At Stepping Stone Farm and Starbuck Equestrian, our aim is to provide top-level instruction in a stress-free and fun environment. That has been the goal since we moved to our current location in 1979, and it will remain the goal going forward.
It’s a mission statement that has helped us become one of the premier equestrian facilities along the East Coast. Many of our riders and horses have gone on to win medals at local, state, regional, and national competitions, including prestigious events such as the Devon Horse Show, the ASPCA Maclay National Finals, and the Winter Equestrian Festival.
We have an unprecedented group of trainers and top instructors, all of whom are either active horse show competitors or have competed in the past. They all offer positive reinforcement but they don’t coddle. Part of our goal is to have young riders practice problem-solving.
Speaking of young riders, research has found links between horse riding and improved cognitive ability in children. Scientists at the Tokyo University of Agriculture have found that riding can contribute to memory and learning by activating a part of the brain associated with cognitive abilities. A separate study commissioned by the British Horse Society pointed to the psychological benefits of riding. More than 80% of questionnaire respondents reported that horseback riding made them feel “quite a lot” or “extremely cheerful, relaxed, happy, or active.”
Whenever I hear about these studies, I am not surprised. There’s a connection, a mystique, between young riders and horses. When my daughters Juliana and Amanda were younger they would spend hours brushing their horses and talking to them. When I go into barns now, I still see children talking to horses. The horses become their friends.
In addition to providing aerobic exercise and the chance to improve balance and coordination, horseback riding also offers less obvious but equally important positives. Numerous studies have linked riding and stable management (horse grooming, etc.) to life skills such as responsibility, patience, compassion, and dedication.
At Stepping Stone Farm, we give young riders an opportunity to make decisions on their own. There is no peer pressure, and riders don’t have to worry about parents yelling from the sidelines, which can happen in team youth sports.
Some people shy away from horseback riding because they believe it is too costly. But that is simply not true. Although the sport can get expensive if you move on to advanced levels, the initial costs are not high. In fact, they are quite comparable to other sports that kids play when they are young. The startup clothing requirements are simple and reasonable with our primary concern being safety of the riders.
We’re proud of Stepping Stone Farm’s reputation as an elite equestrian facility. I believe our training staff is an unparalleled group of horsewomen on the East Coast which you can see from the staff biographies. There are many items of interest in the various sections of our website expressing our deep dedication to the “wonderful world of horses”.