By Justin Seward
Since September 2018, a group of Irvine School junior high equine students have had a different classroom setting of sorts with the Forsyth Ranch indoor arena being the host for riders once a week during the winter months.
While the school started an after school equine club for Grades 3-9 near the end of last year, teacher Linda Kraft put a proposal together for an Equine program this year that would allow for Grades 7-9 students to receive a grade during classroom and riding sessions.
“Riding is great all year round,” said Kraft.
“It’s a little more work in the winter. But still there is a lot of people that still ride and do equine activities over the winter. It’s great to have that interaction and riding opportunity all year long.”
Tuesdays are dedicated for the indoor portion, while Thursdays are for classroom work.
“We’ve had Clint Lindford come and do a horse leg dissection. He’s a farrier and showed us all parts of the legs,” said Kraft.
“We went to Blue Sky Veterinary Service and did a tour there. We’ve had Nikki Nickolson come and talk about equine nutrition. Jared (Pancoast) came and talked about roping.”
Kraft says the main focus for the students over the winter has been about learning horsemanship, equitation and body positioning on the horse.
However, as the year has gone on, skill sets have been more garnered towards specific events.
“We’re getting a little bit more into some of the rodeo specific events like roping and barrel racing,” said Kraft.
Classroom lessons fall under the Horse Anatomy umbrella, which includes the history of the horse and ongoing projects with designing activities for Equine Interaction for Kids.
While the students may see a marginal difference between the outdoor and indoor riding, it’s the horses that have the challenge of feeling out their surroundings.
“Everything is new and scary,” she said.
“Some of the horses don’t take a second look at it. But a lot of horses, especially young ones, they’re always on the look out for certain things. Even the ground manners as in if your horse poops in here, you have to pick it up right away, whereas outside you don’t.”
Forsyth Ranch Arena owner Morley Forsyth had initially heard about the equine program through Facebook as at the time the group was looking for obstacles to use in their outdoor arena in Irvine.
“I got a hold of Linda and told her that they could use my obstacles and (I would) deliver them and help set them up,” said Forsyth.
“We did that on the first session and the next week they got rained out. We had the opportunity and room here. We end up moving that night into the arena and did it free of charge so the kids could keep going with their program. I really believed in the program and what she was doing.
“The kids love it here. I love working with the kids.”
Forsyth says when the winter program arrived, he was approached again to use the facility.“I think it’s very important just to have a program in the school and to keep it going the whole semester,” he said.
“It’s good for the kids to get on the horses weekly and keep in shape and learn the importance of that.”
It excites him to see the progress of the young riders.
“When I look at the new kids that haven’t even rode before, it’s amazing just how much in a few months how they’re catching up to the other kids. They’re doing very well,” he said.
The plan in the future is to open up the program to all Prairie Rose School Division students.