The Equestrian Program has three components: Horse & Barn Care, Riding, and Equine Science.
Horse & Barn Care:
The moment that girls step into the barn, they are responsible for the care of the animals and facilities, something everyone at Taking the Reins takes very seriously. The participants are crucial in ensuring that our herd is healthy, fed, and properly cared for. Every participant learns the proper way to groom their horse and its importance, which includes keeping their horse clean, checking for injuries or signs of illness, and forming a bond with their horse. Every horse has a unique diet of hay and supplements and the girls must keep track of which horse eats what and why, to make sure that they are giving the horses proper nourishment. Maintaining the organization and cleanliness of the barn is also a central skill to learn, as this is not just a place to learn and work, but it’s the horses’ home!
“With horses a human is able to build a bond. You trust them not to hurt you as much as they trust you not to hurt them.” – Mayte, 15
Participants learn the basics of western riding using proper hand, seat, leg, and voice commands. Learning to communicate with a horse, while at the same time respecting the power of this one thousand pound creature, rather than fear it, eventually leads one to find her own power or inner strength. Finding one’s voice is intricately linked to the entire process. For instance, there is an exercise we do with all new riders here at Taking the Reins. Each girl must practice saying “WHOA”, so that everyone else can hear her. At first, we hear these whispered mumbled sounds, eventually this clear and confident voice is heard. On one level it is about being able to stop the horse, on a deeper level it is about finding one’s voice. Caring for the horses and working in the barn doing the daily chores such as feeding, watering, and cleaning stalls requires the confidence and skill to move around these very large animals. In order for the horses to take directions from the girls, each girl must convince the horse that they are the leaders.
“Being in the arena with your horse is the best feeling in the world. Riding is great; you feel unstoppable and so in control.” —Harmony, age 15.
The Equine Science class introduces girls to science and health concepts through the lens of horses, giving participants the opportunity to apply classroom learning in a practical setting. Girls learn about horse behavior, anatomy, nutrition, physical fitness, and horse reproduction. Using Taking the Reins’ workbook, A Cowgirl’s Guide to Grabbing Life, girls gain practical and hands-on knowledge, improving their skills both inside and outside of a classroom setting.
“When I am old enough to live on my own I’m going to be a veterinarian and change the lives of animals and forget the past and just walk through the future that’s waiting for me” – Briana, age 16