As the summer winds down, many horse owners reflect on the summer of trail rides or their hectic show season, soon to come to an end.
Autumn is often a time when horse owners decide to take riding lessons to fine tune their skills, work with a trainer to help refine their horses’ abilities, or to help assess a possible change in direction; there are so many disciplines to choose from, and Utah riders are lucky to have several great trainers available.
Here’s just a brief list of options for riders across the Wasatch front;
Dressage. An elegant sport that is akin to ballet on horseback. Riders tend to be intellectual and meticulous, able to absorb and apply the exacting details of proper position and specific cues required to execute their craft. Athletes who excel in this discipline are exceedingly dedicated, spending long hours in the saddle in addition to the gym. They are generally lithe, fit and strong. Certainly not for the beginner, dressage requires particularly exceptional timing and well-honed skill. Contact the Utah Dressage Society for more information about membership or our area’s trainers. David McMillan, located at Keystone Equestrian in Bluffdale, is an exceptional trainer and himself a highly accomplished competitor.
Barrel racing. This fast-paced activity is not for the faint of heart. Fearless riders who aren’t afraid of a little (or a lot of) speed are drawn to the barrels. Any apprehension is going to interfere with your horse’s ability to get the job done, and get it done faster than anyone else, so don’t bother if you don’t have the nerve to put your hand forward, gently guide your horse around the barrels – if your assistance is needed – and GO! We have a few fun groups that specialize in both barrel racing and poles, including the UTBRA, Country Cousins and NBHA. Joe Ruiz, located in Taylorsville, has helped many of the greater Salt Lake area’s barrel racers polish their skills and get their horses in top condition.
Hunter/jumper. Interested in jumping, within a somewhat controlled and well-paced environment? The classic sport of hunt seat riding calls for enough nerve to let your horses glide over assorted obstacles, the timing to release as you leave the ground and a strong riding foundation. Helping one’s horse achieve the correct pace and stride from one jump to the next is essential. Riders and their horses are always nicely groomed and well turned out in this timeless activity. See the UHJA site for more information. Denise Tilley (head of Tilley Show Stables and trainer with Rockin E Farms in West Bountiful) is one of our area’s top trainers and riding coaches.
Eventing. For those who like variety, eventing is the way to go. Combining dressage with stadium jumping and the thrill of cross-country jumping, event riders must have the versatility to exhibit finesse, skill and raw nerve. They also have to be able to change quickly and afford a variety of tack. Utah eventing facilities offer both three-phase and some two-phase competitions. Visit the WREA website to learn more. The premier trainers and competitors in our area? Gemini Farm, run by Todd and Adrienne Smyrl. As riding coaches and horse trainers, these two instill a strong foundation, reliable and timeless skills, and the ability to relax and have fun. As competitors, both are incredibly talented, hard-working and a joy to watch.
Utah riders also enjoy reining (trainer Joe Ruiz as well as Jim Montgomery are amongst the favorite riding instructors and horse trainers available for those interested in this sport). We also have many horse folks who are fans of the Arabian breed and appreciate showing their horses in local or regional competitions. Both Vista Farms and Keystone Equestrian are facilities where you can find out more about these lively horses and opportunities to compete with like-minded equestrians.
For those who want to keep it simple and stay out of the show pen, Utah offers an ample array of scenic trails. Hook up with a local trainer during the fall or winter to polish your riding abilities and build your confidence, making the springtime trail adventures even more rewarding. Horsemen such as Flying T Acre’s Cliff Tipton (in Erda), Joe Ruiz in Taylorsville, near South Salt Lake or Shamus Haws (also in Erda) are renowned for the quality of their teaching abilities and a lifetime of impressive horse mastery.
Utah’s horse world truly offers something for everyone!