lesson.  She taught me a lot, as did the friends who ended up taking me to a couple of shows.  Mostly, I just rode out on the trail, doing what I could as my confidence grew.

Eventually, I went off to college.  I figured I was probably mostly done with the country lifestyle.  After all, who grows up and buys land?  Land is expensive.  Horses are expensive.  It’s a hard lifestyle.  The fact that it’s also amazing and something I wanted didn’t really enter the equation.  

Except, then I got a job at a Residential Treatment Center, teaching horseback riding to troubled youth.  And, there I found my calling.  I fell in love with teaching, with helping people to grow, with taking care of the horses, with the camaraderie that developed between me and the other instructors.  It was this amazing, fulfilling life.  I actually took a very long time at college because I wanted to focus on work.  I was learning so much!  I learned what is possible with horses, and how to care for them better, and how to train them.  My world opened and I felt better than I ever had before.  

Of course, life moves on, and I ended up getting married to the most wonderful man alive.  By the time I got pregnant with our first daughter, I had worked at the RTC for 4 ½ years, and it was time to move on.  I left my job, focused on school and family, and we moved a couple of times, finally settling in a cute little house in Provo on ⅔ of a acre.  And, we stumbled into an amazing deal on a horse that I fell in love with.  So, Cruise came to join our family.

About a year later, we had had our second child and I was working on my internship to finish my education.  One day, I got a call from my mother-in-law.  She told me about a horse her Dad had on his ranch.  He was a great horse, but he had foundered.  He could no longer stay on the ranch.  They wanted to keep him in the family, though, and could we take him on?  We had the right type of situation to take care of him.

We agreed, and then I got to thinking.  (My poor husband.  It’s usually scary when I get to thinking.)

Here I was, with two horses, and a working knowledge of how to teach horseback riding.  It would be silly to have two horses and not do anything with them.  I certainly didn’t want them to sit in our back yard and not have a job, and I had no desire to get into showing.  Maybe I should start my own business?  I’d been thinking about what I would do with my own horse place for years, and this just might be the right time to start.

So, I did.  My husband helped me get a website set up, and I came up with a system, complete with levels, and prices, and safety measures and so much of what Bridle Ranch is today.  

Of course, I didn’t expect it to grow the way that it did.  It was little ol’ me, with Cruise and Snip and a third of an acre on which to ride.  Sure, I could teach some good things, but nobody would really take me seriously.  At best, I would have maybe 5 students per week.  

I was shocked when we grew to 5 students per week within a few months.  Then we passed 10.  My students kept coming, and bringing their friends, and referring me to others who were interested.  At some point, I decided it would be a good idea to hire some help.  Imagine my amazement when, at 5 years in, we had 50 students per week, and had grown to 4 horses in our herd.  

Bridle Ranch has been a fantastic journey.  Through it, I have watched people grow and blossom in ways that they may not have otherwise.  I have found many friends, both human and animal.  It has made me reach for heights and branch out in directions I would never have tried without it.  I am so grateful for the opportunity to start this journey, and I am continually grateful for the chance to continue on.  May we all seize the chances that are placed before us!


Best Riding Exercise