Breanne Long, a senior at North Caroline State University, is taking riding lessons as a PE elective this semester and has agreed to let HN tag along.
PE 260: Intermediate Equitation (1 credit hour)
Prerequisite: Beginning Equitation
Course Description: “This course is designed to apply knowledge of the fundamentals of health related fitness toward developing, maintaining, and sustaining active and healthy lifestyle through equestrian sports. Intermediate techniques, theories and performance in equitation including skill at walk, trot, canter over ground poles and small cross bars will be taught. Care of the horse, tack and safety around horses will be assessed. Students will travel off campus once a week. Students must meet the weight restriction of the North American Horseman’s Association. Refer to the online schedule of classes for the current fee. Students must provide their own transportation to the stable, paddock boots, and riding pants.”
I’m currently in my last year at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC, studying Biological Engineering. I’ve been thinking about taking PE 260 since I started at NCSU as a freshman but it never quite made it on to my schedule until this semester.
After an initial on campus classroom meeting that covered the logistics of getting to the barn, safety, and clothing requirements, we met once a week at Hunting Oaks Farm, just about 10 minutes off campus.
The front of the barn, you can see the covered arena behind the trees.
My first class consisted of a farm orientation, helmet check, “rule overview”, and a short mounted lesson. The facility is beautiful; well maintained and well staffed. We arrived at 7:30am and there were several workers feeding, two other instructors going over lesson plans for the day, and a few boarders tacking up to ride in one of the five rings located close to the barn. I was immediately impressed with the quality of the school horses. They looked fit and healthy and many had therapeutic saddle pads and/or boots hanging from their doors to be used while under saddle.
The jumping ring with the sun coming up behind the treeline.
That being said….they also have a LOT of rules. I grew up at a barn that had many unsupervised 9-12 year old girls running around, basically doing whatever we wanted. We practically lived at the barn and rarely had an adult around. We were as safe as you would expect pre-teen horse crazy girls to be, which is to say we are very lucky we all ended our barn days (relatively) injury free. However, most rules at Hunting Oaks make sense when you know how they came about, even if they do seem overly controlling. I seem to learn these rules best by breaking them (usually unintentionally), as you’ll soon see.
Now, onto our lesson. We were assigned school horses and sent to groom and tack up. I was assigned Bella, a stout appaloosa with a typical moody mare personality. Each school horse has their own locker with their own synthetic saddle, bridle, martingale, grooming supplies, and halter.
A mournful-looking Bella.
Bella was still eating breakfast when I entered her stall to groom her so I haltered her and let her continue eating while I groomed her. I figured if she didn’t get to finish she would be anxious to get back to her stall during our ride. That brings us to farm rule #1: Always put your horse on crossties (conveniently located) in the stall. An instructor was kind enough to point this out as she walked past. Sorry Bella, no more grain for you. I had continued brushing her when I was interrupted by another instructor asking how her feet were. After some confusion farm rule #2 was conveyed. Always pick feet before brushing. Got it. With feet cleaned and all four shoes intact, I finished grooming and tacked up.
Our instructor called us out of our stalls really slowly one-by-one, and told us to go out into the covered arena. When directed, I took Bella’s reins over her head and walked her down the aisle. Farm rule #3: Never take your horses reins over their head. Oops. Apparently they’ve broken over 150 sets of reins in 30 years due to school horses bolting while being led (that equates to 5 sets a year, for all you non-engineery types).
The appy in this picture is Domino with another student aboard, the instructors were explaining a trot/canter pole exercise. Thanks to the student in the later class who came early and took pictures for me!
It was a fairly uneventful ride, but still fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed being on a horse again. As we were leaving I was plotting ways to sneak in some apple slices, another Farm no-no; hand feeding horses. Hmmm, where were those rules posted again?
About Breanne: I started riding at age 8, following in my older sisters footsteps. My first horse was a cranky 32-year-old appaloosa and my last horse before college was a bay TB mare. I showed hunters but stopped riding once I started college. Now I’m slowly getting back into the horse world and would love to try eventing in the future.