CLARK — The earthy smell of hay and manure s the weathered barn where Sharon Marohl’s teaching horses reside. Several cats slink around the barn; a calico scales the rafters, and a tabby named Tuff claws his way up the sleeve of Marohl’s right arm and perches on her shoulder.
Marohl owns The Horse Farm, located 25 miles north of Columbia, and offers lessons for riders of all ages, specializing in beginners. But Marohl has found that her students come to the farm for more than riding lessons. She wants it to be a place where they can enjoy a farm experience, pressure free.
The Horse Farm is off U.S. 63 in Clark. Individual and group lessons cost between $35 and $55 apiece. More information can be found online at thehorsefarm.net or by calling 573-641-5603.
"You hear the birds, you hear the chickens, the dogs come up to greet you, and it just feels healthy," said Mary Williamson, a Columbia psychologist and one of Marohl's adult students. “When I’m out there, I just think about riding. It’s tremendously relaxing.”
Williamson, 58, began riding two years after her children left home. She had experience riding horses on family vacations but considered herself a beginner.
“I wanted to improve my ranch riding,” Williamson said. “Sharon never made me feel like that was not a worthwhile goal.”
Marohl sees close to 21 students with varying goals. She emphasized there are many benefits to riding horses.
“Horses tend to have a calming effect, especially on very active children,” Marohl said. “It enhances communication and teaches (the rider) to focus.”
Marohl, who has a bachelor's degree in equestrian science from Stephens College, also specializes in riders with confidence issues.
When Kyra Ward started riding at age 4, she was scared of horses. Marohl started the tiny rider on Casper, a 34-inch miniature horse that was just her size.
“Riding has made her a totally different child,” said Kyra’s mother, Nicole Ward. “For her to know she could control something as big as a horse helped her to see that she could control other things, too.”
Four years later, Kyra is excited to ride and even more excited to trot with Star, a calm, 14-year-old quarter horse aptly named for a white mark that punctuates the top of her long face. Kyra talked to Star as she brushed her, then confidently stood on top of a milk crate to put on the bridle.
“I really want to trot with Star today,” Kyra told Marohl.
Star is one of the youngest horses at Marohl’s stable. The horses range in age from 14 to 34 years old. Marohl chooses older horses to teach with because they seem to be a good fit for beginners.
“Older horses are like grandparents,” Marohl said. “They’ve been there. They’ve done it. They have more patience, more wisdom and more tolerance.”
Marohl sees these horses as her partners in teaching. She has strict criteria for the horses she uses for lessons, emphasizing safety as the most crucial factor for students to have a positive experience.
Marohl is the sole instructor at The Horse Farm. “I have the rapport I do with the horses because I am the only one who handles them,” she said. “In 22 years of teaching, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve had a student fall.”