Horse Lessons in the North State
By Sue Ralston
By Sue Ralston
Photos by Jeannine Hendrickson
Of all the dreams and longings common to childhood, one springs eternal for so many: the desire to ride horses, or even just be around them.
Unlike such trending, tech-based thrills as Pokémon Go or riding on hoverboards, heading outdoors, mucking a stall and grooming a horse after riding it can be very grounding for children.
Alicia Ryan, owner of NorCal Trail Rides in Anderson, has created horse camps that answer that need. “We do spring, summer and fall horse camps where kids have an opportunity to really have the responsibility – and the fun – of taking care of the horse they ride,” she says.
Children who sign up for the next horse camp offered by NorCal (Nov. 19-23) will learn such horsemanship skills as reading the animal’s body language, grooming and how to saddle the horse. “I believe taking care of an animal pretty much prepares these kids to take care of themselves for life,” says Ryan. “We try to educate kids that there’s more involved than just riding. They’re taught how to catch and lead their horse, and why we do things a certain way.”
Lessons are available for all ages, starting as young as 2. English and Western lessons are offered, as are trail rides and birthday parties. Ryan herself does the beginner lessons because she enjoys teaching the complete novice.
Tia Luntey, a 15-year-old sophomore at Shasta High, participated in the camp in June as a junior wrangler. “I got to help with the younger kids, making sure they’re safe and enjoying themselves,” she says. “It’s a big responsibility to make sure you’re on top of everything. If you drop the ball someone can get hurt,” she notes. Luntey, who started riding at a young age, is at the stables regularly, and has benefitted from what she’s learned there. “I’ve come a long way since I started there a couple of years ago. I started riding really young, but I learned proper riding technique when I got there.”
Lauren Linhart, who gives lessons at Rockin H Ranch off Stillwater Road near Palo Cedro, agrees that children who take horseback riding lessons learn as much about responsibility as they do about the horse. “It teaches them a lot about self-discipline and confidence, and teaches them to be a leader,” she says. Her lessons for kids begin with “on the ground” skills: learning to lead the horse and groom it, cleaning out stalls and beginning to understand what it takes to maintain a horse. Once they learn this, the kids can get up on the horses and ride.
Linhart, 22, works with kids of all ages, but mostly between the ages of 5 and 14. She’s been teaching for seven years at Rockin H and has been riding, as she says, “my whole life.” The ranch has four lesson horses, but if students have their own horses, they’re welcome to bring them. She teaches five days a week, trains young horses, and on her off days works as a veterinary technician at Brink Veterinary Clinic in Palo Cedro.
Her experience working as a vet tech lends her some special expertise, so when the wet winter weather doesn’t allow for riding, she’ll spend time instructing her young students about horse health. “We talk about basic diseases and routine things you need to do to keep a horse in good health, like worming schedules and keeping their hooves up.” Students also learn how to measure out the appropriate amount of hay and keep the horse’s stall clean.
Rockin H has three summer camp sessions and one during spring break. They run Monday through Friday and end with a Saturday horse show and barbecue that includes family members. Each day the kids take care of the horses, have a riding lesson, participate in a horse science/husbandry class and do a craft or project. A favorite, Linhart says, is getting to paint the horses.
Linhart’s favorite thing about teaching kids is watching their personalities and confidence grow. “Some start out really shy and intimidated, but when they acquire new skills and go over that first jump, they’re always so excited.”
NorCal Trail Rides at NorCal Riding Stables
Next Horse Camp: Nov. 19-23 (Saturday thru Wednesday) of Thanksgiving week
Triple L Training
(at Rockin H Ranch)
Owner: Marjorie Haimbaugh
Contact them for information on spring break and summer camps