Lincoln farm caters to horses and people who love them

February 10, 2004|EMILY BURTON

WAYNESBURG - A touch of Lexington's horse culture and old English grace on the huntseat, and one of the smartest donkeys in Halls Gap, can be found at Lincoln County's Maple Swamp Farm with a good set of directions and a little perseverance.

The farm's rural location might have kept it exclusive in the local equestrian hunting and jumping circuit, but owners Harry and Nancy George say it is time to get the word out: Advanced horse sports have arrived in Lincoln County, and they are no longer a rich man's game.

The Georges say they can help equestrians strengthen life skills and provide a little horse-therapy for stressed members of the business world.

"It's good for anybody, really. A lot of people who don't ride horses think you just sit on the horse and it does all the work, and that's just not true," said Nancy. "It's very aerobic. You have to keep yourself in shape."


The Georges say Nancy's lessons in the ring and indoor arena teach students the importance of good balance in the saddle but also help create better citizens through the discipline needed to master the sport.

"It teaches them discipline, it teaches them responsibility, and it gives them a greater experience, a greater fulfillment," said Harry. "If you can develop that interest, and have a parent that helps cultivate that interest, you'll have developed a better citizen, because they'll have achieved their goals."

Nancy's students have varied from 5-year-olds to doctors and professionals, who said they found the activity a stress reliever.

"You get to focus on what you're doing with the horse," said Nancy.

"Their minds are always focused on their profession, but when they come here, they are focused on their riding, and usually they are better riders, because they bring that passion with them," Harry said.

The Georges brought their equestrian skills to Lincoln County in 1997 from their home in the Chicago area and are still adjusting to the local horse culture while building interest in advanced equestrian activities.

"The locals are only used to one or two ways of riding," said Nancy. "Personally, I like to learn, and I like to keep learning. I take lessons myself, I go to clinics with professionals ... As soon as you think you know everything, you're in trouble, because you can never know everything."

They use their donkey for problem horses

This applies to students, riders and the horses. At the 81-acre farm, the couple not only educate riders, they also use their donkey, Bernie, for the behavioral modification of problem horses.

"If you have a horse that spooks and rears and is not obedient, then you choke-collar them together, so that their heads are about 12 inches apart," explained Harry.

With typical jackass stubbornness and strength, Bernie goes where he wants to and takes his students with him. This teaches the horse patience, better temperament, and can help with skittish animals as well, said Harry.

Such lessons can last up to a month or more.

Nancy's lessons vary by the amount of experience of the rider. An inexperienced student could be in the stables for up to an hour, learning the basics of horses, their tack, and how to clean both. Some might only be on the animal for a few minutes, said Nancy, where as experienced riders will see the arena for much longer.

Lessons vary from $20 to $35, depending on if students use their own animals, use the Georges', or board their horse at Maple Swamp.

No matter what level of skill, the student must be dedicated to improvement, said Nancy. "It's dangerous to have somebody up there whose mind isn't into learning."

This month's class will feature a judging clinic, to help participants understand a hunter/jumper judge's choices in the ring.

A nationally accredited judge of the country's top-level riders will be at the farm Feb. 29 to compare notes with clinic participants in a mock contest and also teach conformation, or what features to look for when buying a competitive animal.

Clinics, lessons and multiple shows around the nation have kept the Georges jumping in more ways than one, but they say there is still room in their schedule for more students.

With Nancy's dedication to a quality equestrian education, and a donkey that doesn't give an inch, Lincoln County horses and the people that love them can find a unique lesson down narrow Maple Swamp Road.

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