Riding Lessons and More in Central Virginia

Monday, March 28, 2011

"To Horse and Hound"

Pictured in Nelson County, Chubbs and Belle provided a wonderful day's sport, with about a hundred other riders, as the foxhunting season drew to a close. I think Mr. Reynard could hear all those hooves coming and chose to hide in his den, but we had a great time galloping across fields, sliding down trails, and hopping across winding streams. Every pause gave us a chance to admire the 360-degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains! Providing comic relief was a pair of house dogs, one a Dalmation, who cheerfully loped along behind the foxhounds. And the abundant breakfast following the meet was a special treat - I snuck a few items into my pockets for sustenance on the drive home.

"But I freely admit that the best of my fun I owe it to horse and hound." -- George John Whyte-Melville

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Set a Goal

I've enjoyed handing out a number of ribbons to students beginning the Horsemanship Program! The first level, Super Starter, covers the most important things we learn around horses. This includes how to safely approach, handle and groom a horse. These riders must also be able to tack up on their own (with possibly a little help with the bit), and demonstrate mounting/dismounting, correct position, and control of the horse through a series of exercises at the walk. The next level, Terrific Trotter, requires more equine knowledge and performance of maneuvers at the trot. Moving up, students must complete the skills on different schoolhorses, which will be quite a challenge for those especially fond of Misty and Ginger! But true horsemanship means being able to ride all types of horses, and it's an excellent goal to pursue.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

You Say It's Your Birthday

February's birthday girl provided a wonderful portrait of her mount.

The washrack became a sidewalk chalk exhibit yesterday.

In the span of three Saturdays, EKF hosted more than thirty pony partiers to celebrate birthdays! The entire team, two- and four-legged, jumps into action for these busy events. The sheep are corralled so they can be seen, touched, fed, scratched, and heard; the bunnies allow themselves to be brought out and patted by many small hands; Ginger, Krispy Kreme, and Misty patiently stand to be brushed by little party guests, then amble gently under saddle; and the greatly-appreciated human helpers do their best to distribute oat bar treats, guard against tiny toes slipping under hooves, and guide the new riders' trips around and around the ring.

Pony parties require quite a bit of planning beforehand, and the ability to remain calm and cheerful amidst the fast-moving swirl of excited elementary school kids (and their sometimes slightly-anxious parents and grandparents)! They might represent, though, the purest form of what I do: helping people connect with and enjoy horses, other animals, and the outdoors. The birthday child is confident and knows the spotlight is on; he or she high-fives lowly pedestrian friends waiting their turn at the gate. The pony's initial steps provoke a clutch at the saddle from most guests, but then a giggle. One shy child is reluctant to come forward, but quietly agrees to swing on; with a few prompts from the helper walking alongside, he or she tentatively pats the pony's neck, then buries nervous fingers in the warm, shaggy fur, and - looking up - smiles!