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Learning to Ride

Story by Michelle Brosco Christian
Photography by John Kite

Southern Maryland has always been horse country and it's the perfect place to learn to ride.

Even in the era of modern farming, horses still have a strong presence. Their charm and intelligence ensures that few people ever consider themselves horse owners; instead, like Chris Yee of Arabesque Farm in Leonardtown, they are horse lovers.

As Yee noted, those typically involved in equine activities do it based on their love of horses. Riding instructor Gina Hall of Fair Weather Farm Equestrian Center, formerly in Prince Frederick and now located solely in Charles County, said she has always been "so in love with horses, and it's such a joy to share that love and my knowledge with kids and adult riders."

Hall, who began riding at age seven, said, "I'll start a child as young as five as long as they're really eager." She added that children who are seven, "are a bit taller" and it's a good age to start lessons. However, as Hall knows from her own past, "some children are born with a passion" for horses and riding.

Mary Russell of Lucky Cricket Farm in Huntingtown believes "riding is a life skill" and people looking for a place to learn how to ride should "be looking for a place that teaches them horsemanship-how to approach a horse, how to halter a horse, how to safely lead, groom, and tack up." Russell said, "We do it because we love it-it's a lot of work, it's morning to night, but the joy is to be with the animals and to be outside."

Finding a stable offering lessons can be easier, said Hall, if you first locate your area's horse tack shop where you'll find lots of information on local stables. "Talk to the people in the tack shop to find out who's reputable in your area," she recommended. Hall and Russell also suggest the free magazine called Equiery found at most tack shops for locating riding stables.

Horseback riding isn't just for children, as Hall will attest. Her adult riding program is strongly attended as well. "Usually, my adults are women who used to ride and gave it up for careers or to raise their children and now they're getting back into it." Russell also said while she teaches more children than adults to ride, her oldest student was 70. "It's good exercise-you use every muscle in your body," said Russell. "Riding is excellent for your upper thighs and abdomen, and you feel good....it's just very soothing."

Prices for lessons can range from $25 to $75 per half hour or hour in either individual or group settings. Russell said she hopes to make people aware that there is diverse riding in all three counties of Southern Maryland. "The nice thing is the variety," said Russell. "You can take lessons to jump, to drive, or in Dressage, trail riding, Western pleasure-it's all here."

Once you've mastered all the skills needed, you'll find the quiet countryside of Southern Maryland is perfect for contemplative rides. Southern Maryland Trail Riders hosts relaxed group rides, with faster riders starting first and less experienced riders in the rear. The trail rider's President Theresa Cameron is also involved with a Hughesville 4-H group, which organizes horse shows for all breeds and provides instruction for young riders.

In addition to local tack shops, the www.somd.com horse forum is a useful resource for novices and experienced equestrians new to the area. There, you can research local boarding facilities, farriers, veterinarians, equine dentists and blacksmiths.

When all that research yields a jumble of opinions, visit a few promising barns. Look for comfortable stalls, good lighting, and happy, fat horses, as well as knowledgeable caregivers and instructors who are in love with everything equine.

According to Trisha Grizzard of Iron Gate Equine and Goat Rescue in Mechanicsville, those looking for good riding stables may also want to look for goats. "Goats calm the horses down, and the horses just trail the little goats. They enjoy the company," said Grizzard.

Grizzard rescues neglected, abused, abandoned and endangered horses, and goats destined for market. "I wanted them to live a life, and not be somebody's dinner. "This country was built on horse power," said Grizzard. "Beasts of burden deserve a good life, and a useful one."

Calvert County

Cage Stables
3250 Cage Farm Rd. (off Mackall Rd.), St. Leonard, MD; 410-585-0801; ckbriscoe@olg.com, http://www.calvertag.com/Farms/Cage_Stables.htm
Horse boarding and training facilities with instruction and cross-country courses.

Canaan Farms Pet and Farm Care
3381 Plum Point Rd., Huntingtown, MD; 410-257-0706
Horseback riding, camp, after school programs, club events - educational programs include horsemanship, general animal care, arts and crafts, relaxing and rewarding program for young and old; horse boarding, horse leasing, horse training.

Lucky Cricket Farm
1935 Emmanuel Church Rd.; Huntingtown, MD;
410-535-1670; mrussell@crosslink.net

Horseback riding, boarding and training.
Oak Hill Farm and Stables
3805 Hance Rd., Port Republic, MD; 410-586-0679 or 410-586-3347; lynchj3@olg.com
Horses (Arabian, Standard & Thoroughbred); horseback riding, horse boarding and horse training.

Reverie Acres
2425 Parkers Creek Rd., Port Republic, MD; 410-495-7605; odonnellpod@yahoo.com or randi@reverieacres.com
Group, semi-private and private lessons- age 5 & up.

Charles County

Fair Weather Equestrian Ctr. LLC
Gina Hall, Director; 13830 Beech Hill Place, Charlotte Hall, MD; 301-274-4574; www.fairweatherfarm.com
Horseback riding -focused on the competitive rider, English style for adults and children; horse boarding; horse training - competition coaching.

Locust Grove Stables
D8305 Hawthorne Rd., La Plata, MD; 301-934-0531; www.locustgrovestables.com/
Lessons in Western & English Pleasure, Hunter Jumper/HUS/Horsemanship, Equitation/Showmanship/ Trails, and equestrian summer day camps.

Popes Creek Stables
Gwen Galloway; 9400 Brentfield Place, Bel Alton, MD; 301-643-0631; http://popescreekstable.com/
Training and lessons for adults and children.

Willow Creek Farm Stables, LLC.
8755 Port Tobacco Rd., La Plata, MD; 301-399-3880; www.erinjorye.com/WillowCreekHome.html
Trainer on Premises/Lessons/Training; Beginner/ Intermediate Lessons (Ages 8 and Up); Western Pleasure/Trail, Beginners English/Basic Horsemanship.

St. Mary's County

A Moment in Time
41911Breton Beach Rd., Leonardtown, MD; 301-475-5434
Outdoor arenas, trail riding, and lessons.

Arabesque Farm
22150 Monterey Place; Leonardtown, MD; 301-475-6882
Horseback riding lessons, horse boarding and trail riding.

Crimson Clover Farm
31395 Point Lookout Rd., Mechanicsville, MD; 301-884-0768; erica@crimsoncloverfarm.net; www.crimsoncloverfarm.net
Instruction available for riders of all skill levels in hunt seat equitation and jumping. Summer camps and shows.

Flat Iron Farm
P.O. Box 353, Great Mills, MD; 240-925-7430; juliekbingman@hotmail.com
Lessons, leasing and boarding; full service tack shop on site (Horse Tradin').

Free Spirit Farm
38613 Chaptico Rd., Mechanicsville, MD; 301-884-2401 or 301-888-2429; frspritfrm@aol.com
Horseback riding, riding lessons and instruction in horse care.

Friendship Forest
41370 Friendship Court, Mechanicsville (Oakville), MD; 301-373-8184; editor@stovebolt.com; http://www.friendshipforest.com/Christmas/horse.htm
Carriage rides; horseback riding, horse-drawn vehicle driving lessons, draft horse team/pair.

Holly Point Equestrian Center
Chris Bologna & Carol Collins; 19495 Holly Point Way, Leonardtown, MD; 240-538-5106 or info@hollypointeqctr.com; www.hollypointeqctr.com/press.php

Serenity Stables
Off Rt. 5 in Mechanicsville; 410-586-2956/240-210-5019; SerenityStablesMD@yahoo.com http://www.freewebs.com/serenitystablesmd/
Large riding ring w/jumps; hunter/jumper/equitation lessons and training available.

Tack Shops...

Hickory Hollow Tack and Saddlery
Clarkes Landing Rd., Hollywood, MD; 301-373-5616

Just One More Saddlery & Tack
78 South Solomons Island Rd., Huntingtown, MD;
410-414-7466

Lucy's Majic Horse & Tack Shop
8755 Port Tobacco Rd., La Plata, MD; 301-934-5400; lucysmajic@verizon.net; www.lucysmajic.com/Home.html

Wheatley Tack Shop
7700 Wheatley Rd., La Plata, MD; 301-934-9383

Also...

Equine Tourism
Interested in creating your own horse farm? Christine Bergmark of the Tri-County Council Agricultural Development Commission promotes equine tourism and provides grants for farmers hoping to transition, especially from tobacco farming, to equine pursuits. 301-274-1922 or cbergmark@somarylandsogood.com. www.somarylandsogood.com

Hooves 4 Hope
Dr. Linda Molesworth, V.M.D.; Huntingtown, 410-535-9700.
Free therapeutic riding program for abused, neglected and at-risk children ages five-18.

Southern Maryland Trail Riders
Bring your own horse events. Non-competitive, aside from judged rides held each spring and fall. www.smtr.org.

The Equiery
A free publication available at most area tack and feed shops. Online at www.equiery.com. Search for stables by Maryland county.

Please note that we did much research to develop this list. However, we may have missed a few. So please use this list as a starting point to begin your search for riding lessons.

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