Shasta Riding Club shares the experience of horse riding
Shasta Riding Club is providing kids in Siskiyou County with a special learning opportunity; the program gives horseback riding lessons to kids and adults, ages four and up, to help students develop and build upon important life skills.
Geared especially toward youth from low income families, Shasta Riding Club makes sure that anyone interested in lessons is not turned away due to inability to pay. The club’s mission, as described on its website, is to “pair rescued or donated horses with eager youth to teach riding lessons, run day camps and provide meaningful, positive experiences for all involved.”
The vision of the program is wide-ranging; SRC is committed to “helping build community, strengthen relationships, empower individuals and teach valuable life skills through horseback riding and horsemanship instruction,” the website states.
Executive Director Caitlin Casey is passionate about welcoming anyone interested to take advantage of the program. She says, “One of the most important aspects of SRC’s mission is providing a supportive community for all families in our areas. We feel that kids (and adults) can gain so much from working with others who aren’t necessarily in their same demographic (economically or otherwise). We value diversity of all types and encourage everyone who has an interest in horses to join us!”
When a new student comes to SRC, Casey says, “Usually we schedule an individual lesson to evaluate any prior experience and get to know the student and his or her family.” She explains that “beginners stay in private lessons until they develop the skills and confidence to ride with others,” while students who have had some prior experience “will move into semi-private or small groups fairly quickly.” Casey notes that prior experience is not necessary before coming to SRC and that students of all skill levels are invited to participate.
An average day at the riding club varies greatly depending on weather, Casey said, but activities run five days per week in the summer and weekends are packed with teaching lessons.
SRC also provides camp days for kids. Casey explains, “Camp days are usually more intensive with bigger groups and more unmounted activities such as arts and crafts, games and age appropriate theory lessons.”
Students are always encouraged to help out around the barn, as it promotes teamwork and strengthening of the “barn community” which SRC views as a key facet of their program.
For all the services they provide, SRC’s staff is small. Casey and Noni Smith are the only two “staff members,” while a group of five to ten volunteers help with lessons, camps and general chores around the barn.
The club also has five members who make up their board up directors. One of the board members, Joell Dunlap, is the executive director of a successful bay area nonprofit, the Square Peg Foundation, which provides therapeutic horsemanship programs.
Casey warmly credits Dunlap with mentoring SRC since its infancy, saying, “She has provided incredible knowledge and support.”
Casey also emphasizes that SRC would not be possible without donor support. Outside of donating money, she says, community members are always welcome to contact the club about volunteer opportunities.
SRC’s success thus far has paved the way for program expansion. “We can always use an extra set of hands,” Casey said. Specifically, she continued, SRC is often in need of supplies for horses and riders.
Giving back to the community is a rewarding experience for Casey. She feels the best part of running SRC is witnessing the progress kids make over time, after coming to the program as beginners.
“Now that we’ve been teaching in the area for nearly 3 years,” Casey reflected, “we have some students who we have really seen grow and progress, both with their riding and in their self-confidence, sense of responsibility and work ethic.” Some children who came to SRC as beginners now help younger students prepare for lessons and even assist in teaching during some of the “pony camps.”
The staff and volunteers at SRC are deeply invested in what they do. Casey enthusiastically relates that watching students grow through their experiences at the club “is incredibly rewarding and makes it worth all the hard work.”
SRC staff and volunteers are motivated by the postive changes they have facilitated in the community. Casey continued,“When parents report back to us that their child has shown changes in their attitude or behavior at home since starting our program, we really know that we are making a difference that goes far beyond the horses.”
To learn more about the Shasta Riding Club, visit www.shastaridingclub.org.