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New book helps riders choose right program

There’s no denying it: Horses can be dangerous animals. They’re big, powerful and fast, and they scare easily. The key to staying safe around horses is to master the basics of riding and ground control. And the best way to do this is to find a good instructor and a horse that’s appropriate for your level of riding.The Certified Horsemanship Association has published a 51-page book, “Ready to Ride? Finding a Program and Getting Prepared for Your Adventure.” This book, written by CHA program director Julie Goodnight, offers an excellent introduction to anyone interested in getting involved with horses. It’s a quick read that will save you a lot of time, money and frustration – and hopefully it will inspire you to do your research before making decisions that affect your riding life.Goodnight is obviously biased, which isn’t all bad. The book encourages readers to find CHA-certified instructors and riding programs. The CHA emphasizes safety above all else and has worked for almost 40 years to develop an effective third-party certification program. The book gives a solid overview of what to look for when starting to ride and offers many resources to explore specific topics in more detail.Goodnight covers a lot of material in 51 pages: evaluating your riding interests and goals; the cost of boarding, instruction and tack; breeds of horses and styles of riding; buying versus leasing a horse; different types of stables and riding programs; and-my favorite-how to select a safe riding program. Goodnight gives a long list of questions to ask when visiting a teaching facility and suggests what to look for to find a safe and appropriate program. She also discusses how your interests, needs, age and fitness level will affect your riding program.I especially like Goodnight’s emphasis on the importance of exploring the world of horses before making the decision to lease or, especially, to buy a horse. Many people have impulsively bought a horse only to be surprised at how much money, time and effort it takes to care for and train a horse. She says, “Be sure you have given it enough time to know if this is a passing fancy or a serious endeavor before taking on greater responsibility and making large financial commitments.”Although you or your child may be just dying to jump on a horse, the research you do before you take that leap will affect the rest of your riding career. The one comment I’ve often heard from riding instructors and boarding barn managers is that people don’t even come out to visit before making a decision on lessons or horse care. It pays to take some time to talk to experts, attend horse-related events, watch videos and read books. “Ready to Ride?” is a great book to help you begin a journey that hopefully will bring you great satisfaction and joy for many years to come.***The Eastern Plains Reining Association is now a regional affiliate of the National Reining Horse Association. The group can now hold NRHA-sanctioned shows in which participants qualify for the national finals. The group will be holding a day-long clinic Oct. 21 featuring Tim Unzicker of Calhan, a reiner who has successfully competed in many national reining competitions. The clinic will be held at Tim’s ranch near Ellicott Highway in Calhan. For more information, called Janene at 719-347-2415.***For those of you who noticed the new photo at the top of my column: Yes, I have a new horse. Namaste is a three-year-old Friesian/Arab gelding, and he’s been with me since July. I wanted a new challenge, and I’ve got it!

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