By Kassandra Leachman, Equestrian Manager
When kids and horses get together, the possibilities are endless. For as long as I can remember, horses have always been a part of my life. So many of my fondest memories include my good friends and the amazing times we shared together with our horses. So, four and half years ago when I had the incredible good fortune to land my dream job as the Equestrian Manager at The Clubs of Cordillera Ranch, creating a place for kids to make their own memories with horses, became paramount on my agenda. Having the perfect venue for children to learn to ride and care for their horses, as well as meet and form close bonds with other horse crazy kids was only half of the equation. We had to assemble the right kind of horses.
Finding the right equine partners was no easy feat. When a student first learns to ride, they are taught the proper cues and signals to use in order to ride effectively and safely. The horse on which the student is learning must be trained to respond to the cues and signals that are being asked in order for the rider to learn when they have done it correctly. A proper cue results in the desired reaction. So, with that in mind, the lesson horses needed to have a high degree of education and experience. They also had to be forgiving because in the beginning the incorrect cue will be used much more often than the correct one. They must be honest, and not become sour or dull to the commands of an inexperienced beginner.
Over the past 4 ½ years we at the Equestrian Center have been fortunate enough to acquire several horses either through purchase or lease that fit our operation very well. In the beginning we chose only older, ex show horses, both English and Western that would suit the novice riders very well. As our program grew, it became apparent that we needed to offer horses that would present a challenge to our more seasoned and experienced riders. We have recently added horses that are younger in age and greener in their education level, so our advanced students can begin learning the process of training horses. When the roles are reversed and the student begins to teach the horse, the real understanding of the entire process takes shape. They must learn how a horse thinks in order to be its teacher. They have to have a grasp of equine behavior and inherent instinct to be able to educate one properly. They also understand the time and hard work and dedication that go into making a lesson horse as reliable and safe and enjoyable as the ones they first learned to ride. Not only do our lesson horses teach the students to be effective and proficient in the saddle, they teach many other valuable life lessons as well.
From day one, the kids are taught to treat each horse with respect, to be kind and never take them for granted. They learn responsibility, not only for the horses, but for their fellow riders. They must have patience, learning to ride takes time, and they must persevere in order to master it. They learn just how completely the horses rely on them for their most basic of needs. Even on birthdays and holidays, the horses must be fed and watered. They recognize that they have a duty to properly treat and care for the horses in exchange for the amount of joy and happiness the horses afford them. The older kids take on a nurturing and teaching role with the younger students. They learn leadership and gain confidence through mentoring the beginning students.
So many good things can come out of a child and their love of a horse. We will continue to provide a fun and safe place with horses so the kids of Cordillera Ranch can form their own lifelong memories.