COLUMBIA — Sawdust covers the floor of the stall where Eva Kim, 10, brushes her horse, Copper, while her mother watches. Before her first class, Eva had never been on a horse before, let alone groomed one. But as part of the two-week Stephens Summer Riding Program, Eva, along with three other kids, is learning the basics of horse care and riding at the Stephens Equestrian Center.
The summer program began in the 1940s and continues to give children and grown-ups the opportunity to ride horses and have fun. It has grown since Sara Linde began as a student instructor in 1997.
“It’s an opportunity for members of the community who may not be able to do this on a regular basis,” said Linde, who is now the program coordinator. “It gives them the opportunity to get around horses and learn something.”
About 70 percent of the riders return the next summer and even bring friends back with them, Linde said. The program has a long tradition within families. Parents and grandparents have participated and now have little ones riding during the summer.
Kenlin Shettlesworth, 9, is back for her second summer and likes the horses as much as riding.
“I’ve been a fan of horses since I was 5,” Kenlin said. “Ever since I’ve liked them.”
Kenlin thinks her riding has improved since she started — so much so that she wants her own horse.
“I’ve been seeing if my dad would buy me one,” she said.
“She loves to ride, and we love coming,” said her mother, Theresa Shettlesworth. “It’s a great environment for learning, and they can accommodate all levels of riding.”
Not only do participants learn how to ride, they learn responsibility. Students groom the horses, clean their bridles, bathe them and tack them up.
“They don’t just get on and ride, they have to have ownership,” Linde said. “That horse is providing an amazing opportunity and therefore must show thanks and appreciation by grooming the horse before and after the lesson.”
The program is currently in its third of four sessions this summer. The beginning riding class began July 7 and continues through this week. Classes for adults are also offered in the evening.
No experience is necessary, but a good attitude and your own helmet and boots are required, Linde said.
For more information about the Stephens Summer Riding Program, go to stephens.edu/summerriding or call Sara Linde at 876-7144.