Free horse program for local youth


By Beverly Compton

Special to The SUN

color-birds,horsesFamilies that participate with a local youth program are invited to spend a morning learning about horses.

The program is offered by the High Country Horse Council, a local nonprofit seeking to provide education and resources to help keep horses healthy. The summer youth horse program helps educate children about the importance of safety, respect and how to have fun with a horse. This is the third year the program has been available.

The program includes one-on-one training with horse trainer and instructor Kelli Day at her home south of Pagosa Springs.  Each participant spends time with Kelli learning how to halter, brush, be safe and lead a horse.  Kelli provides the horses and donkey.

The participants go through three other education stations while waiting for their turn with Kelli. Those stations include wearing of a horse mask and walking through an easy obstacle course to truly understand how different a horse’s sight is from a human’s. The children take their masks home with them. The second station is communication with bridle and headstalls. A youngster wears and holds a bridle while the reins are held by another participant from behind and, together, they go for a walk. This teaches the children just how little motion it takes to use a bridle and reins. The third station involves learning horse anatomy by putting together a full size plywood sheet puzzle cutout of a horse.

Once the children participate in all of the activities, Kelli provides a riding demonstration and introduces everyone to her herd of horses, mules and donkey.  She shares fun stories about her herd and talks about what type of training is important for all horses. All activities are done on the ground; there is no riding involved.

Children will learn why horses are different than humans, why flight is a horse’s first choice when scared and what that means for you. Children will learn how to safely catch a horse and put a halter on the animal, groom a horse, move a horse around and lead.  Safety around horses teaches children how to be safe in other aspects of their lives, including when they are around people, dogs and other animals.

Dates available are May 11, June 8, July 13, Aug. 3, and Sept. 7 — 9 a.m. to noon. Children need to be with a responsible adult.  All activities are carefully monitored and the safety of all is a top priority.

If you are interested in having your child join the program, contact Beverly Compton at