Can Horseback Riding Make you Smarter?

We all know that horseback riding makes you happier, but now a study from Tokyo University of Agriculture shows that riding may help children learn. It turns out that the vibrations that occur when horses are ridden, activate the brain’s sympathetic nervous system.

The study, published in Frontiers in Public Health, involved asking children to complete simple response and mathematical tests, before and after riding a horse.

The results showed that riding horses greatly improved the children’s ability to perform behavioral tasks, leading to better memory, learning, and problem solving. The findings were less significant when it came to math problems.

Town & Country

Liz on King, 1962
My parents started me riding at age 2. They must have anticipated that it would make me smarter.

Well, that explains a lot. I was never very good at math although I rode a lot during childhood! But for all of us with children, it gives us yet another reason to plop that toddler on a pony and tell them to kick on.


The best weekend to buy a helmet

International Helmet Awareness Day
September 16-17 is International Helmet Awareness Day. Riders4 Helmets has partnered with hundreds of retailers to offer discounts on helmets this weekend.

Thinking of buying a new helmet? This is the weekend to do it! Hundreds of retailers are offering discounts on helmets as part of International Helmet Awareness Day.

The helmet brands that have committed involvement in International Helmet Awareness Day 2017 are: Caldene, Champion, Charles Owen, Gatehouse, GPA, Harry Hall Hats, International Riding Helmets (IRH), Kask, KEP Italia, LAS helmets (Leslie Sutcliffe UK), One K, Ovation, Samshield, Tipperary, Troxel and Uvex.

Riders4Horses began the initiative to educate equestrians about the importance of wearing helmets every ride in 2010 as a direct result of US Olympian Courtney King Dye’s accident — an accident that demonstrated that bad falls and Traumatic Brain Injuries can happen to the best riders, even when riding on good footing and in a controlled environment.

Don’t miss your chance to get a great price on an approved, well-fitted helmet and keep your brain safe for another year.

When drivers are dangerousII

It’s gotten to the point where I hate riding on the sides of roads because so many drivers are either clueless about horses or downright evil. Giving the majority the benefit of the doubt, I think a lot of drivers simply think of horses as machines, like bicycles, and don’t understand that driving by them fast, beeping their horn, or otherwise scaring a horse can result in a bad outcome.

This poor 4-year old Quarter Horse gelding was spooked by a driver and slipped into a ditch by the side of the road. Not just any ditch, but a horse trap — too deep and narrow to allow the horse to escape.

The rider was able to get out unharmed and luckily the Miami Dade Fire Rescue Team stepped in with equipment that allowed it to lift the horse out of the ditch. It was unharmed.

But here’s the kicker. These guys  get a lot of practice because, apparently, this happens once or twice a month!

“The tech rescue guys at FS 43 created a mock horse built out of steel and concrete [that] weighs 1,000 lbs. It allows the team … to rotate through and practice securing the horse to lift it out,” Miami-Dade Fire Captain Jack Swerdloff said.

Hard to believe that there hasn’t been some educational outreach to try to prevent this from happening so often.

Horses don’t care about potential

Kroni turned out to be a very talented horse, once I found him the “right” job.

Sometimes you’re lucky and you buy a horse that ends up with more talent than you expected. More talent than you, perhaps, need for the type of riding you prefer. And, more times than not, I hear those lucky people lament the fact that they are “holding back” the horse, who could achieve greater things with a better rider.

I read this on a friend’s FB page last week as she talked about her horse:

Honestly, she has so much ability! Sometimes I think she is wasted on me. Not that I don’t love her and do things with her, but she is capable of so much more.

She’s right that she has a lovely, athletic horse who has a lot of ability. But she is certainly not wasting that talent. Nope, this is a sensitive horse with, shall we call, an amount of “exuberance” that many people would not be able to ride. My friend rides this horse beautifully and they have a fantastic partnership. It sure looks like a happy horse to me.

I do understand where she’s coming from because years ago, I said the same thing about my Trakehner, Kronefurst, to my trainer. Kroni was a beautiful and athletic horse with extravagant gaits and a big jump. He also had some quirks, including a tendency to rear and a very defined opinion about how he liked to be ridden. After I said how much more Kroni could have done with a better rider, my trainer laughed and said he was damned lucky to have found me because his quirks might have led to a bad ending.

Patriot's day
For several years I rode him in a Patriot’s Day Re-enactment, rousing the Lincoln Minutemen. I could tell that he wasn’t crazy about riding down into the crowds, but he did it because I asked him.

Let’s face it. Horses don’t understand potential. They don’t hunker down at night and bemoan the fact that they will never gallop around Rolex.

I do believe they know when they’ve done a good job, and I certainly think that many horses like to have a job that they understand and can excel at. But they don’t care about ribbons and they never berate themselves for not achieving the human definition of success.  They want to please their human and that may well be enough. Well, that and lots of turnout and grass.

I bought Kroni with the intention of eventing him, but I only took him to a couple of competitions. He was always fussy with his mouth — partially it was because he had a thick tongue and a low palate; partially it was because he felt trapped when asked for any collection. After struggling with the dressage phase for several years, it became clear to me that this was never going to be his strong suit.

Kronefurst, my Trakehner, found his true purpose in life foxhunting. Here is is in his bitless bridle, waiting patiently for the first cast.

Ultimately, he found his calling as a hunt horse. From the very first time I hunted him he let me know that this was what he’d been waiting to do. Out hunting, he didn’t need to have a bit — he was completely controllable with a bitless bridle. He was bold but never out of control. He jumped anything that was in front of him. And he stood at the checks on the buckle. We had a deal: I would never ask him to do something that he couldn’t do and he would take care of me.

Sure, if he’d had a different rider, he might have won more ribbons but I don’t think he would have had more fun.

If you’re lucky enough to have one of those horses with a little bit more scope than you actually need, just remember that your horse doesn’t care about potential. He only wants to be well cared for and loved, and to please you. So enjoy that extra bit of ability, give him a pat and know that he is only performing for you.

William Fox-Pitt leads after Dressage in Rio

William Fox-Pitt on Chilli Morning
William Fox-Pitt GBR riding Chilli Morning, during the dressage phase of the Eventing Competition of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Fox-Pitt currently is in first place.

William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning held onto their leadership position with a score of 37.0. What a come back for William, who had a terrible fall last year. To see him back in the saddle and in such great form is inspiring.

He tells his story best in these two interviews below. Until listening to him, I’d had no idea how much he’s had to overcome in his recovery.

Horses have always been part of my life and I love being around them. During my recovery they gave me something to go for. The horses really got me back to being fit and back on the job.

In the beginning I couldn’t see very well at all and then for several months I had blurred vision. It did effect my riding.

‘The jumping was tricky when you could see one fence that became four and I couldn’t really tell which one I was jumping until the last minute. It’s tough.