Holding the Reins: Meet Jen & Hadley

Let me introduce you to Jen and her daughter, Hadley

jen3There is the usual way that families start riding.  Most likely the kids start first then mom and/or dad join in the fun.  Not so with these two!


I met mom, Jen,  a number of years ago when she joined my Beginner Western class.  We instantly hit it off and became friends quickly.  As we got to know each other better the horse ownership questions started.  Jen had fallen for one of our super-star school horses, Malcolm.  On May 5, 2016 she became his proud forever owner!

Jen and I were reminicing recently and I asked her what brought her to Woodland.  Jen shared, “close to the time I turned 40 and my kids were getting older, I realized my paid and volunteer work wasn’t really making me happy. With my husband traveling every week for work, I was feeling tired, depleted and not very motivated. When I sat down and thought about things that brought me true joy, horseback riding was of course top of the list. I knew I needed horses back in my life. I grew up loving horses and riding as much as I possibly could. More so than anything else – horses had always brought me happiness, increased self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment.”

Well, she and Malcolm have really made progress and have accomplished a lot including Intro level Western Dressage!  She and Malcolm have started showing off property and have earned some really phenominal scores too!  So proud!!


So, about a year and a half ago Jen’s daughter, Hadley started taking lessons.  Hadley just blossomed and is becoming quite the young horsewoman.  So…like mother like daughter, Hadley fell in love with another of our horses, Sochi.  Happily, Jen and Hadley welcomed Sochi into their family in 2017!!


Jen continued, “there is nothing more fulfilling than living a life-long dream. It never occurred to me that signing up for riding lessons would lead me to purchase not one, but two horses! Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of owning a horse. At every stage of my life I talked myself out of it – too young, too expensive, not enough time, etc. When life gave me the opportunity to purchase my first horse, I said, “why not? why not now?” And it has been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself.”

“I’ll also add that buying Sochi has added a whole other level to what I thought horses could bring to my adult life. Seeing my daughter work on her riding skills and learning the value of team work on Woodland’s Show Team has been a mom’s dream come true. I’m so deeply proud of how hard she works and her willingness to learn. She is growing so much as a rider and person! But the very best part is being able to saddle up and ride together. It’s time I value more than anything else.”

So what does Hadley think of all this?  “I think the most surprising thing is how far my riding has come. I didn’t think I’d be successful in shows and never thought my mom would actually buy another horse for me to make mine.”  Who’s the lucky girl!!

So now that these two gals have their own horses…now what?  Hadley says, “I want to show more and do more jumping. Coach Ashley has been really helpful and encouraging. I’m hoping to learn how to navigate courses and enter my first hunter jumper show this spring.”  How exciting!

And Jen?  Who got all this started?  “I have one very simple goal: to keep riding as long as I can. This means keeping myself healthy and active. For now, my children are young and, of course, a huge priority and time commitment in my life . But in my wildest dreams I do see myself having many more horses, my own farm, and maybe even studying equine therapy for people with special needs. I would also like to somehow bring equine experiences to people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to learn from these amazing animals – low income populations or people who live in cities and may not have access to places to ride. Where I go with horses is still a story I have yet to write. But I’m excited to see how it turns out!”  Those are admirable goals and looking forward to seeing where this road takes these two.


On a personal note, I was not allowed to join the world of horses as a kid.  Being able to help other adults returning to riding or explore this challenging sport just makes me so happy.  To see Jen help introduce her daughter to the world of horses and teach her the extrordinary inherent values reminds me, and I am sure all instructors, that we are all indeed blessed!  Sniff…

Oh…Mother Nature!!

Mother Nature seems to be making it very challenging for area equestrians!  With frigid temperatures, snow, deluges of rain for days, flooding…ugh!  Now she is bringing the winds from the north!


How do we handle days like these at Woodland?  Our fabulous barn staff are very well trained in keeping our horses happy and healthy when the out-of-doors is unpleasant and unsafe.

So the horses need to stay in…why?? Horses and ponies love to get into “trouble” under the best circumstances.  But with slippery mud and/or snow the chance of injury easily triples.  A pulled muscle or strained tendon takes a long time to recover from so spending a day inside is worth it in the long run.  Better safe than sorry…we want to help keep all the horses healthy and uninjured.

The first thing we do is make sure all horses have a super-clean, full bucket of water.  Many horses prefer to drink vigorously from the big troughs we have in the pastures.  So keeping their water buckets appealing is critical.  Ten gallons a day in water consumption is average.  Next is plenty of hay to keep their tummies happy.  With hay and water in their stomachs they generate heat through the digestive process.  This is important as horse turned out can run and play and warm up their bodies as needed.  In the stall they cannot do what is natural to them.  The horses at Woodland get hay at least four times a day during normal times.  When kept in we add a feeding or two and a more generous amount!  We may also reduce the amount of grain just a bit as they are not burning off those extra calories.

During cold weather we also need to pay attention to whether the horses need blankets or sheets.  As they are not able to move about normally they may need a little more to wear to stay comfortably warm.  But, we must be careful to not over-blanket as a sweaty horse will get cold and clammy and unhealthy very quickly.  It is a fine line and we may change them from blankets to sheets or vice versa more than once in a day.  That’s a lot of work but it another aspect of horse-care that must be monitored.

Then there is boredom.  Horses kept in for a single day don’t usually suffer from boredom but two or three days of being cooped up can get under their skin.  Lots of hay helps but a stall toy can be a diversion and a visit from you really is great.  Take this opportunity to spend lots of grooming time if you can get to the barn.  It feels so good and supports the bond you and your horse have developed.

Ok…the horses have been cooped up for days.  What do we do?  Thank heavens we have an indoor ring.  The barn staff will turn out horses that play well with each other in small groups so they can get their ya-ya’s out.  Every horse and pony will get a couple hours to play and move their bodies as nature intended.  Below is video of my horse, Flint along with my husband’s horse Peso and a couple of cohorts in crime having an excellent time while it absolutely pours down rain outside…enjoy the shenanigans!!  It rained for four days straight and all came thru with flying colors!!

All in all the horses and ponies tolerate the change in their routine.  They are extremely adaptable critters!

The care we give is an extension of the love and respect we have for them.  It’s good to be a Woodland horse or pony!!

Pony Pals Camp @ Woodland

Our Pony Pals Camp is for all horse-crazy kids age 5-7!  One week camp sessions are full of:

  • riding lessons where the kids learn to walk, halt, trot and more for returning campers
  • horsemanship lessons where the kids learn all about the care of horses and ponies
  • un-mounted games where we learn what the horse is feeling when we ride them
  • afternoon lessons to include Western lessons, bareback lessons and mounted games
  • traditional Pizza Day
  • Water Wednesday is for learning to bathe a pony plus un-mounted water games in the afternoon

We have improved our program to include more afternoon riding time and our games and un-mounted times will be all horsemanship related.

For parents we know how you would love to be there to watch our kids learning to ride.  We will be posting on our Facebook page daily albums where we will post pics of our daily activities so you can “check in”.

So, who is running the camp and keeping the kids safe and happy?  Here is your team!!

Karen Parker is your Pony Pals Camp Director and her responsibilities include making sure all is running smoothly, keeping parents connected via Facebook, teaching horsemanship lessons and more.  Karen can’t wait to meet the kids!  She has been riding at Woodland since 2001 and has been teaching since 2003…and loves it!!

Kathryn Motley is your Pony Pals Camp Instructor and excels at teaching young children.  She has a kind, positive style kids really respond to.  Kathryn looks forward to helping the kids learn to ride!  She has been riding at Woodland since she was 6 years old.

Our wonderful CIT’s (Councelors-in-Training) help Karen and Kathryn teach and help care for the ponies we ride for camp.  We love our CIT’s!!

We all work together to make horseback riding “Dreams Come True”!


So how do you sign up?  Just send in your registration forms and Katy Espinoza, our Camp Registrar, will send you an email confirmation.  A 50% deposit is required to secure your spot(s).  Fax the forms to 301-421-9049 or email to woodland16301@verizon.net.

The camp cost is $450 per week.

For more info and all signup needs please visit us at http://www.woodlandhorse.com/ponypalscamp.html

We are looking forward to meeting you and the kids!!


Happy, Horsey Valentine’s Day!

It is always fun to show our horses how much we love them!

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to go overboard…and some folks did…



Every year we hold a Valentine’s Day Stall Decorating Contest for our children riders and for our adult riders.  This years winners will receive a voucher for an upcoming 2018 clinic of their choice (appropriate level is a must).  A great prize!!


This years winners are Hadley Middleton, Raegan Nalls and Willow Skapin!

Hadley and Raegan had a great time getting Sochi’s stall decorated this past weekend.  It is a sea of red and pink, as you can see.

Willow Skapin decorated Titan’s stall and drew a really pretty picture for him.  She had a little help from Mom and little sister.  Nice job!!!


Don’t forget the treats too.  Anytime Tack Shop has just gotten in some really pretty and very tasty treats called “Misty Mints”.  They are nice because they are not effected by humidity and become a sticky mess in your pocket…hooray!!  Stop by and check them out for yourself!

We hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day!  Don’t forget to kiss a muzzle or two…or three!




Holding the Reins: Meet Kat

Let me introduce you to Kat.  She is a prime example of a super success story for our riders and our wonderful school horses.


In this continuing series you will meet a huge spectrum of our riders.  I am excited to bring them to you as everyone in the horse-world comes to it from their own point of view and expectations.  I love how everyone is different!

Kat came to us because of our Western program.  She has been a student of mine for almost four years and has always been a pleasure to teach. Quick learner and always willing to try.  She rode many horses in her lesson but quickly fell in love with Puzzle.  Puzzle showed her the ropes and was a great teacher for Kat.  Then it happened…Kat decided horse ownership was in the cards.  We tried some younger school horses and then she rode Carl.  It was magical.  They spoke each others language!  Kat said to me, “Now this is what it’s supposed to feel like!”  She is still smiling as she purchased Carl in 2016.  They have brought incredible joy to each others life and make me happy to see them together every day!!

I asked her to share some of her thoughts…and she did!!

What made you think about taking horseback riding lessons?  “Many of my most meaningful memories from childhood were on horseback.  There was always a connection there that really mattered.  At a time in my life when I needed to give to myself, horseback riding lessons was a natural fit.”  Horses are so good for humans.  Period. End of sentence!

Why western?  “I grew up out west where western riding is the ‘go to’ style.  All my previous experience had been in a western saddle.   It was the only thing I knew.  Besides – those English saddles looked so…small.”  For many adult riders, me included, we have a little bit of fear when coming back to riding as an adult.  Many feel “safer” in a western saddle.  Kat took to it quickly and has expanded her knowledge and now rides English and Western.  Too much knowledge is a good thing!!



Where did you think this was going to take you?  Any preconceived thoughts?  “I thought I would ride once a week, similar to the riding I did in my 20s.  I think I knew there was a lot to the sport, but I really didn’t know just HOW much!”  It is amazing the avenues that are available to you as an equestrian.  Another thing is that aspects of one area can help you in others.  Learn as much as you can!

Where have you actually gone?  “Beyond my wildest dreams!  First of all, there is Carl!!!  I own a horse.  That is just,…well… there really are no words for how important Carl is to my life and my well-being.  I’m learning so many things – obstacle riding, roping, working cattle, riding English (which, it turns out, I love), dressage!!!!, a little jumping.  I never though I could do, much less excel, at so many riding skills.  And there is so much more to learn.”  So exciting!  Like I said…many skills learned in other aspects of riding help when you try a new thing!!

What has surprised you?  “One day, Katy Espinoza asked me if I would be interested in becoming an instructor.  After my heart stopped and I picked my jaw up off the floor, I surprised myself by saying yes. Taking that big step outside my comfort zone has turned out to be a real gift.  My students are incredible learners, but most of all they are incredible people and teachers. I haven’t messed anyone up yet; and they have made me a better rider in the process.”  Teaching is what brings things full circle.  To be able to share what you know with another person and help make their dreams come true is special and so fulfilling for all involved.

What are your goals for the future? “Right now, I want Carl to have a solid halt and a consistently smooth right lead canter transition.   We’re working on training level dressage tests and skills.  And, I MUST get Carl with cows.”  Once a Western rider…always a western rider at heart!!




Mud, Mud and more MUD!

Our horses seem to love having a good roll in the mud.

It make it harder for us to keep them groomed and pretty but we equestrians don’t seem to mind…too much!


So why do horse like getting muddy?

There are many reasons but one of them is just the pure fun of doing it.

Social Component

If you have ever watched horses roll and play in mud you will see the joy in their faces.  They will try and encourage their turnout mates to join the fun.  Horses are social creatures and rolling in whatever they can find is a big part of their social routine.

Skin/Coat Care

Our horses skin and coat need maintenance.  There are all sorts of skin issues that rolling in the mud and dirt help with.  Insect are part of our horses daily life.  Rolling in mud and dirt help keep the bugs off of them and also give a good scratch to area that to bugs have nibbled.  Also, as the mud dries it helps keep their skin dry and healthy.

Air Conditioning

The cooling action of the drying mud helps cool our horses.  These days where it is warm then cold then warm are challenging.  Rolling in mud then letting it dry helps regulate their temperature.

Time to ride!?

So, you have come to the barn to discover your gorgeous horse had rolled and is encased in a cocoon of mud and crud.  We do our best to get them clean and here is why we all do any extra good job.

It is amazing how our horses can damage themselves in turnout and when they are encased in mud it is easy to miss an injury.  It is our job (and pleasure) to inspect and clean every square inch of our horse before we ride, graze, mess with our horses.  They can’t always tell us what is bothering them so we have to find it.

If we miss an open boo-boo and do not get it clean and treated then big problems can develop.  Fungus and infection can come on quickly and you must get ahead of it right away.  Remember…your horse is depending on YOU!

So go on and get in there.  Get your horse super-clean.  Make sure they are in good shape.  Treat anything you see because too much care is better than not enough.

Remember…we are part of your horses social network too and they enjoy having a good grooming and spending good quality bonding time with you too!


And the Holiday Parties were Fabulous!!

What a bunch of party animals we are!!


The holidays were a great time to get together and spend some time catching up with each other!  Our Students, Teams and Staff were no exception!

the team1

the team2

The Saddle Club Show Team party was held at Karen & Bryan’s house.  Pot Luck dinner followed by a hilarious White Elephant Gift Exchange was a blast!  We even got a new team mascot!  Meet Woody the Giraffe!

team mascot woody

Our Staff Party was a ton of fun with the most hysterical round of Musical Chairs I have ever seen!


The Meringue Fairy arrived too!!


Our Barn Decorating Party was wonderful and the Drill Performance was very exciting!

IMG_0723  IMG_0741  IMG_0746IMG_0750

The “Drill Bits” Adult Drill Team party was wonderful and held at Karen & Bryan’s house.  Lots of food, drinks and more silly gift exchanges that night too!

team 2017

See you all at next years parties!!

Bruno’s Happy Holiday

As most of you know, Bruno was voted 2017 School Horse of the Year by our Woodland family.  He has been enjoying some quality time off.  Lots of grooming, loving and Mother Nature has improved her attitude and sent us weather so Bruno can go outside and play as much as he wants.

Today Bruno received a special gift from the great gals at Anytime Tack.

He was given an Uncle Jimmy’s Hangin’ Ball and boy has he been having an excellent time with his treat.  Uncle Jimmy’s Hangin’ Ball is the perfect stall treat for your horse! Bruno will spend hours trying to lick and grab this entertaining and delicious ball made of corn, oats and some sugar.


Bruno is not always the bravest horse so we introduced his treat to him carefully.  He had no problem and instantly fell in love with his stall entertainmnet system :))

I went into his stall about 30 minutes after the ball was hung and he had been having so much fun with it!  His head was wet and sticky from playing and he was smiling from ear to ear.


Bruno says, “Thanks everybody for my treat!  Especially Anna from Anytime Tack and Uncle Jimmy.  You guys are the best!!”

2018 Horseback Riding Goals

Our students share their goals, wishes & thoughts for the upcoming year!!

Learning to ride is an extremely challenging endeavor.   If you have every taken a lesson you know this is true!  You are sitting on a 1,000+ pound animal with thoughts and feelings of his/her own.  There are bound to be times when you feel extra “challenged”.

Your instructor has taught you to recognize the small victories and build upon them.

I asked a number of our riders about goals for the upcoming year.  Interesting and perceptive answers…

Devon Crawford, one of our newer Western students, shares her thoughts.  “As an adult returning to riding after many years, my 2018 goals are to reconnect with my inner child (and her love for horses) and to continue moving forward. I don’t want to push myself dangerously fast, but I also don’t want to stagnate. I would like to feel like I am improving at all times, whatever the pace may be. Maybe I will also try entering a Woodland show for the first time to get back into the feel of competition!”  A great approach if you asked me!!


Faye Griffith, a Western student who has been with me for many years said, “My goals for this year are to master getting the correct lead and to become proficient with the canter. Also, working to ride with legs and seat not relying so much on reins.”  I really like Fayes thinking as she know herself and her comfort level very well.  Having straight forward, fundimental goals gives you a very clear target.  You will get it Faye!!

Gegi Leeger, one of our English riders who just bought her first horse says, “My 2018 (yikes!!) is to establish a deep connection with my horse both while riding and on the ground. And to have more fun with all my barn friends, especially the Drill team ladies!”  Gegi is on track, if you ask me, as establishing a bond with your horse is key to the relationship.  And we all know the friendships developed at Woodland are forever and what make us so special…in my opinion!!  :))

Gegi n bentley

Whatever your goal(s), having a plan and a point to work toward will help you get where you want to go.  Sometimes it is a big thing, sometimes it is the little victories.  Whatever works for you…Go for IT!!