A horse or a pony isn’t a piece of sporting equipment like a bike or a pair of skis; you don’t stuff them in the garage for the off-season and fetch them back out again when the weather is right.
Although equestrian riding pauses for the winter — unless you have an indoor arena — the relationship between horse and rider is one that is best nurtured year-round. That’s why Methow Valley Riding Unlimited (MVRU) has developed a new program to provide a bridge between the fall and spring riding seasons.
Let ’Em Stride complements the existing Let ’Em Ride program by allowing kids in grades 3-6 to remain connected with the MVRU horses and by continuing to support the socio-emotional development of the little community these horses and riders form during the program, says MVRU Program Director Annie Budiselich, who is widely known as Annie B.
Annie B emphasizes the time and energy devoted to “building community and culture through positive relationships amongst students, as well as between students and adult and teen volunteers.” In the past, these relationships, as well as those developed between horses and riders, were paused between November and April, since Methow Valley winters are not very conducive to outdoor riding. Let ’Em Stride now sustains these relationships for five weeks in the late fall and five weeks in the late winter.
The “non-riding version of Let ’Em Ride,” Annie B says, Let ’Em Stride allows students to be in the presence of horses without riding them. “They get the grounding of being around horses and they get a chance to learn a lot more about them — about the many ways there are to work with horses.”
Annie B has always wanted to have more time in the riding program for “reflection and creative expression,” she says, and Let ’Em Stride provides this time. “We have guided reflection time, we’re engaged in art projects, and we’re writing poetry to overlay on the art,” she says. The group will also complete a collaborative art piece, which Annie B says is “kind of like a mosaic that includes various aspects of what the students are doing during each five-week session.”
Using the indoor space of the MVRU office (in the former retail space of Crown S Ranch), half of the Let ’Em Stride group works on creative projects while the other half is “horsing around outside,” Annie B says.
Annie says that MVRU is grateful to the education research organization foundry10 for their support of Let ’Em Stride. The organization has “a philanthropic focus on expanding ideas about learning and creating direct value for youth.”
MVRU has also received a grant from Confluence Health and the Wenatchee Valley Medical Group that will partially fund a pilot program this spring, providing mental wellness workshops for teens.