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Lessons for kids, teens, and adults

Spirit GroupVienna, VA, April 19, 2010 – A program from Spirit Open Equestrian offering riding lessons to beginners was launched last week at Frying Pan Park in Herndon. Frying Pan Park, which has an indoor arena used for equestrian and other events, is well known for its farm animals, hayrides, and annual 4-H fair. “Offering a riding lesson program at one of our park facilities is a first for the county, and reaction has been very positive,” said Tawny Hammond, director of Frying Pan Park. Announced just a week before it began, the program is filled to capacity and has a waiting list for the next several sessions.

Instruction is provided by Spirit Open Equestrian Program (www.spiritequestrian.org), a local non-profit organization that  teaches both able-bodied and therapeutic students. The series of four 90-minute lessons includes safety instruction, horse anatomy, horse physiology, psychology, and basic horse management as well as riding skills. “Our program is based on a vision that encompasses the many benefits of equestrian activities, including the development of important life skills,” said Davorka Suvak, director and an instructor for the program. “Working with horses builds confidence, trust, and empathy, and of course also improves physical fitness.”

Since the riders are beginners, the students work in pairs, one mounted and one leading. Each student team also has a volunteer helper.  Two instructors guide the class through activities to develop each rider’s skills. “Safety is our top priority,” continued Suvak, “so we provide plenty of support for the students.”

The various aspects of the program work together to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of riding. “Students in our program learn how to build a relationship with their horses,” said instructor Leslie Painter. “In addition, by understanding physiology and how the horse moves, they gain an appreciation for how they affect the horse when they ride. Knowing how the horse evolved and his natural responses, they also learn how to communicate with the horse in order to stay safe.”

The number of riding stables in Fairfax County has decreased dramatically as residential and commercial development has consumed remaining open space in the area. “The closure of private facilities in the county has eliminated more than 1,000 weekly lesson hours previously available to riders in the area,” said Beverly Dickerson, president of Fairfax4Horses.

A long-time advocate for establishing public riding lesson facilities on Fairfax County parkland, Fairfax4Horses assisted Tawny Hammond in bringing this program to Frying Pan Park and is currently working to raise funds for an equestrian center at Laurel Hill Park in Lorton. “We are delighted to see a program being offered by Fairfax County,” added Dickerson, “and hope that more lesson programs and facilities will soon be a reality.”

About Fairfax4Horses

Fairfax4Horses, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization working to ensure that all Fairfax County residents have access to affordable public riding lessons at county park facilities within a reasonable distance of where they live. We are currently focusing on raising funds to build a barn and indoor arena at Laurel Hill Park in Lorton. For more information on Fairfax4Horses, visit www.fairfax4horses.org.