August 19, 2020
Written by Kimberly Counts, Barn Staff
Have you ever looked at a horse and wondered what they might be thinking? Horses communicate in mysterious ways, but if you look closely, you can figure out what they are trying to tell you.
Horses are generally very expressive creatures who have an interesting way of telling you what they’re thinking! They have a unique system to communicate amongst themselves and people. I’m sure you’ve heard a horse whinny, but do you know what it means? Whinnying and neighing are a horse’s way of letting you know what they are feeling or telling you they want something. These sounds can mean a variety of things like: “I’m hungry,” “Take me outside,” or “Pay attention to me!” If you walk through the Liberty Mountain Equestrian Center around 4:30 P.M., you will hear a chorus of whinnies from hungry horses demanding their food. If we happen to be even a few minutes late, we have about 50 hungry horses telling us it’s time to eat! Horses thrive on a schedule and are quick to learn what time things get done.
Another way they can “talk” to us is through snorting. A snort generally means they’re alarmed by something, and it can be their way of assessing the situation. For the most part, the snorts are loud when a horse is scared. Some of our horses here at Liberty snort when they get excited or are feeling particularly wild (especially in the cold weather!).
Lastly, horses often squeal when they get excited or are trying to play. Squealing is their way of saying “Yippee” and letting loose. Sometimes we’ll have to keep our horses in their stalls for a few days because of weather, and it’s not unusual for us to hear lots of squealing when we turn them out again. Squeals can also be used to figure out the dynamics of a group of horses. When horses meet each other for the first time, they often squeal as a greeting and figuring out who’s in charge.
The head of a horse can also tell you a lot about what they might be feeling or how they are going to act towards you. Looking at a horse’s ears is an easy way to figure out what mood they’re in. Ears up means they’re happy, interested, and overall in a good mood. If you see their ears go straight back and are pinned flat against their head — walk away! This means they’re angry, unhappy, and most likely want you to leave them alone. Most of the time, you’ll see horses with their ears somewhat relaxed and drooping to the sides. This type of expression is showing you that the horse is stress-free, content, and feels comfortable.
You’ll also sometimes see a horse “smile” by lifting their top lip and showing you their teeth. Funny enough, this is their way of saying they smell or taste something weird. Don’t be offended if a horse does it after sniffing you — I’m sure they’re just trying to tell you they like your perfume.
As you can see, there are a variety of ways a horse can “talk” to you. It’s important to know what you’re looking for in order to get a better understanding of what they’re trying to tell you. Remember to look at their faces for an indication of their mood and pay attention to their ears!
At the Liberty Mountain Equestrian Center, we love having visitor’s stop by and see the horses. View our website for visiting hours, and we can’t wait to introduce you to some of our sweetest horses!
June 17, 2020
Written by Kimberly Counts, Assistant Coach/ Barn Staff
There are so many different activities and things you can do when it comes to riding a horse. Here at Liberty, the two disciplines we focus on are Western and English riding. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the disciplines and find out what riding event you might like best!
The most obvious distinction between English and Western riding is what the horse has on. When looking at the two saddles side by side, the most notable difference is the big horn on the front of the Western saddle. While many people think it’s an area to grab on to if they’re scared or nervous, there’s actually a very functional reason it’s there: ranchers use the horn as something to tie their ropes to, whether it be to pull or secure something. Western saddles are a lot heavier than English saddles and if you’re like me, it can sometimes be a struggle to heave the saddle up onto the taller horses’ backs!
An English saddle is smaller, more compact and not as flashy as a Western saddle. LU has saddles that are what we call forward seat, or close contact saddles. This type of tack is designed to keep the rider close to the horse and allows them to feel a lot of the horse’s movement underneath of them. These saddles are designed so that a rider can stand up off of a horse’s back when they’re clearing jumps. Now that you’ve learned about the saddles, let’s move on to disciplines!
Both Western and English riding have many different events that riders typically specialize in. Within the Western discipline, some of the more well-known events are reining and barrel racing. For English riding, some popular events are show jumping, hunter jumpers and equitation.
Have you ever seen a horse do a sliding stop, or spin really fast in a circle? This takes place in reining and is really fun to watch! Reining riders must memorize a pattern of intricate maneuvers and perform them to the best of their ability. These moves include things like sliding stops, guiding the horse through a variety of speeds, backing up long distances, and doing 180 degree turns. Reining takes a lot of precision and accuracy, and riders in the show ring are penalized pretty heavily if they mess up.
Barrel racing is a sport that you might be familiar with. Here, riders must go around a pattern of barrels, without knocking any down. The fastest rider, without penalties, wins. The name of the game is to be quick and efficient. If you knock a barrel over, or go off pattern, you’ll be penalized and possibly even disqualified. This sport is thrilling to watch and is very popular with riders who have a need for speed!
Another area of focus for riders lies in the English world of horseback riding. Here there are speed events (show jumping), classes judged on the horse (hunter jumpers), and classes judged on the rider (equitation). Each of these events is a little different, but they all fall back on the same foundations of riding.
Show jumping is similar to barrel racing, in that it’s a timed event, and there are penalties if the horse and rider make a mistake. Time faults, jumps knocked over, and horses refusing to jump are all penalties that cost the rider. In the end, it’s the fastest horse and rider combination with the least number of faults who win. This exhilarating event is fun to watch, especially as the jumps get higher and higher—sometimes the jumps are well over 5 feet!
Hunter jumpers and equitation are the last two English disciplines I’ll talk about. In the hunter ring, the horse’s way of going is what the judge is watching. In equitation, it’s the rider’s overall form on top of his or her horse. For both classes, riders must maneuver their horse around a course of at least 8 obstacles and judges are looking for what horse and rider combo can lay down the most effortless ride. It’s not easy to lay down a flawless round, but that’s the goal for hunter jumpers and equitation riders.
Now that you’ve learned a little more about horses, come check out what the Equestrian Center has to offer. We’d love to show you around, schedule a lesson, and answer any questions you might have!
May 22, 2020
Written By Victoria Dissmore, Marketing Employee
So, you’re probably asking yourself, “What can I do at the Equestrian Center?”, and there are a variety of opportunities for the Liberty and local communities available! Liberty is blessed to have this USHJA Recognized Riding Academy that spans across 380 acres of Liberty Mountain. If you’re looking for a way to enjoy the great outdoors and meet some animal friends, come visit the Equestrian Center!
Anyone is welcome to visit the Equestrian Center from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. The staff and horses love having visitors to tour the facility and pet their favorite horses. If you’re looking for an educational experience for your children or simply get some fresh air, we highly recommend checking out this fun opportunity!
Students, faculty, and staff can explore the Liberty Mountain property on horseback on a guided tour around the mountain for free. Come experience the soft rhythmic motion of the saddle as your horse strolls through the shaded trees with a cool breeze blowing by and the sun peeking through the trees.
Trail rides are by appointment only and limited to roughly 2 people at a time based on experience levels. The ride starts with a brief lesson in the outdoor riding ring followed by the 20–30 minute walk around the mountain. Visit the Programs page for more information on what you need to know before you ride and set up your visit!
If you’re looking to improve your riding—take a lesson! These lessons are offered for residential students and all levels are welcome, both for hunt seat and western riding. Students can take group lessons for $25 per lesson, or private lessons for $40 per lesson. Lesson packages with discounts are available.
If you want to improve your riding skills and learn all about horseback riding in general, you can take one of three 2-credit classes offered by the Equestrian Center: PHED 170, PHED 270, and PHED 280. Students can check through the registrar for availability each semester and sign up through course registration.
As part of the class, students will get to:
- participate in both barn and mounted riding lessons
- learn the fundamental skills in hunt seat and western riding (according to student background or interest)
- participate in one riding lab and one lecture-based class per week
Liberty students who have their own horses can board them at the Liberty Mountain Equestrian Center. This is a full care stall board that includes the use of all facilities as available at an affordable cost. This is a perfect opportunity for those who don’t want to leave their horse back home while they’re studying at Liberty!
If you have a younger sibling or know a child who loves horses, tell them about summer camp at the Equestrian Center! The camps are offered at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels for varying ages between 8–18.
- The beginner level camp is for ages 8–14 and does not require any horseback riding experience! This day camp goes from June 22–26, Monday–Friday from 9 A.M. to Noon.
- The intermediate camp is for students ages 8–14 who have some riding experience but would like to sharpen their skill. This day camp goes from August 3–7, Monday–Friday from 9 A.M. to Noon.
- The advanced level camp is for females only, ages 14–18, grades 9–12. Riders must feel comfortable walking, trotting, cantering, and jumping a 2’ course on an unfamiliar horse. This overnight camp will run from June 16–19.
Visit the Programs page to learn more about the camps and to register.
Employment and CSER
The Equestrian Center is always looking for helping hands around the facility! If you are interested in obtaining CSER hours working in the barn or would like to apply to a student position and work directly with the horses, visit the Employment page for more information.
So, whether you are a riding expert, beginner, or have never ridden before, there is an opportunity for you at the Liberty Mountain Equestrian Center!