Rene’ Littlehawk: Summer Break and Saddles

I remember the excitement that ran rampant thru my mind and heart each spring as the school year drew to a close. Three whole months that I could run and play and most of all spend endless — uninterrupted by the silly responsibilities of school — with all my various pets. That was, and still is, heaven to me.

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Rene' Littlehawk

I loved waking early and rushing to the barn with several dogs accompanying me. I fed and groomed and then, best of all, I’d saddle-up for the day. I'd have a bologna sandwich with mustard and a cookie and whatever I could scratch up to drink. Often I would throw my little tent on the saddle and a few extra tidbits of food and be gone for the night. Those are some of my best memories.

These days actually are pretty similar. I do have to work for a living, but my time off is the best. We head for the barn, lunch in tow, load the horses and a mule to haul all our goodies and off we go for the day or the weekend. Glorious blue skies and the most peaceful quiet you can imagine.

The care and love that goes into our horses is what truly makes them our friends. While they are not cheap to keep and we do sacrifice other things, they are so worth it. The mental health and destressing they give us is invaluable.

I get numerous questions about feed and care of our equine friends. Most, if provided the appropriate amount and type of feed, are pretty self maintaining. You have to make sure they have the proper vaccinations, their feet trimmed regularly by a qualified farrier and see the veterinarian for a health check now and then.

Generally speaking, the average horse requires about 20 pounds of hay or other roughage per day. This can vary from horse to horse depending on its makeup, size and use. They need access to plenty of fresh water and mineral supplements. All of this with the exception of your winter hay, can be found at your local feed stores along with expert advice about supplements and feeds.

When you do get that special time to go ride, whether you are an arena rider or trail rider, you need to remember you aren't the only one out there. If you have friends or a group that you ride with, good equine etiquette is important to your enjoyment as well as the safety to you, your horse and those you chose to share your day with.

Just simple common sense is the basic rule of thumb. Don't jog your horse past another rider, don't try to pass another rider on a narrow trail and never crowd or cut off another horse and rider.

If you have a dog, just check with your companions before you take it along. Some horses are not accustomed to dogs and could pose a danger to horses and riders.

Try not to take so much stuff that you may have things falling off your saddle but do make sure you have what you will need. Food and plenty of water, sunscreen and bug repellant, as well as a first aid kit for both you and your horse are musts. And I always make sure I have a camera, binoculars and a small journal to write down special thoughts or notes about photos taken. Don't forget the GPS. If you are not familiar with the area you have chosen to ride, the GPS or just a good topo map would be a great idea.

Be respectful of private land, only cross or ride private land with permission. If a gate is shut when you go through, be sure to shut it behind you. It usually means there is livestock of some kind there. Most private land and BLM land is posted. There are some really great maps at BLM that will keep you on the straight and narrow if you don't have a GPS. If in doubt, ask the folks at the BLM office.

Most important, have fun with your horse and your friends! We have some of the most awesome country in the world to ride and explore. The variety of places to go is endless. So go and get acquainted with our beautiful county!

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