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Why Horses?

Hi, it's Jill Walter-Robinson, co-owner of The Guilford Riding School.

Horses are so important to me and my life.  I realized that I can share more about them through a blog -- so here goes...

When I served in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, West Africa in the late 1960s, I taught biology to young people and felt that I had done a good thing. Something else happened that would lead me to the career I have followed ever since: one day, I looked out behind my dwelling and from the jungle emerged a small sorrel horse. Where she had come from, or how, no one knew. I gave her grass and water, and we became good friends. I soon discovered she belonged to a tribal chief some distance away. For the three years I spent teaching at the school, I was allowed to keep her. On my last day in country, I returned her to the chief.

When I came home to Douglaston, New York, I had to make the tough choices we all do in our early twenties. In Sierra Leone, I had loved teaching and felt that biology had the power to change lives. And, I loved that horse. In 1973 I registered for a total-immersion equestrian career course taught by Frank Chapeau . In the 38 years that followed, I have developed a simple, progressive approach to teaching riding. Since 1991, my husband and I have owned The Guilford Riding School, where my initial awakening has grown into a thriving business and a community of thousands of students.They have enjoyed the intimate and magical relationship with horses, and the challenges of communicating with them while riding -- that true partnership that can be serene, intense and sometimes thrilling!

You see, horses and riding are unique in our society, even on our planet. (In cinema lately, the experience can be compared to learning to ride and live with benevolent dragons, as in Avatar, or How To Train Your Dragon).

Many adults rode horses when they were children, and have the foundation empathy with them already ingrained. They come to The Guilford Riding School just to see if that spark can be re-ignited,and are surprised at how that 'special something' indeed is still there. Riding now becomes a meditation,an escape from adult stresses, and a repetition of childhood.I keep in mind when teaching young people that I am providing them with a sound, character-building experience. And I'm giving them skills that will be there for them if they return to riding as an adult.

Many of our students have never been exposed to horses or riding before they drive down our riding school driveway.  Or maybe they've had a vacation sunset trail ride. In their first lessons I emphasize safety, confidence and control. Very soon they are on their own, trusting my well trained and well cared-for school horses to guide the way. I love to watch that epiphany when students realize that riding is indeed a partnership, that all horses have distinct personalities,and that the subtle and accurate communication with their aids will more and more intensify that magical connection.