Holistic Horsemanship Institute of America™
AFTER PHOTO:5 months does a lot for a horse! Rubik's Cube is at a good weight and has developed muscle in all the right places! Note the difference in her stance.... This is a horse who knows what she's about and proud of it!
BEFORE PHOTO:Ruby (aka. Rubik's Cube) during her first week at Holistic Horsemanship. She is a perfect example of a horse that hasn't been used in a long time. Note the hollowed out hips, showing ribs, and poor muscle development.
Buying Your First Horse
It's a big deal when a student gets their first horse! With my beginning students, I typically tell them to wait 1.5-2 years before purchasing a horse of their own. Leasing a horse is a good intermediary step. When it's time to buy, I stay as involved or uninvolved as my students choose during the selection process.
Horses are often hard to choose and so purchasing a horse should always be done with an expert. Unfortunately, many people selling horses have false claims about their horse's health and abilities. Additionally, a horse that is being sold has typically done "something" negative to warrant its sale or the horse is no longer being used. Horses are athletes and require consistent conditioning for your average rider to be able to see it's abilities. Ruby (See photos/captions on right side of screen) is a perfect example of this!
A good trainer can help eliminate the guesswork. I spent 1.5 hours with Tuff (pictured below) before agreeing that this student could buy him; I assessed conformation, potential health issues, training level and temperament in an effort to find a horse who would be good for my student in the long term.
I also highly recommend a vet check before a purchase. If a vet check isn't done, I help the student to understand potential risks with failing to fully vet a horse. Most horses require help with their health and 2-3 months of training when they are first purchased. See the "Horse Training" page for Tuff's story.
I start most of my students bareback, whether they've ridden before or not. My experience in the St. Louis area has been that many students coming from other riding instruction has minimal focus on their riding seat and position. The riding seat and position (either English or Western) is what keeps a rider safe on a horse and it is therefore a critical aspect of learning. Bareback riding eliminates dependence on the stirrups and allows a rider to actually feel how the horse moves. Bareback riding also helps them to better develop balance and the right muscles for riding!
Once the seat corrections have been made and/or the beginning student can canter bareback, I will allow use of the saddle. Then, throughout the next several years of riding lessons, we go back and forth between using a saddle and riding bareback in order to best learn different riding concepts. I still ride bareback in my own training, too!
Learning Horse Care
It's important for all students, including children, to learn to take care of their horses during their lessons. All students learn to feed, groom, and tack up their horses. Over time, they also experience first aid and basic veterinary care.
Getting off-site is a good experience for my young-adult and adult students. In addition to simply heading out for a trail ride, we participate in organized Hunter Paces, Shows, and Fox Hunts.
My Teaching Partners
I partner with my horses in teaching - My horses and I are in constant communication throughout each riding lesson we teach. I may be one of the only teachers you will see walk and even run with the horse, rather than standing in the middle of the arena! As my students' balance and control improves, I back away, giving the student full control of the horse. My lesson horses know the "syllabus" very well and actively help to teach the student with me. As new lesson horses join my team, they also learn the lessons to be able to engage the student and provide an environment that sets the student up for success. My horses and I are both focused on providing as safe an environment as possible for learning. We work to help prevent falls, in order to help keep the riding experience positive for all involved, even though falls do happen. Once students reach an intermediate level of riding, we go as far as teaching them how to fall safely.
Lesson Fees and Scheduling
Lessons may be done either twice or four times a month. Costs range depending on the type and frequency selected. Holistic Horsemanship Institute of America requires its students to follow the Schedule and Payment Policy. Please refer to it for details. There is a $30 travel fee for lessons that occur at locations other than Hidden Acres Homestead.
HHIA has a variety of programs for lessons. Because we can teach beginning to advanced students, many of our students stay with us for many years. In addition to Master Classes and Clinics, we currently teach English Dressage, Jumping, Western Dressage, Ground Work, Trail Riding and Easy-Gaited Riding.
HHIA is a low profit business. What this means for our students is that lesson costs are low, but they are fixed and we do not award refunds. The horses at HHIA depend on lesson tuition for feed and care.