Riding Lessons and More in Central Virginia

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

(Grown-Up) Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

I had the best time with my new students from the Louisa County Parks and Recreation Department programs!!! Pictured above are the four fearless ladies who came out, enthusiastic and brave, in the chilly temperatures yesterday to take their first lesson. Many had never sat on a horse, others had not ridden in decades, and all of them had such affection for their four-legged partners. It was awesome to see! They started with a general introduction to horse behavior and handling on the ground, learned some grooming techniques (alas, I hope they didn't wear their fanciest winter jackets), and spent a few minutes brushing and bonding with their selected mounts. During this time, one rider sang quietly to her horse, and another gave praise and compliments in her native language - not English, but in a tone of voice that universally conveyed kindness and trust.

After sorting out which helmet fit which head (an excuse to spend five minutes in the heated tackroom), it was time to climb aboard. In this initial session, they began to learn correct position, halt, walk, and steering, and each rider individually navigated a simple obstacle course including poles, a maze, steering through a zigzag, and halting in a specific spot. All of this was pretty easy compared to dismounting, which I think presented the biggest challenge! Finally the horses (from left to right, Henry, Belle, Ginger and Pungo) each received an apply treat and the ladies - having pushed their comfort zones, successfully - seemed as excited as a gaggle of eight-year-olds after a pony ride. I can't wait to host this group again.

Horse of the Year

Zenyatta received her well-earned Horse of the Year honors last week, and also received a special award from Penny Chenery, Secretariat's owner, for capturing the hearts of the public. Here's a link to a terrific report about the Queen's new life at Lane's End Farm in Kentucky: Visiting Zenyatta

Thursday, January 13, 2011

New Year, New Ideas

Heading into what will become EKF's first full calendar year of operation, it's exciting to see the progress our students have made in just a few months. Last week, I started setting up tiny crossrails for a couple of riders who are prepared to begin moving from trotting over poles to working over actual jumps. Others have cantered for the first time, and still more are getting very, very close! Plus, brand new little folks have joined us, and they're just looking forward to riding without me holding onto that pesky leadline.

To encourage more progress, I'm beginning a Horsemanship Program that will recognize both unmounted and mounted skills. From the basic Super Starters through the Excellent Experts, kids who would like to test themselves can demonstrate their knowledge and abilities on and off the horse. When you can show all the requirements for one level, you'll get a nice blue ribbon and continue working toward the next. This program is completely optional, of course, and there is no time pressure to finish any level. In fact, most riders probably have strengths in certain areas, like posting on the correct diagonal, but might be behind in others - like adjusting their own stirrups while mounted, or naming all the parts of the horse.

Setting out the requirements for each level was a fun challenge for me. I prioritized all the information and techniques that I teach, decided which must come first, then second and so on, and figured out which unmounted skills and knowledge should be mastered as one's riding ability improves. This program will give me, our riders, and (whether they know it or not) our horses some terrific motivation and goals for the new year.

Monday, January 3, 2011

A half-dozen hardy riders turned out for Winter Wonderland Camp the week after Christmas. While there was still plenty of snow on the ground, the temperatures were warm enough to enjoy lessons, bareback rides, trail riding, helping hay the horses and sheep, tending to the bunnies, and reorganizing and labeling all the school horse brushes. It was lots of fun and I'm already working on more projects and new activities for the Spring Vacation Camp in March! In the meantime, if you've been thinking about lessons, there's a great opportunity to jump in at a terrific price through Louisa County Parks and Recreation. For the details, click here and continue to "Horseback Riding Lessons" in the Kidz Zone and Adult Sports and Fitness.