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Students learn to saddle up

Learning to properly saddle and mount horses is just part of the instruction offered by the Goshen Rodeo and Equestrian Club. Keisha Thomas, Jacee Chandler and Matt Barron found a shady trial to be the best place to ride when the temperature is pushing 100 degrees. (Photo/Jaine Treadwell)

Goshen riding club appeals to youngsters

On one of the hottest days of the year so far, the members of the Goshen Rodeo and Equestrian Club disregarded the heat and hit the trails for an end of the year ride.

The club’s director, Kelly Pritchett and instructor, Monica Law, had hoped the club could get in one more trail ride before the weather got too hot, but they didn’t make it. So they rode off into the sunshine anyway.

As the woodlands provided shade, the club members provided the enthusiasm and the horses never missed a step.

“We have to take a break during the summer because of the heat,” said Pritchett, who is also the agriscience instructor at the Pike Agriscience and Technical Career Academy at Goshen High School. “But we did get in a good ride even though it was an extremely hot day.”

During the school year, the club meets two hours for riding instructions each Tuesday and Thursday and what the club members had learned was evident as they saddled their horses for the ride.

“These kids know how to saddle up,” Pritchett said with obvious pride. “They learn how to ride and they learn how to take care for their animals. Working with the horses, the kids get a sense of personal ownership. They have this animal to take of that is helpless and can’t take care of itself. That teaches them responsibility and accountability.”

The club members learn about horse management, animal health care, vaccinations and how to take proper care of their horse’s hooves.

Pritchett said that while the young equestrians are learning about horses and their care and how to ride, the horses are learning to interact with children.

And, those were the goals for the students and the animals when the Goshen Rodeo and Equestrian Club was organized two years ago.

“We recognized the need for expanding our equine education program and one way was to offer training through an equestrian club,” Pritchett said. “Monica is an excellent rider and gives riding lessons so she is actually our instructor and the kids are really responding to her instructions.”

The rodeo and equestrian club started with five girls and has “blossomed” to 15 girls and three boys.

The Ag Academy has its own riding arena and rodeo is an emerging sport at Goshen High School.

“We use the rodeo and equestrian club to recruit students to the Pike Agriscience and Technical Career Academy,” Pritchett said. “The club participates in all of the Pike County Saddle Club events and four of our students are members of the Alabama High School Rodeo Association. Several are also members of the National Barrel Horse Association and that’s great exposure for our club and the ag academy.”

Although most of the members of the Goshen Rodeo and Equestrian Club are ag academy students, it’s not a requirement.

“We do go out of the school district for those who want to take riding lessons,” Pritchett said. “We want to offer this opportunity all of those are interested. Being a part of the rodeo and equestrian club helps keeps students in school. It’s an encouragement and it’s therapeutic. And some students are interested in equine management. There are career opportunities in equine chiropractic, massage therapy and as a farrier.”

But, while in high school, the members of the rodeo and equestrian club have opportunities to participate in area rodeos and shows.

“To participate in shows, you don’t have to have a fancy trained horse or a registered horse,” Pritchett said. “Participants compete in timed and skilled events including barrel racing, pole bending and the arena race and stake race but not events like roping and bronc or bull riding.”

Horseback riding experience is not required to be a member of the Goshen Rodeo and Equestrian Club.

“You don’t even have to own a horse,” Pritchett said. “We have four lesson horses at the school that are available for those who don’t own a horse but want to learn to ride. “Usually, the kids will get real involved and want their own horse. And, we do board horses here at the school. We have 15 acres of pasture. The boarding is free. The students just pay for the feed.”

Membership in the rodeo and equestrian club is $50 a semester and that takes care of feeding and vaccinating the animals.

“The club is for anybody who enjoys riding or wants to learn,” Pritchett said. “We always welcome new members.”

For more information, call 334-484-3245.