As part of the member-centric mission, The Ford Plantation Equestrian Center has three club horses which residents and guests can use to be part of the Equestrian Center. In true Ford fashion, these club horses are not your average equines—they were hand selected as highly-trained horses, at the top of their respective disciplines. This allows riders of all levels to enjoy training and riding in the discipline of their interest without the commitment of owning and boarding a horse—something that is uncommon among clubs.
When member Mrs. Susan Stanley first came to the Equestrian Center, she hadn’t ridden for a few years. Although she doesn’t own a horse, Mrs. Stanley wanted to regain both the joy of riding and her confidence as a rider.
Under the tutelage of Equestrian Director Kate Jones, Mrs. Stanley took a series of lessons on a club horse. That experience about five years ago rekindled her love of riding and has allowed her to fulfill her joy of riding again. Most recently, she’s taken part in the growing number of social rides offered through the center and even attended the recent Natural Horsemanship Training Clinic that was taught by Sonny Garguilo, the country’s leading equine problem- solver (a.k.a., the horse whisperer). The clinic provided instruction on how a rider creates a natural bond with a horse in order to improve communication. Jones told Mrs. Stanley, “It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a horse; please come watch and listen.”
Jones, who wants all members to enjoy the Equestrian Center, considers the club horses a wonderful way to help draw them in. “Not many other clubs have what we call ‘club horses,’ especially at the level we’re offering them,” Jones says of her well-seasoned, campaigned horses Doolin, Cutter, andVegas.Whileanyoftheclubhorses are great for basic English and Western riding lessons, each horse has also been trained in a different discipline for more advanced riders wanting to hone special skills.
This 15-year-old Oldenburg stands quite tall at 17.2 hands (“hand” being an ancient unit of measurement approximately equivalent to 4 inches— the breadth of a flat hand across the palm including the thumb). At 17.2 hands, Doolin is about 5’10” at the highest part of withers, at the base of his mane. He’s a gentle giant known for his curiosity and sense of humor.
Doolin is a 4th level Dressage horse. Dressage, similar to gymnastics or ballet, is best described as riding and training a horse in a manner that develops obedience, flexibility, balance, and more. Additionally, the commands from the rider should be almost imperceptible to anyone but the horse. A horse trained in Dressage is an excellent choice for novices learning to ride because they are highly skilled, obedient, and disciplined.
“He’s pretty much what we call a schoolmaster—he doesn’t need training, just exercise—and he’s one of the quietest horses in the barn,” says Jones. Doolin, a dark bay, is considered the consummate gentleman.
Doolin’s preferred pasture companion is Cutter, a 12-year- old Palomino Quarter Horse—an American-bred short-distance runner named for their ability to outrun others breeds in sprints of a quarter mile or less. At 14.2 hands (4’10”), Cutter is small in comparison to his pasture mate Doolin. His breed and size make him an ideal horse for reining—a Western riding competition style where the rider guides the horse through a precise pattern of circles, spins, and stops. Cutter’s prowess in this discipline has allowed him to perform at rodeos as a Drill Team horse whose riders carry flags and perform patterns as an opening act of any formal rodeo. Jones describes Cutter, a gorgeous golden palomino who sports a white mane, tail, and forelock, as “a great little western lesson horse” for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders.
Vegas carries his own passport. Another Oldenburg, Vegas was imported to the states from Germany in 2012 at age five. He is accomplished in the three competition categories of equitation, hunters, and jumpers: equitation, where the rider is judged as the horse performs on the flat and over jumps; hunters, the entire focus being on the horse and the way the horse moves on the flat and over jumps; jumpers, which more people are familiar with as this is all about clearing jumps with speed and accuracy. Vegas is a light-colored bay who stands 16.3 hands (5’7”) has been shown all over the Midwest and even at the prestigious Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida.
Let’s Get This Party Started
Life takes many twists and turns so learning a new skill that may become a lifelong passion is a worthwhile endeavor. But regardless of age or experience, children and their families are always welcome at the center. “We love having little ones come to the barn in the afternoon to see the horses and feed them carrots,” says Jones.
Jones encourages all members to visit the center. “Come read a book, come watch a lesson, or come take part in a clinic,” she says. “We love activity in our barn and we want all of our members to enjoy the Equestrian Center.”