Phone

Barn - (317) 416-8632
Texting and Calls
Physical Address:
5129 N 600 W
(aka Mt Comfort Rd/Olio Rd)
McCordsville Indiana 46055
Lessons - Stacey Sheley
(317) 416-8632
Lessons - Lindsey Keeven
(317) 418-8933
Camp Director - Andi
(219) 296-8776
Please call between regular business hours.

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Thoughts

Why Take Lessons?

Why take lessons?

There are a lot of reasons one would want to take riding lessons. For the adults; perhaps you have dreamed of having horses when you were a child and have the ability to take lessons as an adult, to overcome fear, a new and different challenge, maybe you are lucky enough to have a horseback riding vacation scheduled in a few months and want to prepare for the new challenge, is your corporation or business looking for leadership training?, perhaps one finds one’s self involved with the horse world by chance and want to learn more about it or maybe you simply need a break from life stresses and want a rewarding hobby, the list could be endless.

Beginner Children's Lesson

Beginner Children's Lesson

For children; kids loves horses, they are beautiful, they are strong, they are magical, they are big, can take them places, they dream of being an Olympic stadium jumper winning a gold, the list is as long as a child’s imagination is prolific.

For me when I was young, it was all of the above. It was probably the scenes in “The Black Stallion” where Alic and The Black were stranded on the desert beach that clinched it for me. To become friends with such a beautiful, fiery, huge animal, to earn his trust, to gallop freely on a beach or swim with him in the water in perfect harmony so much so, that I could ride bareback, with my arms spread out and my eyes closed in perfect trust. Freedom from slow bipedal locomotion, to achieve syncronicity. It was so beautiful, so wonderful and I could not imagine anything so close to Nirvana as that part of that movie.

Building a relationship like that with a horse takes a lot of work. It was my personal goal with my mare to be like Alic and The Black. We did pretty good together pretty quickly. We were playing tag in the arena with in a few months. However, it also took a lifetime of study of horses to get to that point first. Before I even got my mare I had roughly 20 years of study under my belt. Study that included, watching and learning animal behavior (PBS addict), visualizing and pretending to be a horse when I was little, all the time (Believe it or not, this truly prepared me to understand a horse’s response and behavior. It helped to make me aware of the world from a horse’s point of view.), reading everything and anything horse related, drawing them endlessly (anatomy), eavesdropping on riding lessons (theory), studying manure management-begining to end product (one can really learn a lot about a horse by studying its poop), taking every and any opportunity to ride whenever I had a chance from pony rides at the fair to “Hey, lets ride these guys.” after shoeing them at school all day, watching vets and farriers and asking them questions relentlessly, becoming a farrier and learning blacksmithing after taking a bunch of bio classes in college, and so on. That is the long and hard way.

The easier way, and the over all far less expensive way, is to have at your disposal, someone who has done all that already, knows the ins and outs of horses and letting them teach you what they already know. For most of us die hard horse addicts there is nothing more thrilling than having someone ask us things like “What is that thing on the horses foot, in the middle there?” Then I get to explain hoof structure, use my knowledge of architecture and supporting angles then deliberate about moisture content percentages of the various parts of the hoof and explain how similar a hoof wall is to the human finger nail. Another favorite question I get asked about a lot is “What is that thing on the inside of the horses’ leg and what does it do or is she hurt there?”. It is a … I’ll let you ask me, it will be more fun that way. I love it. The more questions I get asked the more excited about it I get. I would talk about horses every waking moment if I could.

Other than the obvious teachings of anatomy, biology, behavior, etymology, tack, its usage, cuing, theory etc. the benefits of riding and learning are large. Riding horses is made to look easy on the T.V. by the pros. However it takes years of study, effort, sweat, dirt, bruises, a few bites, a few kicks and maybe a fall or bail or two to do well at it.

Riding is extremely physical and mental. Every muscle in your body works to stand on your own, now do that while moving at various tempos but keep your mind alert for the potential of a pheasant flying up 2 feet in front of your mount and spooking him, keep yourself from holding your breath and keep yourself from stiffening your body from fear, exchange a fear for focus,  listen for cars if riding on the road and be aware of how fast the driver is driving, ready you and your horse incase they honk the horn or change speed or direction. In the arena, keep tempo, don’t speed up or slow down, keep the horse from stopping, time your cues in the right nano second, check your seat, how are you holding your reins, can you feel what your horse is doing and so on. Here is a really interesting article about Grit. I like this article and recomend reading it. Grit Grit is what it takes to succeed in something we dedicate ourselves to.

Riding teaches us; Emotional control, mental control, body control, tempo, timing, reasoning, problem solving, emotional, mental and physical balance, nonverbal communication, it is fine and gross muscle control, and much more. For some, these things come naturally for others this will help facilitate learning, for some the emotional bonding with a 1000 plus Lb animal who doesn’t speak English and is nonjudgemental is a healing event, for people struggling with anger it is mental exercise in self control. For a person with heart problems the act of mindful grooming can slow the heart rate and train the person to monitor heart rate.

So, my question to you is… What do you want to get out of taking riding lessons? Which door do you need opened in your life?

If you are looking for physical activity, this is a great method of working out. The following calculations are for a person 120Lb add more calorie burning power to horseback riding if you weigh more than a big jockey. Grooming a horse properly will burn roughly 700 calories, slow horseback riding (walking) for an hour and a half will burn about 300Cal, an hour and a half of trotting, about 750Cal, now galloping if you could do that for an hour and a half, just under 1000Cal. Let’s say you do a good 2 hour grooming for your horse then a well balanced walk, trot, canter ride for an hour and a half. You have just been simply working towards your goal of becoming a better rider for your own self satisfaction, hung out with a friend and just burned about 1400 calories and spent about 3.5 hours doing something that made you think, and relaxed you at the same time plus, you have become that much more proficient at a nice healthy activity. Wanna work out in a gym or would you rather come play with horses?

Here is an exercise calorie calculator, compare horseback riding to other activities.
Calorie Calculator

While there is no mental “calorie” counter for brain usage while horseback riding that I am aware of, I can assure you that it keeps a rider thinking. When a person rides they have to consider the environmental factors, anticipate a horses reaction to them as well as cuing, timing, strength of cue, the rider has to make snap judgements, counter cuing, reaction, correct their physical balance as well as their mental balance, judge the posable reactions from the horse to all of the above, There is a lot of “If this, then that” thought going on while riding. Take into account that every time a person interacts with a horse they are training them in one way or another, then add the pressure of properly doing all of the above in order to keep the horse trained properly. Now add speed to the event and cut reaction times down by two or three times. From my personal experience I can honestly say that just about every ride I’ve had has taught me something new or gave me something to think about later on as far as training goes. It is most definitely a thinking sport.

There are emotional benefits in riding. Accomplishing a goal, overcoming a fear, navigating a course well and feeling pride in a job well done, there is the partnership of horse and rider, there are up days and not so up days, there are horses that really really challenge a handler/rider, this can be frustrating and therefore push the handler/rider into trying different approaches to this particular horse in order to overcome an in pass. There are horses that can really challenge a person’s view on life as well. Working with horses can be an emotional roller coaster that can prepare and or teach a handler/rider emotional change and endurance.

Risk Factors

There are inherent risks when working with horses, riding and being in a barn. While these risks are real and there is an element of danger, there are also ways to lessen that risk factor and safety precautions everyone can take aka Risk Management.  First let’s look at what is under our control.

  • Wear a helmet.
  • Wear a helmet.Wear a helmet

This is the easiest part of safety one can manage. I advise everyone wear a helmet. I like wearing a helmet. The reasons why are;

  1. It’s under the rider’s control completely.
  2. It can be low cost, $45 helmet Vs $25,000 per day (by some accounts) for head trauma treatment, not to mention the emotional costs to family members and friends. Helmets range in price from $30 up to over $800 for a professional jockey’s helmet.
  3. I feel more able to focus on the job at hand rather than worrying about micro managing my safety and I work more effectively.

  • Wear proper footwear.

  1. A heal on a riding boot or shoe will help keep a rider’s foot from slipping too far into the stirrup and help prevent a rider’s foot from becoming lodged into the stirrup.
  2. The tall English riding boot is both fashionable and protects the lower leg and calf from chaffing on the stirrup leathers. A combination of paddock boot with half chaps can serve the same purpose if the rider would rather save the tall boot for showing.
  3. Taller boots such as paddock boots can help protect the ankle joint if a fall were to happen or a foot getting caught on some object. I recommend choosing at least a paddock boot over a riding shoe.
  • Ride to your level.

If you are uncomfortable or your gut is saying “Don’t do that!” Don’t. There are times when the next step of riding will excite a rider and there will be butterflies in a rider’s gut but the “Don’t Do That” gut feeling is quite different. If a rider is contemplating a large leap in ability, it’s probably not a good idea. Take careful steps to get to the next skill level. Don’t take a leap into something too advanced or something the horse is not trained for. For example; A rider is proficient at the walk trot and wants to advance into cantering but has trouble with balance at the trot, the rider should refine and continue working on balance and horsemanship before going into a canter. A rider is on a barn kept horse who has not been on an easy trail in his or her life. Don’t take that horse to the Rocky’s for a 5 day mountain trail ride. If a rider has only worked on the flat, don’t jump a 4 foot double oxer. An exceptional rider is on an untrained horse, called a green horse. The horse is jigging, breathing heavy, sweating, muscles are tight and blowing. These are signs of unease. This rider should work on making the horse comfortable and feeling secure rather than continue with the action the rider wishes.

  • Check the tack.

Tack wares out. Leather needs to be properly cared for to maintain it’s useful life. If leather dries out it becomes brittle. If leather gets moldy it looses it’s cohesiveness and can more easily break. Check for obvious signs of ware, cracks in leather, frayed stitching and mold. Replace stretched out, cracked, warn, moldy leather. A 100 year old saddle is probably not a useful saddle anymore, don’t use it. A broken saddle is not useable and can cause a horse pain potentially leading to bucking or rearing. Not so much fun for the horse or the rider, and avoidable.

  • Learn Horsemanship first.

Horses are herbivores and herd animals and will switch from comfortable to fight or flight more quickly than a carnivore. This is why I am an advocate of learning horsemanship prior to riding. Horse behavior is essential knowledge to riding. Horses are trained off of their natural behavior triggers. Understanding from the ground how a horse might behave in certain circumstances will help to keep rider more safe when in the saddle. This also gives the rider the proper tools to handle the situation before a situation arises that could put them in danger.

  • Know the horse’s abilities.

A green horse will most likely not be comfortable in new situations. If a rider understands behavior and understands where the horse is in training, the rider can help the horse stay calm and work through a fear thusly building trust and confidence in each other. This rider understands and can work with a horses abilities or avoid the things a horse is not currently capable of. If this rider were to punish a horse for being afraid this creates more fear in the horse and puts the rider at risk. If a rider asks a horse to do something the horse is not conditioned to, the rider is putting the horse at risk and therefore themselves. An example: It’s the first nice day of spring. Sally wants to gallop her horse out on the trail. Her horse has done little work over the winter, riding only a few times in the arena. Sally gallops her horse through the post winter, unkempt trails not knowing that a tree has fallen across the trail. The trail is wet with melted snow and her horse has to jump the tree and slips and falls in the mud on the other side of the tree. Sally and her horse limp back to the barn and sally’s horse has a bowed tendon now and is looking at 8 months of recovery time. Sally has a sprained ankle and serious bruising in her hip from the fall.

  • Be mindful at all times.
  1. Focus on the task at hand.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings and what is happening around you.
  3. Be aware of your horse and your horse’s behavior.

Those are just a few examples of mindfulness. A horse is an excellent teacher of mind focus. This can help a rider learn to control their focus. In instances of ADD, ADHD and adult ADD riding is very effective at teaching focus, mindfulness and how to learn which things are of importance and which things one needs to be more relaxed with. In other words how to filter the objects of focus.

I have followed these risk management tips and many more. In my 20 some odd years of working with horses I have never been thrown or fallen off. I have had to bale 2 times however. Once when I was working at a livery stable and one other time. The second time was so insignificant to me I am unable to remember the circumstances. Both of these instances I rode horses that I didn’t feel comfortable riding. I was unhurt from the bails because I know how to go about doing a proper bail in which I roll off and away from the horse and end up on my feet.

Another incident I was asked to ride a horse by an owner to give him my opinion of the chances of retraining him. This horse was a runner and took off running. I normally would avoid riding a horse without working on some round penning exercises first. I was just starting out raining and was eager to make gain a client. This time I didn’t follow my rules to make a client happy. The horse’s bit was a solid bar, medium shanked bit, not great for a one rein stop, we did a 2 strand barbwire/pig wire stop into the fence instead. We were both fine, not even scratches and I really really liked that horse in the end. Following your gut feelings and personal safety rules are a must and I will always say no to riding without doing my round pen exercises first. Never let anyone talk you out of your precautions.

I will share this with you as well. For me horses have opened many doors. I was told in horseshoeing school by a fellow student, “You’re too small to shoe horses!” my inner response was “Ha! Watch me and I will do it better than you too.” I did do a better job than him. In grade school, “You don’t have the right KIND of money to have horses.” “Really?”, “You really need to work on projects that aren’t horse related.” “What would be the point of that?” Later in life I started to see that other things had value, such as; Martial Arts-Horseback riding needs mind control and a Zen-like attitude, Yoga-streatches the body, keeps you limber and teaches the importance of breathing properly, Medieval Architecture-Form and Function of horse anatomy, Latin-helps to understand why they name some horse parts what they are named, History-How horses and humans interacted through time so on and so forth.

The have opened the doors of knowledge, understanding myself and others, compassion, inner strength, courage, fortitude, when enough is enough, emotional control, how to handle a bully, body language, the list goes on. They have given me the best job ever and for the best reasons ever. There are more doors on the horizon, this I am sure of.

There are a lot of good reasons to take riding lessons. It is just a matter of doing it and not being afraid to take that fifth step, the one in the stirrup.

One last note on this topic for now; A lot of thought, conversations and debate went into choosing the name Open Door Equine. I want the reader to keep that in mind when deciding whether or not to write or call. Horses are indeed expensive but there are many ways to trim and or share expense. Never let anyone hold you back from a dream for any reason THEY think you should and most importantly, never hold yourself back. If this is really something you or your child needs to do for whatever the reason let’s work together and figure out ways to make it happen. Horses hold so much good and I truly want to make this good available to anyone wanting to let horses into their lives especially those in most need and with deep desire.