At R&M Stables, our mission is to develop horsemanship skills ‘from the ground up.’ Our relationship with the horse begins from the ground. The better our ‘ground game’ - the better our ride will be in the saddle. I love to hear people’s comments when they arrive at our ranch. Because our check in area is the first point of contact, many will remark, “Oh, I love your corral.” What they are actually looking at is the ‘round pen.’ Each day at camp, we begin with a round pen talk, where the riders sit in the bleachers above this area.
The round pen has multiple purposes for use in the way we develop our horses. It can be used when starting colts, training a difficult horse, and for developing impeccable ground manners. Round penning is a discipline where we learn to speak to our horse, and learn the horse’s language - sometimes with a lunge line attached, sometimes while tacked, and the purest form of communication, with nothing attached to our horse. Simply put, the round pen is the foundation of our horsemanship.
Think of it this way: If we want to teach somebody to speak a second language, we must first know how to speak that person’s language. The same concept applies in the round pen. This language isn’t just verbal, but relies heavily on nonverbal communication through body language. While that may seem like a simple concept, it can actually be very difficult to learn, taking time, patience, and practice.
At R&M Stables, we have several different horses to work with, which can really help with this skill. Learning to communicate with horses can often be extremely frustrating. While all horses speak “equineese” (my term for their language), they sometimes have their own dialect that looks and sounds different from our standard language. It is up to each horseman to figure out how to break through that language barrier.
If you live in Tennessee, you know that it gets extremely hot during the summer. In fact, many of my friends have chosen to take this summer off from riding. Some only ride at night in order to avoid the direct sun and heat of the day. Others have chosen to not ride at all, simply because it’s just too hot.
As summer draws to an end and the cooler temperatures of Fall call us to get back in the saddle - it might be a good time to get back in the round pen and strengthen our communication with our equine partners.
Ok! Looks like we have some August Goals!
Every Thursday, at the end of our camp week together, the cowpokes present a show to parents where they trot out their newly acquired skills. Each week, parents pull me aside to ask, "What type of pony is Dolly?" While ‘Dolly’ is her ranch name, her registered name is Kokovoko Octavia - a sport, Gotland mare.
The Swedish Gotland, or Skogruss pony, is probably the oldest of the Scandinavian breeds. Retaining much of its primitive character, the Gotland pony once lived in the semi-wild state on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, as well as in the Lojsta forest in Sweden.
In its native land, the Gotland pony is called “Russ” or forest pony. The breed has been around for centuries and is spoken of in the legends and tales of czars and Vikings, closely tied with all of Sweden’s history.
The Gotland pony is on the extinct equine list, with only about 500 remaining in the USA. Once employed as a general-purpose farm pony, the Gotland, today, is used for riding purposes. These ponies are extremely athletic and especially excel at jumping and cross country events.
While Dolly has done an excellent job carrying our cowpokes thru the summer season at a relaxed pace, it will be fun to see her in action during our lesson program, where she can move at her more active pace!