And they’re off. Horses Offering Opportunities for the Future Inc. (HOOF), kicked off its first-ever summer camp in collaboration with the Louisville Equestrian Center (LEC) on June 20. The weeklong camp is geared toward at-risk youth, educating them on horseback riding while encouraging community responsibility.
This week, the Cabbage Patch Settlement House brought 27 children, ages 8 to 14, to LEC, located at 2612 S. English Station Road. There, the children had the opportunity to explore a working equestrian center, become skilled at horseback riding and learn how to care for horses.
The first day’s activities began with a lesson on safety and grooming and concluded with a chance for the campers to test their newly-acquired riding skills. Each day, the children attend sessions on equine education, stable management and create various arts and crafts to take home to their families.
“Our goal is to teach the kids how to ride, take care of the horse, clean it, brush it with both a hard and soft brush, give it a sponge bath and saddle the horse,” said Diane Frederick, the executive director of HOOF. “And, we’re hoping that the kids will be able to lead the horses at the end of the week.”
HOOF is a not-for-profit organization that provides disadvantaged or at-risk youth with activities that endorse horse stewardship and community responsibility. The camp focuses on building such qualities as horsemanship, discipline, education, social development, fitness and ethical values that will help youth conquer everyday challenges and lead successful lives.
“Even if only one of those kids becomes changed or challenged by this, I think that’s a good thing,” said Pat Rosenberger, the president of HOOF. “What we ultimately want is to help kids become the best they can be, and in today’s society that’s a challenge.”
One of the inspirations behind HOOF is Work to Ride, an organization in Philadelphia that established the first African-American polo team in 1999, and later became famous after appearing in Sports Illustrated and HBO’s “Real Sports” for winning the Eastern Regional Interscholastic Polo Tournament in 2005. HOOF also hopes to one day establish its own polo team for the group of children who attend the camp.
As for HOOF’s future, other local organizations, such as Family Scholar House and Louisville Metro Parks, are looking to become involved with the horse camp. However, because of a delay with fundraising, the inaugural camp with the Cabbage Patch Settlement will likely be the only camp HOOF holds this summer. Still, the organization will continue building on the success of this week’s camp once school begins in August.
Through donations from private citizens, local businesses and corporations, HOOF will offer a small group of students the chance to continue with a 9-month riding program during the school year, in which certified instructors will conduct saddle seat, Western and polo lessons.
“What we would like to do is to pick 10 or more children from the camp to keep riding during the school year,” Frederick said. “We would give them riding lessons for an hour and let them do hands-on grooming for a half hour. We’re hoping to get tutors to work with them for the last hour or so, or offer life skill applications, too.”
Thanks to HOOF and LEC, children who typically cannot afford riding lessons, or even the chance to come face-to-face with a horse, will have the opportunity of a lifetime.
On Friday, at the conclusion of camp, HOOF and LEC will present awards to each of the participants, as well as to key women of the saddlebred industry for their dedication to working with young riders. These women include Webb, Marilyn Macfarlane, Bonny Zubrod and Cindy Zubrod Boel.
By the end of day, children will have not only gained skills in horseback riding, but also a few friends, as well.
“A lot of these kids from the Cabbage Patch Settlement don’t know each other,” Frederick said. “So at the end of the week, they’re going to get a two-legged friend out of this and possibly a four-legged friend.”
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Ashley spends half her time writing stories at The Voice-Tribune office and half her time out on the town conducting interviews, while occasionally dressing in wild outfits to fully immerse herself in the experience (aka Princess Leia at Comic Con). Ashley is a huge UofL fan and loves the Yankees and the Boston Celtics (she is fully aware of the irony). She hopes to one day outshine Erin Andrews on ESPN and enjoys running, Bardstown Road/Fourth Street, Breaking Bad and reality TV (she’s not ashamed to admit that).