Ritual and ceremony are a big part of horseback riding, according to Jessica Martinelli, the owner and head instructor at J.L.M. Equestrian. "It's more than just getting on and going," she says. "There's a lot of care involved too." Jessica, who's been riding since the age of 6, teaches students how to properly brush, tack, and saddle a horse during lessons.
Once their steeds are prepped, students climb aboard one of the farm's team of 11 horses, which includes Rodney, a dark-brown gelding who flips his friendly tail during most of a week's 35 lessons. In the saddle, beginners learn balance and control under staff supervision. They’ll learn to take the reins in the 100'x200' outdoor riding arena, where they practice using their legs and feet to control and communicate with the horse. More advanced riders practice jumps.
Sometimes the first few lessons snowball into a genuine passion. Jessica herself saw her initial interest blossom into a lifelong love highlighted by competitions with the US equestrian team and an appearance at Madison Square Garden during the National Horse Show. For those students looking to get more involved, Jessica offers camps, and some students go on to compete in regional competitions or the state's interscholastic riding program.