With soccer practices, basketball games and softball tournaments to attend, Robin Hugasian put her horseback riding hobby on hold for a while. Now that her children are grown, she has some newfound time to rekindle her passion for horses with the help of John White Stables.
Hugasian, from Sturtevant, Wis., started taking lessons at the Woodstock stable in February when her best friend, Woodstock resident Kim Myers, invited her to register for a four-week program through the Woodstock Recreation Center.
“My kids are more important, so I stopped [riding] to raise my children,” Hugasian said. “But now that I have time, I want to get back to where I was before I quit. I want to have a kinship with horses like I did when I was riding 13 years ago.”
After enrolling in the program through the Woodstock Recreation Center, Hugasian and Myers continued taking classes with Lisa Jo White, owner of John White Stables. Hugasian said her goal is to start competing in shows and take horses on a trail-ride camping trip.
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White, owner and instructor, said she has had a partnership with the city for about five years, offering different riding programs to multiple age groups. She said her horseback-riding students range in age from 3 to 75 and participate in private or small group lessons.
While the stable is primarily made up of Arabian horses and some saddlebreds, it mainly focuses on saddleseat riding. But, if students were interested in hunt seat or Western riding, these disciplines are available. John White Stables also has four instructors, so White said the classes are tailored and personal for each individual.
“We’ve really created a fun, friendly environment here,” White said, whose adult riding groups have resulted in strong friendships.
After their group lessons, White said several of her adult students spend time together outside the barn going on double dates, grabbing drinks or seeing movies together. She said some of her adult riders came to her because they were looking for a fun and active alternative to working out at a gym, while others came as couples just to spend time doing something together during their busy work week. Conversely, she also has women ride at her stable to have time to themselves. They put their phones away and they groom and ride horses for hours.
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White said any age and experience level is encouraged to try horseback riding.
“We’re not going to push anybody,” she said. “We are really focused on each person and take everything a step at a time with positive encouragement.”
In the lessons, White said students will learn to care for a horse, tack and groom a horse and learn to handle and ride a horse. With more experience, White offers leasing and showing opportunities. Four of her riders that started through the Recreation Center a few years ago are now leasing or buying their own horse to have and to show.
For Hugasian, the hour-long drive to the stable is worth the while and she is temporarily free from her daily responsibilities.
“It’s not ‘mom’ time, it’s Robin time,” she said.