Before you can ride your horse down old town roads, you have to learn the basics. Tyler Junior College and the Brunson Equestrian Center at the Texas Rose Horse Park team up each summer to host camps teaching children how to ride.
As families arrived on Thursday for the second week of lessons, the horses were in the back in a more laid-back area of the park instead of the fields and arena where professional equestrians compete. The little cowboys and cowgirls were learning to get the tack attached and how to handle the ponies. Once they had the horses saddled and ready to go, the students took them to a nearby round pen to ride.
Caleb Edens brought his children to the Little Pony Express camp, which is designed for elementary school age students.
“They’ve shown a lot of interest in horses; we just wanted to get them the proper training,” he said.
Once they’ve learned the basics, they’ll be able to start riding horses on their grandparents’ property.
Edens said they started with learning how to approach the ponies and handle them as they prepared to saddle up, then moved on to basic commands before learning how to properly sit in the saddle.
Owner Kim Brunson said the center offers classes to children as young as 4. Her oldest student was 96 years old.
“What I hope they get out of this is how to work with horses and the right cues,” she said. “I want them to learn to handle on good days and bad days.”
Safety is paramount at the center, with most people spending their first week learning the ropes before they get on a horse.
Brunson hopes parents will take that safety oriented mindset and apply it wherever they go, whether it’s riding at home or finding a boarding facility.
Brunson and Edens agreed that it’s easier to instill the importance of safety in the lessons setting, and the children were more likely to pay close attention.
Former students and horse owners who frequent the park often volunteer to help with the lessons. If parents missed the window to sign up through the TJC Summer Camps, lessons are available year-round.
Brunson said she hopes families will come back and visit the park to watch the events they put on throughout the year, which include equestrian training, horse trials and annual dog agility trials.