Editor’s note: Since I wrote this article in 2009, The Kids Barn moved, and my life changed so that I couldn’t volunteer anymore. The barn also changed names, and then a couple of years later, as of March 31, 2012, went out of business. This post is sort of a look back in time. Enjoy. I know I did when I re-read it.
We’re going to interrupt our trip to Virginia Hunt Country (oh, believe me – there’s lots more) to take a little side trip to a place closer to home.
We’re going to visit The Kids Barn, the Southington, CT, beginner rider barn where I volunteer.
Beginners start young
A lot of small children love horses until they get up close, let alone climb up into the saddle. Then the tears begin, and so do the pleas to get down.
After all, it’s high up there on that pony. Plus, the child can feel the pony moving, breathing. Chairs don’t do that. Being scared, when you think about it, is actually pretty smart. Ponies are big when you’re small.
Elaine helps small children adjust to their fears. She takes her time familiarizing the children with this situation.
Apparently, this is one of the few lesson barns in Connecticut with a preschool education program.
Children here learn how to do it all
Children can also start with handwalking, brushing and grooming.
They learn horse care and horse psychology. They learn how to care for tack.
They learn about horse health. A small library of horse books offers them reading material they can borrow.
And they learn just how much work it is to sit in that saddle and get a pony to do what they want it to do – instead of what it wants to do.
And they can’t wait to come back.
On the day that I took these photos one student asked me for permission to clean Nigel’s stall.
Not just riding lessons
Plus, although Elaine is able to take ponies out for pony parties at a child’s home, she offers up a “pony party at the barn” option, as well.
A pony party at the barn gives children a chance to enjoy many new experiences, like seeing chickens up close and the rabbits so secure that they stay close to the people and the ponies, even with people roaming around.
This year, they threw a kids’ Kentucky Derby party on Saturday afternoon which was over so that everyone could go home to watch the race on TV.
Another option is joining in on early morning feeding time. Or, with more civilized hours, Morning at the Farm, in which children learn about horses, do some grooming and ride.
Now that most Connecticut schools have been dismissed for the season, summer camp is just around the corner.
What do I do there
Whatever is needed at the time. Who wouldn’t like an extra pair of hands around a busy barn?
This spring, Wednesday evenings were busy with multiple lessons on several ponies. Each Wednesday student rides at a different skill level. We have absolute beginners and another advanced enough to do most of her own tacking with some assistance from her father.
So, I help with gates. I go for supplies. I put away tack. I answer questions (or I find out the answer.) I muck, and I brush. I entertain parents who look a little lost while their children are absorbed by riding. If it needs to be done, and I notice that, I do it.
Like a lot of the harried parents who come by with their children, I arrive a little stressed by the demands of the day. But, when I leave the Kids Barn several hours later, I’m smoothed out and looking forward to my return.
Let me know if all the photos here are too much for your computer to handle. If I need to, I’ll set up a page on the photo sharing sites.
If you liked this article, you might enjoy others related to my time at The Kids Barn: