Behind the Bridle: Bandit

Rina & Bandit 2009

If you know him you gotta LOVE him!!

Bandit is one of those unassuming ponies of unknown origin but boy are we happy to have him with us!  He has quietly taught so many children and smaller adults the ins and outs of becoming an equestrian.

He stands about 14 hands high on a good day.  He is a chestnut colored Spanish Mustang.  He came to us in 2009 and he is well-aged…we aren’t telling!  He is a little shy but will trust you.  Just rest your hand on his shoulder to say all is fine and you are on your way to being a “Bandit-Lover”.

Ashley Christian was there the afternoon he came off the trailer and tells us about his famous arrival.  “When Mike unloaded him he was this little guy who didn’t look like he was spunky, at all!  Well…we learned quickly he is an escape artist.  Bandit was being taken to the round pen and then he suddenly took off and had a big run around the farm.  Checking out his new home!  He was eventually caught and from that day on we have been extra careful he is fully in his stall before we let go of him.”  What a character!!

Rina Levy is one of our original “Saddle Club” members and has love Bandit from the moment I assigned him to her those many years ago.  He has taught her to ride and to jump with confidence!!  Rina shares her thoughts about Bandit, “I learned everything on Bandit after coming to WHC in the 2nd grade. He was the first horse I ever jumped with, trailed with, and I rode him in my first ever show (WHC in house, I think Memorial Day). I rode him in 2 camp drills and countless lessons. Every time I have a student on him, they laugh when I tell stories of slow poke Bandit taking off with me in Saddle Club. He really does have a secret gas pedal! I rode him again in the instructor’s command class last year and we pulled a 3rd out of 12! Gallop to halt transitions, counter canter, halts with no hands- he does it all without complaint. I remember one quick transition, he came down from the gallop so fast my saddle was on his neck! I will forever thank this horse for teaching me the ropes and letting me love him to pieces, even 8 years later!”

Bandit Rina1
Rina & Bandit 2017

Bandit is a Rock Star beyond all compare.  He challenges you but with a kind heart.  He rewards you when you get it right.  He loves you back by being the best little man out there.  He may not look it from the outside but he is a spectaculer gem!!

Why are my eyes wet?  Sniff…

Remember…even though our horses and ponies are well-behaved and very talented, they are still horses and ponies. They can have a bad day and also be influenced by unexpected things. They are reactionary critters!

The Eyes have It!!

Our horses vision is amazing!!

Human beings tend to think that every living being in the universe looks at the world like we do…silly humans!!

Horses “see” the world differently in a number of very interesting ways.  For humans, vision is our dominant sense.  Not so with horses.

If the horse only sees the prey coming they are too late.  Their sense of hearing and sense of smell are their early warning systems alerting them to danger and to get moving away from it…NOW!

But we are talking about vision.  Let’s start with the most frequently asked question I get about horses vision and that is do horses see in color?  Veterinary researchers are always learning more and disproving myths created over centuries.  Through dissection their anatomy tells us that horses have rods and cones (cones detect different colors) in their eyes. Humans have more cones than horses so horses see color but a more muted version or certain colors may be interpreted as a human who is colorblind.

The 2012 The Horse Magazine article shared some great info.  Andrew Matthews, BVM&S, PhD, Dipl. ECEIM, ACVO (Hon.), FRCVS, an equine practitioner and ophthalmologist from Ayrshire, Scotland, gave an overview on what we know about equine vision.  “Additionally, color perception studies have shown that horses have dichromatic vision with a reduced cone density, meaning they’re able to see washed-out versions of colors including green, yellow, blue, and gray. It does not appear that horses can see reds.”


horse vision1

Next question is where can the horses see.  We at taught that horses can see almost 360 degrees around themselves.  Almost true!

There are three places that horses cannot see.  It is extremely important to understand how this effects their perception and thus their behavior.

  • Right in front of their face
  • Right behind their tail
  • Underneath their head and neck

Because the main cause of injury from horses is getting stepped on, lets investigate the “under the head & neck” area first.  Horses are  always paying attention to their surroundings, particularly if there something on the horizon that may want them for dinner…sorry, it’s true.  They are not so worried about what is under them.  That is how they end up stepping on our foot if we get too close to them.  Keep them at the end of your elbow.  That works every time.

Just in from of their nose is another spot where they cannot see us.  It is possible to surprise a horse if you come up on them and pop your hand up in front of their face.  For them your hand comes out of nowhere!  Make sure you have their attention by touching their neck first and by speaking to them.

We have all heard to not stand behind a horse or pony.  Most people do not realize it is because they don’t know we are there as they cannot see just behind their tail.  Some folks think they don’t like us there.  That is MOSTLY untrue.  No horse responds well to surprises and their response is to protect themselves.  That’s just their natural self-preservation instinct.  Just keep your hand on them and speak to them so they don’t forget you are there.


So this is just a little basic info to help you begin to understand how the horses see their world and us in it.  We will delve into more medical info down the line.


Beyond the Bridle: Meet Munchkin

She is a Diamond!

There is no doubt she is an absolute gem!!  Munchkin is one of those great school horses that goes along doing her job without much muss or fuss.  She came to us in 2010 and is about 16 years old.  She stands about 13 hands high and she is a Strawberry  Roan Pony.

munchkin zoe2

She can be used in lower level classes as she is patient most of the time, remember she is a petite mare, but she excels in the higher level classes as she loves to jump.  Zoe Purser has been in love with this little gal for quite a while.  They have been showing for the last few years in both In-House shows and local Hunter/Jumper shows and in area Dressage competitions to include the PVDA Young Riders Summer Series.  Munchkin is always in the ribbons!!


Zoe shares a funny story about Munchkin from the PVDA Young Riders Series from last summer.  “Munch and I were at Young Riders, a 3 Day dressage competition in Virginia. We arrived a day before the first day of competition, June 15th. We unloaded, decorated, and let all the horses settle into their temporary stalls. Shortly after that, we all tacked and went out for a schooling ride so the horses could stretch their legs and get used to the new area. We had a great schooling ride, and when we came back to the barn, Munchkin decided she was hungry. When we walked into one of the side doors of the barn, she locked her eyes on a hay bale from a barn that WASN’T ours. I was leading her in, and out of no where, she snaps down and takes a big bite out of the hay! The hay was still tied so she threw it up, smacked me in the side with it, and shook it around to get some loose. I wobbled but luckily didn’t fall, or she would have been in loads of trouble!”

Zoe and Munchkin had a wonderful competition but you aren’t done til you have made it home.  Zoe’s story was not over…

“Then on the way back 2 days later, we got a flat tire on the truck. We pulled into a 7-11 to see what was wrong, so we all peeked in the trailer to check on our horses. When I look in, I see that Munch’s lead rope was no longer tied to the twine, it was dangling off of it, the knot I tied no where to be found. Roxi had untied her! She is an incredibly smart and funny horse, and she’s so so special.”

What a pair!!  And…Munchkin looks great in pink!!

If you are assigned Munchkin you are in for an excellent time and it means you are making great progress!!

munchkin zoe3

What a sweet, talented gal!!

Remember…even though our horses and ponies are well-behaved and very talented, they are still horses and ponies. They can have a bad day and also be influenced by unexpected things. They are reactionary critters!

Annual Barn Decorating & Santa Party 2017

IMG_0706What a festive get-together at the Barn for Everyone!

We are so glad everyone could join us for our Holiday Party last night!  It was a beautiful evening with cold temperatures and a little dusting of snow still on the ground.  Felt like Christmastime!

The barn is now totally decked out for the holidays thanks to our enthusiastic students with the help of their parents…as needed!






Ashleys Jr. Show Team put on a beautiful Holiday Drill performance.  Well done to all our riders!  It was spectacular!!




Then it was time for refreshments and Santa made his annual appearance!



It was a wonderful night and everyone at Woodland Horse Center wishes you and yours a wonderful Holiday Season full of love!!




Oh, What a Time We Had!!

Our Annual Holiday Staff Party was last night!!

We had a grand time and big thanks to Katy, Ashley, Sam and Richard for turning our lounge into a very festive place.  So Christmas-y and smelled good too!  The food was delicious and plentiful for all us hard-working folks.


After dinner Katy had some wonderful words to share about her staff.  Big props to a great crew of people working in the same direction with our students and horses always coming first.  Thanks Katy!!

Then the Shenanigans began…

Like any Holiday Party there are games!  The first was a game by Ashley.  We were to draw a Christmas scene on a paper plate…held on top of your head!  Hysterical results and our winner was Jessica!

Then we had our Ugly Christmas Sweater contest with Ashley bringing home the prize!


Next was guess the number of horse treats in the large and heavy container…Jessica wins again!!

For those who have been playing the “Name the Flavor” French Meringues Game with Karen on Facebook, we had a mystery flavor contest.  Everyone tried the mystery meringue and put in their guess.  The winner was Kat and the flavor was Champagne!!  Kat won a basket of all twelve flavors Karen made for the holiday party as take home presents!


And then the Musical Chairs!!  Oh my…what a friendly but competitive gang!  So much fun to watch everyone’s “technique!  Check out the video that I will put on our Facebook page here in a minute.  We had two rounds.  Round One was won by Julie and Round Two was won by Elsa!  Well done and no injuries!!


It was a delightful night spending time with a great bunch of people!! XO!!

Here are some pics from our Holiday Photo Booth.

Mike and Sam
Kat, Karen & Ashley
Ashley, Liza, Erica & Cara
Kat, Liza, Erica (I think), Ashley, Karen & Cara
Ashley & Katy
Elissa & Julie

We wish you ALL a very happy Holiday Season full of great friends, delicious food and wonderful times!!


Annual Holiday & Barn Decorating Party

What a Festive & Traditional Woodland Party!

Every year, for the past 27 years, we put on a big Barn Decorating & Santa Party for the kids who ride at Woodland.  But we adult riders and parents come too as it is so much fun!!

This Saturday, December 16 is the party and it starts at 6:00pm.  All current students and their parents and siblings are invited!  Bring horse safe items to decorate your favorite horse or ponies stall.   After we decorate the heck out of the barn the Show Team will present their Holiday Drill performance in the big ring.  Then we will have a visit from “someone” dressed in RED!

After all the ring activities are over we head to the lounge for refreshments!  Great Holiday music too!

2016 Show Team “Holiday Drill” Performers and Coaches

So…what are “horse safe” decorations?

We suggest carrots and apple garlands that can be hung outside the horses stalls.  Kids are welcome to paint or draw pictures that can be attached to the outside of the stalls too.  All decorations are put on the outside of the stalls for safety sake.  Peppermint candies can be taped to the stalls too.

The Dollar Store has lots of items that won’t break the bank.  Garlands and stockings are fun and festive.  You want to avoid hard plastic items that can break off.  We don’t want our horses or ponies to eat any decorations other than the carrots, apples and peppermints, of course!

We hope you can join us for all the fun and here are a couple picture from last year and one from “way back in the day”!

Santa and friends
Photo-bombed by Santa
Fun times had by ALL!
christmas 2003
A Blast from the Past:  Michelle McCarron with her horse Hollywood and Karen Parker with her horse Sampson.  We had so much fun singing Carols in front of the barn that night!  Happy memories from around 2003 or so…I think!!

flint 2014  bryan n peso


Flint says, “Come decorate the barn so all my friends and I can spend some time with our favorite people and maybe…just maybe…get a Holiday Treat or two!  Peso say, “I am in it for the candy canes!!”

See you Saturday Night!!




Show Series: Equitation vs Pleasure

You have heard the words but what does it really mean?

In the Show World there are many classes you can sign up for.

Equitation and Pleasure classes has some similarities but there are very important differences.

Pleasure  pleasure 2

To be clear, everything I have learned about riding, horsemanship, showing and coaching comes from Michelle McCarron, now retired for Woodland.  She opened this wonderful world up for me 17 years ago and I am eternally grateful.  She is always a wonderful mentor.  Yesterday, I reached out to her get her take on the differences between the two classes.

Michelle shares, “In Equitation Classes go in the ring dressed properly.  Go into the ring with an attitude!  Like you have a job to do.”  She continues, ” Right away you will make a good first impression even before being judged.  Say look at ME with your presence.”  The best advice I have ever gotten and also given.

Equitation Classes are judged on your position and  a rider’s ability to ride correctly and use correct and effective aids. The rider is 100% the focus of the judging.  If just a walk/trot class or a course of fences, it is all about the rider.

Pleasure Classes are different.  Michelle adds, “Pleasure is judged more on the horse than on the rider.  But for your horse to look good you must have proper equitation.”   Remember to Smile…Smile…Smile!!  Michelle always impressed upon me, “You must look like you are having the time of your life and riding the best horse ever!”

How do we accomplish this change?

  • Ride relaxed with light contact
  • Your horse must be relaxed, calm and obedient
  • Have a long and low frame
  • Forward movement but not hurried
  • Don’t forget to breathe as well!  It really helps!!

The most important thing is to have fun.  Not every aspect of showing may thrill you but go into the ring, show off yourself because you have worked hard!  Show off your horse as he or she has worked hard too!!




2017 School Horse of the Year Contest

Who’s it gonna be??

Every December we have a very important contest at Woodland.  All current riders, instructors and staff are invited to vote for their favorite School Horse!  Our school horses are the very heart and sole of Woodland and we cannot teach you the art of horseback riding without them.  They all have lessons to teach you, challenges to present you and goal to help you meet!   We want to reward that extra-special horse or pony.

ANNIE   Bandit

Here’s how you VOTE!  Go into the Barn Office and you will see the bulletin board behind the door.  On the bulletin board you will find the ballots and the bright green bag where you put your completed ballot.  You must put your name on the ballot, you will see the spot, for your vote to be counted.  You must vote by December 31.  The winner will be announced in the first week of January!!


What does our 2017 School Horse of the Year win?  Our winner will receive a full week off with lots of extra pampering, grooming, grazing and relaxing!  Our horses work very hard for us and we are so happy to be able to something special for them!!

Past winner have been…

  • 2010 was Sox!
  • 2011 was Spice!
  • 2012 was Peso who was shortly thereafter purchased by Bryan Parker…lucky guy!!
  • 2013 was Ruby!
  • 2014 was Bubba!
  • 2015 was Zack!
  • 2016 was Sochi who is now the happy horse belonging to Ms. Hadley Middleton!

Bryan and Peso 3  sochi hadley1

So let your voice be heard! Vote, vote, vote!!

Beyond the Bridle: Meet Hobo

Now here’s a story for you and it is 100% true!!

Hobo is one for the most correctly named horses at Woodland.  A number of years ago we got a phone call early one Saturday morning at the barn.  The neighbors found a horse in their back yard and thought is must be one of ours.  Sometime they can be escape artists and get out of the pasture and explore the neighborhood.  Thankfully it a very quiet, secluded neighborhood!

Ashley Christian was there that morning.  Ashley recounts the story, “We got this call about one of our horses being loose.  We went to look but we knew we weren’t missing anyone.  We brought him back to the barn and started making phone calls and reaching out to folks in the area.  Nobody was missing a horse!  We looked for months.  He was so well mannered that after a quarrentine period we tried him out and he was great!”

He needed an name and Hobo was perfect for him as he just wandered into our lives.


Hobo has been one of our favorite school horses.  He is a handsome and sweet 15 hand high yellow dun Quarter Horse-ishy looking guy.  Hobo is never a challenge to be around.  Under saddle he is willing to lead or follow.  He has a nice trot and has a good canter.  Hobo needs a little more from you to ask him to halt but he will if you ask.  He likes to teach kids to jump too but we keep them small as he is an older horse.

We are all so happy he found his way to us.  If only he could talk!!  What a story he would tell, I am sure!!

Such a good boy!

Remember…even though our horses and ponies are well-behaved and very talented, they are still horses and ponies. They can have a bad day and also be influenced by unexpected things. They are reactionary critters!

What To Expect From Your Riding Lessons

How old are YOU?

We have three age groups for lessons at Woodland.

  • Pony Pals Lessons
  • Children’s Lessons
  • Adult Lessons

All our lessons are taught with safety foremost in our minds.  We have very talented and well trained instructors PLUS well trained and talented horses and ponies.  We pair our horse and riders carefully.  Our next priority is to have fun.  If it’s not fun…why bother!  The final part is to learn something in each lesson.  No matter how small every little piece of this puzzle called horseback riding is important.  Keep at it and things will come together…I promise!

Let’s start with the Pony Pals Lessons.

These lessons are for our youngest riders age 5 – 7.  The big difference in Pony Pals lessons is a riders parent helps in the class so the rider can work on certain skills while not having to worry about steering their pony right away.  Mom or Dad do the guiding of the pony by using a lead rope attached to the bridle.  Your instructor will show parents how.

The rider can now concentrate on learning to walk and halt, post the trot or learn their half-seat position.  These kids have a shorter attention span so we break the class up by changing the activities throughout the class.  For example you may work on a steering exercise after your warm up, then toward the end of the lesson you may play some games on horseback or learn to play “Around the World”.  Such fun!!


Children’s Lesson are next. 

Children’s lessons are for kids age 8 and up.  Now you are controlling your own horse without help.  In the very beginning your will learn how to correctly mount, sit up on a horse and hold the reins.  Then we learn to ask them to move!  Then we figure out how to ask them to stop.  Very important skill!!  As you go along you will learn to halt, walk, trot, canter and even take your first VERY SMALL jump.  Typically you will have a good taste of these skills in your first 13 lessons.  Then we refine your skills and refine them some more. Once you are comfortable with these skills then we teach our students lateral movements and to jump higher too, if that is interesting to them.

eliza 2

Adult Lessons are a ton of fun!!

Adult lessons are for our 18 and up age group.  They can be in either the English or Western classes.  Again, if starting as a beginner, you will learn all the skills to confidently halt, walk, trot/jog and canter/lope.  Jumping is optional as some adults just aren’t interested in pursuing that skill.  No problem as this is supposed to be FUN and a stress reliever!  Our English lessons lean toward Dressage but you don’t have to be worried about that fancy word.  It is a good, strong, balanced position.  Our Western lessons lean toward Western dressage and again it is a very solid, balanced position.  In the Western lesson you will also learn to play some traditional games like Barrel racing and Pole Bending…when you are ready!

Jan  three-jumpers.jpg

In a near future “article” we will talk about what your very first lesson will be like for all age groups so stay tuned!!