By: Sally Cochran (formerly Blattenberger)
you ever wondered what makes a little girl fall in love with horses?
After all, what is it that could possibly entice someone to fashion
their entire life around these huge animals, these smelly, stubborn
animals that thrive on human intervention? Maybe it's the excitement,
the danger, the passion that fills your senses as you even merely
enter the presence of these magnificent, amazing, beautiful creatures
God created. Maybe it's the thrill of flying through pasture land,
finally feeling free of the pressing issues of the world. Maybe
it's the joy of watching a small child learn to balance, steer,
and stop a horse, the incredible fascination on their faces. > Or,
who knows, maybe we're just out of our minds! This article is written
by one of those little girls that has grown up now, her entire life
revolving around horses. Going into it, I'm sure my parents didn't
know that I'd one day end up with a career involving horses. Most
parents assume that it's just a stage that every little girl goes
through'one in which ribbons fill the walls and dirty boots sit
next to the bed, covered with manure. For some of us, though, the
dream becomes reality as we finally earn enough money to buy our
own first horse or pony, start showing, and maybe, as I did, start
>My story is one of a little bit different, perhaps, than many others.
It had a relatively rocky start, but then everyone has to start
somewhere, right? Many riding instructors have to start at the very
bottom and work their way up from there- and I was certainly no
exception to that rule.
>I didn't always want to teach. I started out like any other little
girl, loving horses and wanting to be around them all the time.
I began taking riding lessons when I was 10, on an old Appaloosa
mare named Beebee. I got my first horse when I was 16, paid for
with my own money that I had been saving since I was born. Thankfully,
with the help of my parents paying half her purchase price, I was
able to buy a Quarter Horse mare with relatively good blood lines
- a show horse. I rode her all the time, and taught her all kinds
of things (and the other way around, too!)
>My parents had told me that if I got a horse, they would pay for
the boarding until I graduated college, then I'd have to support
her myself. Well, about a year after I bought Prissy, the boarding
and lesson expense just got to be too much'.so my dad told me that
I would either have to find a way to help make money to keep her,
or sell her. I tried for about 5 months to sell her, to no avail.
Evidently no one wanted her. I couldn't imagine why, but looking
back now I'm glad no one did! They helped me pay board for her until
the end of the next year, then because I was making enough money
to support her myself, I was on my own.
>The only logical thing to do was to start teaching riding lessons'that
way, Prissy would pay for her own way in life. Problem was, the
stable I was riding at wouldn't let me teach, for liability issues.
They already had an instructor, and didn't want anyone else infringing
on that business. So, I set out to find another stable. I found
one close to where I worked (actually about a quarter mile away!),
moved Prissy a couple of months later, and started advertising.
I started off small, 4 lessons for eighty dollars. I got my first
call, a mother wanting her two daughters to take lessons.
and Maggie started lessons with me and took one a week each. After
another month or so I started getting more calls'a student from
my martial arts class started taking lessons, so did a classmate
from college, and a few more. The more students I got, though, the
more the owners of this private stable took a look at my business
and decided that they wanted a cut of what I was making, so they
demanded payment'.in addition to boarding, they wanted half of everything
I was making off lessons. I quickly quit teaching and started looking
for another place. The next place I found was Magnolia Farm Riding
Academy, a busy hunter-jumper farm about 10 miles from my apartment.
By this time Prissy was a proven lesson horse'.she usually did what
she was asked to, anyway, and she took care of her riders.
>Magnolia Farm didn't charge me to teach unless I used the school
horses, and in that case it was only $5 a lesson. So I made sure
I taught as many lessons on Prissy as I could. I was still working
a full-time job of over 50 hours a week, so I only taught about
10 or 15 hours a week' I didn't have time to do much more!
>Then around January came what seemed like the opportunity of a
lifetime. One of my students' mothers told me about a place she
knew about that was seeking a full-time riding instructor. I jumped
on it and went out to the stable, a beautiful farm about 12 miles
from my apartment. I was hired on the spot, told I could bring my
horse out, and teach all the lessons I wanted. I moved out there,
bought another lesson horse, and now had about 5 lesson horses to
teach on, since I had bought another horse at the beginning of April,
a little sorrel Quarter Horse mare named Roxy. I taught about 25
lessons a week now and have almost 35 students.
>Things went wrong with that whole deal, though, and unfortunately
I had to leave - by my own choice. There was a lot going on at that
farm that wasn't very fair to me as either a boarder or riding instructor
- in fact, some of it was pretty rotten on the part of the barn
owners! But I won't go into that in this article, because this is
about me and how I got started - not how I got gypped out of certain
deals. After I realized that things at the farm weren't going to
work out, I started looking for somewhere else to move Prissy. I
put Roxy up for sale, because everything was going down the drain
financially. She soon went to another home in a town about an hour
away from Greensboro, so that issue was out of my hair - but I still
didn't have anywhere to escape this mess I was in! I called a lot
of different places and finally received a call back from one that
turned out to be half the distance from my home as the other farm
was. I went over to check it out the very same day, and fell in
love with the place.
>Equine Kingdom Riding Academy was a 15 acre farm, a backyard facility - certainly
not the Hilton Hotel as far as farms go, but functional in and of
itself. The horses looked well cared for, the grounds well-maintained,
and the grass was very short - in the middle of summer, the horses
had eaten all the grass, but it wasn't down to dirt yet (thankfully
since then the grass has grown - a LOT). The horses were pasture
boarded, only brought in for feeding and in very bad weather. Mares
and geldings, all ten of them, were kept in the same field together.
And did I mention that there was no riding arena, a very small tack
room, and no way to safely crosstie the horses without the others
coming into the barn? However, boarding was only $126.75/month -
less than half of what I was paying at one of the other farms- $300/month
for pasture board, AND I had to pay to teach there!
learned my lesson the first two times - I finally got everything
in a contract this time - a legally binding, fairly equitable contract
that spelled out the terms very clearly for both parties ( I HIGHLY
suggest this, no matter where you go! Written words stand up much
better than 'he said, she said' situations). Pal and I sat down
and discussed everything over the next few days - what our expectations
of each other were, what would and would not go on, and how neither
would take advantage of the other. I agreed to build an arena for
her, as long as it was removable and the horses could still get
in and out of it (this was easily solved with PVC piping for the
fence), and she agreed to let me teach at my leisure - any time
I wanted, as long as I wanted, at no charge! She didn't want anything
in return. It was enough, she said, to see activity on the farm,
which had lain dormant for so long. I even got the use of two of
the boarders' horses for my lessons, Dandy and Rocky! Dandy turned
out to be a great lesson horse - Rocky, not so much because he had
been abused and hadn't been ridden in a very long time. But I had
convinced one of my students, Fran, to move her horse Dublin over
with me to the new place.
>The horses were settled in, and on the very first day I started
teaching over there. I haven't had a bit of regret moving there
since, and it's been two months now. Nothing has changed since that
very first day, and things have only gotten better. My clientele
is growing by leaps and bounds; at least once a week I get a call
or email from someone looking for riding lessons or trail rides.
I help Pal feed the horses when she's out of town, and she's kind
enough to leave the horses I need for morning lessons up after feeding
for me if I ask her to.
>Because of the roundabout, part-time manner I've entered the riding
instruction world, I've had to learn mostly on my own. I haven't
yet got my American Riding Instruction Association certification
for teaching recreational riding, but I plan to sometime in the
near future, just so I'll be qualified. But I've taught a lot of
people how to ride, and how to win at shows, and helped a lot of
people pursue their dreams. I hope you've enjoyed this story, at
least in part, of how Equine Kingdom as a riding instruction facility
came to be known. Someday, God willing, there will be a riding academy
called Equine Kingdom. I'm not sure if it'll be in North Carolina,
Virginia, Colorado, or some other far away place, but that has always
been my dream and goal, and God is steadily answering my prayers
concerning such a venture. God bless you all, and thanks for listening!
>February 27, 2008 Update
So far I have no complaints,
only high praise, for everything at Equine Kingdom Riding Academy! It would
seem that I've found my resting place, so to speak, for the time
being. I still have Dandy and Rocky to teach on, although for the
most part I just use Prissy and Dandy in my lessons. Dublin is no
longer being used in lessons, but Fran is still taking lessons on
her, and Lauren, one of my 9 year old students, is half-leasing
her and taking lessons. Show season is about to start up again,
I've got about 30 students coming every week, and now that occasionally
there's warm weather, things are starting to pick back again, thankfully.
The remainder of 2007 was spent learning new ways to teach, teaching
a lot of people how to ride, and learning the ins and outs of the
different horses I use, so that I can know their personalities better
for my teaching. This year, 2008, there are a lot of summer camps,
activities, seminars, and horse shows to attend!
>Pal is still as great as ever - I help her with feeding, watering,
and caring for the horses when she needs me, she still lets me teach
and never complains, regardless of how early or how late I'm out
at the farm, as long as I make sure everything is left the way it
was when I came. I've got a brand new tack shed out behind the barn
all to myself for all my numerous pieces of equipment, and doors
that lead into the stalls directly from it, to make it easier for
tacking/untacking the horses. I still have yet to have the chance
and or the time and financial investment to go test for my riding
instruction certification, but after my husband finishes his certification/training
for Animal Behavioral Training, I plan to go get mine in horseback
riding instruction. Chances are I'll go for level 2 instructor (that's
the maximum my age will allow me to get), with specialties in Recreational
Riding and either Hunt Seat on the Flat or Western Pleasure & Equitation.
I haven't decided on the last one yet - I can only get two specializations
with my first testing.
>More to come later, as the days/weeks/months roll by!
Back to Articles main page