Pandemic inspires suburbanites to discover benefits of horseback riding

  • Eve is all ears as she waits for affectionate nose rubs from her young charge, Brianny Morataya, after providing a calm, quiet first lesson at Jaynesway Farms in Bartlett. Brianny has long wanted to ride, and her family gave her the chance while looking for things to do during the pandemic.

      Eve is all ears as she waits for affectionate nose rubs from her young charge, Brianny Morataya, after providing a calm, quiet first lesson at Jaynesway Farms in Bartlett. Brianny has long wanted to ride, and her family gave her the chance while looking for things to do during the pandemic. Catherine Edman | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 9/3/2020 12:06 PM

June Pedersen usually sees two or three new riders a month seeking beginner lessons at Castle Ridge Keep Horse Facility for an activity whose popularity has faded in recent years -- horseback riding.

In the past five months, since the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, that trend is reversing. A lot.

 

Pedersen is welcoming three or four new people each week now, making her one of the few business owners these days who can say their new clients have quadrupled.

Casual, relaxing trail rides are one of the best ways to enter the world of horseback riding and gauge whether it's an activity you'd like to continue.
Casual, relaxing trail rides are one of the best ways to enter the world of horseback riding and gauge whether it's an activity you'd like to continue. - Courtesy of Forest View Farms

"People are tired of being inside," the Crystal Lake stable owner said. "They're tired of being sequestered and socially distanced and they want to get out and do something."

It's adults. It's children. It's adults and children together.

"I can't even get an adult in a lesson right now," said Pat Doyle, who owns Fitzjoy Farm in Palos Park. "We're adding more (kids) camps -- they keep coming back for more."

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Suburban residents are rediscovering the surprisingly large number of stables throughout the area, many of which offer lessons for beginners.

Where to start?

In most cases, instructors will have a minimum age for riders and the littlest ones can expect to be led around on the horse by an adult. It is all about teaching them how to sit in the saddle, maintain balance and -- this is important -- learn how to steer and stop an animal that can weigh 1,000 pounds and has its own opinions.

Learning the basics of caring for a horse provides children, as well as adults, something other than the current stress of the world to focus on -- even if just for an hour. But there are other benefits, as well.

James Schlesselman, only 2½, is a riding veteran of one year already atop his trusty steed, Tye Dye, at Journey Hill Farm in Barrington.
James Schlesselman, only 2½, is a riding veteran of one year already atop his trusty steed, Tye Dye, at Journey Hill Farm in Barrington. - Courtesy of Lauren Schlesselman

"The biggest thing I say to all riders: Riding is a total body sport, it stretches muscles, strengthens core, and there's an emotional release after riding. I don't think there's anything else that does all of those things," said Lauren Schlesselman of Journey Hill Farm in Barrington.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Her stable even offers a mommy-and-me-style class; it's a Pony Pal camp for toddlers and their moms. Her 2½-year-old son, James, has been riding for a year -- with exceptional supervision and lots of helping hands, of course, she said.

Lesson barns have had to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions along with other businesses. For the most part, though, they permit riders to go maskless if they want during riding time. Horseback riders are almost always at least 6 feet apart -- if not more. Masks generally need to go back on in an indoor arena -- and when in the barn aisles, owners said.

In addition, large group lessons are off the table for now. Riders can expect to receive private or semiprivate instruction to make sure social distancing levels are maintained.

Hector Morataya, 14, of Chicago, takes one of his first riding lessons at Jaynesway Farms in Bartlett. Those new to riding, especially children, can expect to spend a few lessons with close assistance from instructors such as Abby Spike, of Streamwood, who is helping show him steering skills.
  Hector Morataya, 14, of Chicago, takes one of his first riding lessons at Jaynesway Farms in Bartlett. Those new to riding, especially children, can expect to spend a few lessons with close assistance from instructors such as Abby Spike, of Streamwood, who is helping show him steering skills. - Catherine Edman | Staff Photographer

Horseback riding is providing the stress relief and relaxation that many people are looking for right now.

"I'm finding a lot of angry people. At the store they're frustrated, angry, zero patience," Pedersen said. "Horses force you to be a better human: you have to have patience, you have to use your head. If you are mean to a horse, they won't be your friend.

"They allow us to ride and work with them, not because we force them. If you have a horse that's your friend it's on a mutual term. There's a lot of healing involved with horses."

Suburban horse stables

As all lesson barns have COVID-19 measures in place, call before you visit so you are prepared. Some facilities only train experienced riders. Others specialize in beginners. Minimum ages differ. It is best to visit websites, check Facebook pages and then call to make sure it is the right facility for you.

Batavia

• Beau Cheval Stable, (630) 292-0135, English, Hunter/Jumper, Minimum age: 6. www.facebook.com/beaucheval.farm

Barrington

• Journey Hill Farm, (773) 799-7021, English, Hunter/Jumper, Mother/Child Camp. Min. age: 2. www.facebook.com/JourneyHillFarm/

Bartlett

• Sunset Hill Farm, (630) 649-2198, Western, English, Min. age 5. sunsethillfarm.wixsite.com/sunset-hill-farm

• Jaynesway Farms, (630) 483-1827, English, Hunter/Jumper, English on the Flat, Western, Min. age: 5. www.jayneswayfarms.com

Beecher

• Wild Ran Riding, (708) 280-0486, Western, Barrel Racing, Min. age: 5. www.facebook.com/pg/Wild-Ran-Riding-102538311091521/about/?ref=page_internal

Big Rock

• Sunset Knoll Riding Academy, (630) 327-3290, Beginner to advanced saddleseat, Hunter on the flat, Western Pleasure, Basic Dressage, Min. age: 4. www.facebook.com/SunsetKnollRidingAcademy/

Bolingbrook

• Windridge Farm, (630) 842-5545 English, Hunter/Jumper, Min. age: 7. www.windridgefarmllc.com/lessons

Countryside

• Double J Riding Club, (708) 528-4674, English, Dressage, Jumping, Western, Homeschool Classes, Camps, Min. age: 4. doublejridingclub.com/riding-lessons/

Crete

• Hannaberry Farms, (773) 875-1118, English, Dressage, Eventing, Min. age: 6. www.hannaberryfarm.com/lessons

Crystal Lake

• Castle Ridge Keep Horse Facility, (815) 405-9424, English, Hunter/Jumper, Dressage, Western Pleasure, Driving, Eventing, Min. age: 3. castleridgekeep.com

• Dream Riders, (815) 788-1020, English, Western, Bareback, Therapeutic Riding. Min. age: 5. www.dreamriderstlc.com

Elburn

• Bull Run Equestrian Center, (630) 365-1376, English, Hunter/Jumper, Min. age: 7. www.facebook.com/BullRunEquestrianCenter/

Elgin

• Campton Hills Equestrian Center, (630) 417-9667, English, Hunter/Jumper, Min. age: 5. www.camptonhillsequestrian.com

• Dunham Woods, (847) 628-6339, English Hunter/Jumper, Equitation, Min. age: 8. www.dunhamwoodsfarm.com/

Grayslake

• Shorewood Acres, (847) 344-8373, Western, English, Min. age: 8. shorewoodacres.com

Hampshire

• Top Line Equestrian, (847) 464-4095, English, Hunter/Jumper, Horsemanship, Min. age: 5. topline-equestrian.com

• Tower Hill Stables, (847) 464-1616, English, Hunter/Jumper, Western, Dressage, Equitation, Gaited, Min. age: N/A. www.towerhillstables.net

Harvard

• Cripple Creek Ranch, (815) 943-4513, Western, Barrel Racing, Poles, Competitive Trail, Western Dressage, Roping, Working Equitation, Cow and Cowgirl Challenges, Min. age: N/A. www.ccrequinecenter.com

Hawthorn Woods

Creekside Farm (located at Indian Creek Farm), (847) 331-4765, Hunter/Jumper, lessons. rideatcreeksidefarm.com

Island Lake

• Timmermann's Ranch, (847) 526-8066, Western, English flat work, Drill Teams, Barrel Racing. Min. age: 6. timmermannsranch.com

Lake Forest

• Millennium Farm, (847) 833-4953, English Hunter/Jumper, Min. age: 5. www.millenniumfarmltd.com

Lemont

• Kopping Farms, (630) 257-7271, AQHA/APHA All Around, Hunter/Jumper, Trail Rides, Equestrian Therapy, Min. age: N/A. facebook.com/KoppingFarms

Lockport

• The Legacy Ranch, (630) 601-8920, Traditional English/Western riding lessons, Corporate Team Building, Min. age: 6. www.thelegacyranch.org

Maple Park

• Over the Top Equine, (630) 853-4280, Hunter/Jumper, Dressage, Min. age: 5. www.overthetopequine.com

• Yakle Acres, (815) 739-4643, Western, English, Hunter/Jumper, Dressage, Min. age: 3. www.yakleacres.com

• Equestrian Events Stable, (630) 639-1093, Dressage, English, Hunter/Jumper, Working Equitation, Min. age: 3. equestrianeventstables.com

Marengo

• County Line Farm, (815) 354-3488, Western, English, Min. age: 3. www.facebook.com/CountyLineFarmLLC/

• Edgewater Equestrian, (815) 508-3650, English, Hunter/Jumper, Min. age: 4. www.facebook.com/edgewatereq/

• Glory Bound Rescue Ranch, (815) 388-2594, Horse/Animal Lover Classes, English, Western, Min. age: 8. www.gloryboundrr.org/

• Rockin Horse Farm, (815) 345-7302, English, Western, Horse care, Tacking, Min. age: 4. www.facebook.com/rockinhorsefarm1/

• Easy Ridin' (815) 901-4086, Western, Ranch, Min. age. 3. easyridin.com

Minooka

• Ever After Equestrian, (815) 693-8617, English, Hunter/Jumper, Min. age: 5. www.everafterequestrian.com

Morton Grove

• Glen Grove Equestrian Center, (847) 966-8032, English, Hunter/Jumper, Dressage, Pony Lessons, Min. age: N/A. www.glengroveequine.com/

Naperville

• Trillion Equestrian, (630) 800-8422, Western, English, Hunter/Jumper, Dressage, Equitation, Min. age: N/A. www.trillionequestrian.com

Oswego

• Camelot Farm, (630) 551-0145, English, Hunter/Jumper, Min. age: 6. www.camelotfarm.org

Palatine

• Palatine Stables, (847) 359-0009, English, Hunter/Jumper, Horsemanship, Min. age: 4. www.palatinestables.org/contact

Palos Park

• Fitzjoy Farm, (708) 361-7977, English and Western, Min. age. 7. www.fitzjoyfarm.com

Plainfield

• Soaring Eagle Stables, (630) 392-1395, Western, English, Min. age: 8. www.soaringeaglestables.com

Richmond

• Running Junction Stables, (815) 575-4945, Western Performance: Rodeo, Drill Team, Barrel Racing, Min. age: 5. www.facebook.com/groups/939569846516587/

• Heavenly Horses, (847) 867-6656, English, Hunter/Jumper, Western Pleasure. Min. age: 5. heavenlyhorses.biz

Spring Grove

• Meadowsweet Ranch, (815) 675-1177, English, Western, Horsemanship, Min. age: 4. meadowsweetranch.com

• Rip O Wind Farm, (847) 629-7507, English, Western, Min. age: 5. ripowindfarm.com

Sugar Grove

• Baythorne Farm, (630) 466-1599, English, Dressage, Eventing Min. age: N/A. facebook.com/BaythorneFarm

• Northstar Farm, (630) 448-2619, Western, English, Hunter/Jumper/Dressage, Min. age: N/A. northstarhorsefarm.com

Sycamore

• Willow Creek Farm, (630) 688-2113, Specializing in AQHA All-Around Events, English Hunter/Jumper and Flat, Western Showmanship, Horsemanship and Trail, Min. age: 5. facebook.com/groups/1541685945993592/

Tinley Park

• Forest View Farms, (708) 560-0306, English, Hunter/Jumper, Dressage, Western, Working Equitation, Driving, Trail Rides, Pony Lessons, Min. age: 5. www.fvfarms.com

Wauconda

• Foxcreek Stables, (312) 203-7241, English, Western, Jumping, Camps, Min. age: 6. dlehnig.wixsite.com/foxcreekstables

• Poets Hill Farm, (847) 715-8439, English, Hunter/Jumper, Dressage, Min. age: 5. poetshillfarm.weebly.com

• Wedgewood Riding Center, (847) 526-8610, English, Western, Jumping, Team Roping, Trail Rides, Min. age: N/A.

Wayne

• Wayne Equestrian Center, (630) 797-5910, English, Hunter/Jumper, Min. age: 5. www.wayneequestriancenter.com

Woodstock

• Victorious Farms, (815) 245-0242, English, Hunter/Jumper, Min. age: 5. www.victoriousfarm.net

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