Thursday, August 29, 2013

Field Trip to Windridge

(left to right) Marion, Me (Felecia), Jim, Tyle, and Kyle

As an all-new yearly tradition at Shadow Ranch, we took a field trip to another therapeutic riding center.
     In order to be more effective instructors and better educators, we are always striving to grow and advance in our knowledge on horses, students, and the industry as a whole. Seeing how other centers operate allows us to make better decisions as we grow and instruct.

     I could just tell you all about the tour....but I'd rather show y'all!
An illustration of the fabulous sensory trail, we are considering adding one where the hot-walker was.

Learning about the Hippotherapy room.

In the lounge.

Kyle and Felecia in the small Library of Windridge. (Can you tell I'm a note-taker?)

The classroom!

The tin ceilings help cut down on echoes.

Signs and labels abound at this facility, and we love it!

These bottles of sand are on pulleys and strings to help riders learn how to be gentle with the reigns. This is my favorite thing of the whole visit!

Another idea maybe? (I put this idea on Shadow Ranch's Pinterest page ages ago....silly people!)

Jim and Dawn in the research room.

Lunch Time!

Cheryl and Marion....waiting for food.

Felecia and Tyle after eating.

In closing this blog post, I'd like to personally thank Dawn for conducting our tour of this wonderfully organized and beautiful center. -Felecia

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

If you ever take an interest in sign-building

     The importance of a quality sign for a therapeutic riding center, or any business, cannot be understated. While something as simple as a sign may not seem important, it's one of the many aspects of marketing that either adds or takes away from your center's reputation.
     Think about it as walking into a store and seeing a large sign that announces a product on display. If it's in disrepair, you will think the store does not take pride in the product and/or does not care, so why should you? If the font is impossible to read, your interest is either peaked or completely gone, a risk which most centers are unable to take. This article will help guide you on ways to make your sign readable, relatable to your center, and to make it as inexpensively as you can.

 -Choosing a good location: For this article, we will assume that your sign is to show the exact location of the center or business (think out in front). You should choose a place that is easy to see from the road and is free from brush.

-Designing it: There are many things to take into consideration when designing your sign. Of these things are color and font. If you already have a set of colors for your business, try to work at least one of these colors into the sign along with a neutral color. I would not advise doing more than three colors maximum, neutral or otherwise. If you do not have set colors for your business, take a look at your logo and pull from that. Make sure that the colors chosen are not close therefore making the sign hard to read. Also, look at your surroundings. You can see above where a green sign would have gotten lost in the background of trees and grass, making it hard to notice.
     When choosing a font make sure it is readable, welcoming, and clean. I chose to do the sign free-hand giving it a unique but professional look. I would advise against using "Comic Sans" as a font as it's very common and more dated than others.

-Building it: There are many fantastic ideas for building signs. Some stick with plywood and 2x4's to keep it simple and inexpensive, others to go great lengths with brick and other elements to give it a more upscale look. We went with taking an old wooden tabletop (found at an antique store) and with the bottom side facing up, created a frame on the back consisting of two 4x4's which entered the ground, and two 2x4's acting as a brace. If you decide to go this route, DO NOT use particle board! It will not stand the test of time against the elements. You can use plastic or metal as well, but plastic tends to not last as long, and metal is prone to rusting. In the case you chose wood, make sure to use a good outdoor paint (we used Home Depot's BEHR). If you are wanting to use brick, stone, concrete, or other elements to build your sign, but don't have the funds, craigslist and freecycle can both be good potential avenues for this. Just remember to be safe when using these types of websites. Never going alone, bringing your cellphone, and (if possible) meeting in a public place are all VERY smart.

So as you're choosing your colors, fonts and building materials, remember how neat it is that you get to represent your center or business in a way that nobody else is able to. Put your heart into it, accept criticism well, and you should be pretty darn well off in creating a fantastic sign.


P.S. Thank you to our ranch hand Kyle and our wonderful volunteer Lacey for building this!!! Power tools are not my friends......

Friday, August 23, 2013

How the sign came to be......

If you follow us on facebook, you have probably seen the picture of our beautiful sign proudly bearing the name "Shadow Ranch". If not, the picture of said sign will be on here tomorrow.

When making the sign, we had two things in mind, we wanted it to look nice, and we wanted to do it inexpensively. Pam and Marion bounced ideas around, and relative of Pam's had made the sign for their business out of an old wooden headboard. She fell in love with the idea and I volunteered to go shopping for it.

At one antique store that is particularly well-priced, I could not for the life of me find a solid wooden headboard. I thought about where else I could find one that I would know was wood, but I was stumped.....aside from going to every garage sale in town, and I knew at best it would be a long shot. So poking around on the second floor of a sweltering hot building, I found a tabletop with the paint peeling off, and since some of the paint had worn, I could tell that it was wood. Knocking on it to hear the sound, I found it was the same all over except for the top where it was slightly different (found out later it had a linoleum-type of plastic on top). Upon discovering it was only twenty dollars, I purchased it and hauled the treasure home in my green station wagon for the night.....I will never take my rearview window for granted again.

Upon arrival of work the next day, I proudly showed off my thrifty find to everyone. Pam had really liked headboard idea, but was open to different ideas as well. So I drew  the designs allowing her to see on paper what I already saw in my head. After some convincing, she liked the idea. I had my summer project and got to work.....

I sanded the whole thing down because the paint was peeling, and while I did not strip it (didn't feel it was peeling that badly) I made sure there was nothing flaking off before I painted it. Because the plastic-type top of the table was difficult to properly roughen up with the sandpaper, I went over it with a light coat of spray paint. The color didn't matter because spray paint is an attaching layer, sort of like a primer. Then I painted the whole sign in two layers of the basic colors (the back is a darker blue like the lettering to protect it from the great outdoors). After this I worked on the letters. First, I measured out the horizontal length of the sign and divided the length by the letters in the word. Ex: If it were three feet long and I had three letters, each letter would have a foot of space. I marked the boundaries each letter had, and then I drew an outline of the letters. If you are ever doing lettering for a sign without stencils, I strongly encourage you to do this. I made many mistakes and it took a few coats of paint to even cover up the pen, let alone had it been painted. I'd also advice using a pencil instead of a pen, erasable and then easier to cover up. After this, I ran it by Marion, she liked it, and then I painted the letters. What felt like a million and one touch-ups later, the sign was ready for the world to see.
     Because power tools are not my best friends and construction isn't exactly my forte, I had our ranch hand Kyle and our wonderful volunteer Lacey do the building part. I just told them what I thought would work. Apparently my idea wasn't too bad because they made it almost identical to the drawing I made them. After this, they put it in the ground, another part of this process I'm not too great at and am very happy they were able to do. (Thank you both soooo much!!!)

     After one final touch-up (done after the photo was taken) the sign was completely done and is now happily doing its job of telling people where we are on this little county road.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Beat the Heat! Staying safe in the triple digits

If you don't live in a cave, you probably know that Texas gets hot in August. Those of you that live here especially know how scorching those triple digits days can be. What you might not know is how to keep you and your horses hydrated and at least not too miserable during the sweltering season that is summer. Here are some tips on how to keep horses and yourself healthy and safe when just standing makes you look like a pro athlete from all that sweat.

This one really can't be stressed enough. While you can drink too much water, it's very unlikely that you'll do so when you're in a southern summer. Remember that if you're thirsty, you're already a little dehydrated. For the horses, make sure that they have plenty of access to clean, fresh water in a shady area. When it's 100+ degrees, some horses don't have the energy to walk in the sun to drink hot water. You can find some other great facts about H2O here, on

2. Electrolytes
Ok, so sometimes water just isn't enough. When the heat index says it's going to be 95 degrees or higher, we give our horses just a pinch of electrolytes because sweat isn't just water, it's also salt and some sugars. If you're still feeling depleted after drinking a bottle of water (or two or three) then try drinking something like Gatorade which is designed to help you out when water can't.

3. Hose off
Sometimes horses are just soaked from the heat without even doing anything. Hosing them off with cool water, starting at the legs and slowly getting higher can help cool 'em off. Just remember to use a sweat scraper so all that water doesn't absorb those sunny rays and become insulation on your horses coat. For people....well Marion just gets cold water from the fridge and sprays us with her super soaker......not sure if I'd recommend that though....

4. Ice
Putting ice on a horses neck  (wrapped in a towel) is a quick cool off, especially if hosing them off doesn't seem to help any. For people, a towel dampened with very cold water and put on their neck and forehead works well. Using one of those gel neck-ties as prevention is even better.

5. Alcohol
In an emergency, keep in mind that alcohol's quick drying effects can cool off in a hurry. Not recommended for regular use though because it can also dry the horses' skin.

6. Food
We change our feed in the summer to lower the protein and high carb content because believe it or not just their food can make them even hotter. People - Even though you may not feel like eating because it's so hot, remember you still have to eat.

-Felecia West and Marion Cox

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Country World News Magazine

We got our first official news article about us today in Country World Magazine. Ashley Colvin did an awesome job. Like most news articles there a few little boo-boos, but overall was fabulous. (Thank you, Ash.)


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

LSTEN/PATH Region 8 Conference

So, everyone but Pam and Kyle went to the LSTEN/PATH Region 8 conference this weekend. We each learned a lot. For those of you who do not know, PATH is the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship and LSTEN is the Lone Star Therapeutic Equestrian Network. PATH Region 8 covers TX, OK, AR, LA, Mexico and South America. Texas, however is so big and has so many therapy centers that we have own network too. LSTEN's main purpose is to supply educational opportunities to centers that do not have the ability to attend the PATH national conference.

Here's what stuck out the most in everyone's mind:

Felecia: learned about volunteers, how to keep them happy so that they stay awhile. Different things that I can utilize in lessons, an some more stuff I can do with social media.

Jim: Lady Vet was awesome! Toxic plants: wilted red maple leaves, persimmon seeds (We gotta watch Empress, she loves those things). Vet from OSU was awesome teaching about wound care.

Tyle: The disability video (f. a. t.  city video) putting in perspective how the mind of  a child with learning disabilities works and their processing patterns. I really like the theraplate in the round robin class, too.

Cheryl: Really enjoyed the CSI for horses with the vet (all those toxins) and loved listening to the saddle-fitting class. Was fun to watch the 3 stages in the alternative therapies for the horses.

Me:  All the above plus: I learned more about fundraising. Got my CPR re-certification. Learned how truly dangerous blister beetles are for horses and what attracts them (grasshopper eggs - eewwww).

Pam on the other hand had a challenging weekend and told us that we can NEVER leave for 4 days in a row again. We love you, Pam. Thanks for being here so we could get most if not all of our CEU's for the year done in one shot.