For a while now, Iâ€™ve been wanting to try my hand at horseback riding, something I havenâ€™t done since miniature ponies visited my preschool when I was four.
Finding the opportunity at the age of 23, I finally took my first horseback riding lesson last week at Zubrod Stables in Prospect, Ky.
A full-service, family-owned and operated Saddlebred equestrian facility, Zubrod Stables is known as one of the premier places in the world specializing in the American Saddlebred horse, with more than 50 years of experience in offering riding lessons, training and boarding.
Three generations of the Zubrod family now work at the barn, which is headed by Bonnie Zubrod and her daughter, Cindy Zubrod Boel.
Cindy, a world-champion trainer, co-chair of the United States Saddle Seat World Cup and co-chair of the USEF Saddle Seat Equitation committee, was my instructor for the day. With more than 20 world championships, 29 national and reserve national championships and having taught riders on five U.S. World Cup teams, I couldnâ€™t have found a better teacher.
But before I could begin my first lesson, I had to calm my slight fear of being bitten by a horse. I know itâ€™s ridiculous, but two weeks ago, I was hesitant to even feed an equine a peppermint at the Rock Creek Horse Show. Horse teeth are intimidating â€“ okay?
Nonetheless, it was time I conquered this somewhat unreasonable worry, and looked a horse in its eyes. Walking right up to Beau, the Saddlebred I rode for my lesson, I slowly pet his nose and was surprised to find that there was no chomping at my hand.
Now that my fear was relinquished, I had to learn to mount a horse. Cindy first taught me the proper technique and, using a step ladder for assistance, I saddled up.
There was more to riding than I expected: a method for mounting, holding the reigns, sitting straight, resting your feet, turning the horse, starting and stopping.
I may not have been Cindyâ€™s finest student, but I felt I caught on pretty quickly and 30 minutes later, I was off on my own, leading Beau around Zubrodâ€™s indoor arena.
In one lesson, I gained a ton of knowledge and a huge appreciation for horseback and, well, horses in general.
Aside from the fun of riding a horse, horseback is also a great form of exercise and extremely therapeutic. Since horses can sense anxiety and respond accordingly, if you want a tame horse, youâ€™d better act tame yourself.Â I, like everyone, face plenty of stress from day to day, whether at work, with family or in relationships. But when youâ€™re on a horse, itâ€™s best to let that all fall to the side.
During my 30-minute lesson, I forced myself to quiet my mind and trust that Beau would take care of me â€“ not bite me. Before I knew it, I was basking in the simple moment of cruising on a Saddlebred, and all that worry about the outside world became totally irrelevant.
Amazed at my ability to become so calm while riding, I was also incredibly impressed by how docile and intelligent my horse was. Even with an inexperienced rider, Beau was carefree and listened well to all of my commands.
Following my lesson, I stayed back to watch a champion rider complete her lesson and witnessed how much more these horses are capable of doing. I thought I wanted a new puppy, but after my experience at Zubrod Stables, maybe Iâ€™d better save up so I can purchase my first Saddlebred horse. If not, Iâ€™ll at least have some extra cash to return to the stable for a few more horseback riding lessons.
At just $30 for 30 minutes, Zubrod Stables offers Saddle Seat riding lessons for all ages and experience levels. Double-saddle lessons are also offered. In addition to instruction, Zubrod features more than 40 permanent stalls, a large, indoor year-round riding arena, a heated viewing lounge, indoor wash racks, tack, feed rooms and outdoor pastures.
Lessons are taught Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday lessons are for show horses.
In all this Derby down-time, donâ€™t let yourself suffer from pony withdrawal. Itâ€™s never too late to learn how to ride horseback, and itâ€™s well worth the benefit of both exercise and a relaxing break from your day.
3500 Locke Lane
Monday through Friday from 2 to 6 p.m.; Show horse lessons held on Saturday.
Arrive 10 minutes prior to the start of the lesson. Wear appropriate clothing â€“ for beginners this includes long pants (jeans or sweatpants) and shoes or boots with a hard, non-slick sole.
Two 3-day camps are offered each summer, as well as one-day camps each spring and winter break.
There are beginner, intermediate and advanced camps for children of all ages â€“ no experience necessary.
At each camp, attendees can ride twice daily, learn how to groom, wash, and braid tails, as well as parts of the horse and tack. Arts and crafts projects are offered daily, as is bareback riding and much more.
For more information on Zubrod Stables, visit www.zubrodstables.com or call 502.228.3377.
Contact writer Ashley Anderson at email@example.com, 502.498.2051.
Photos By CHRIS HUMPHREYS | The Voice-Tribune