Mamatoga Fit Tip Tuesday: Giddy Up!

For this week's Fit Tip we wanted to feature a healthy activity that kids can do for some fun exercise, horseback riding! This is a horse town readers, but with all the polo and racing going on sometimes people forget how easy and fun it is to get their own little ones up on a horse for a great workout! In this horse town, our family is a horse family. I've been riding horses since I was a little girl, and our weeks are filled with horse related activities especially during the summer. The kids have been around horses all their lives, either at the barn or horse shows with me or at polo or the racetrack and they both couldn't wait till their first riding lesson. Finn started last year, and this past weekend Lev had her first ever lesson at the same barn I ride at. When I first moved here I was lucky enough to find Amanda DeSarbo, a riding instructor who recently moved to her own barn, North Country Horses, in Gansevoort, only about ten minutes from the Wilton Mall. She whipped me back into shape after having Finn and Lev, and as tough and motivating as she is for me she is equally as patient and nurturing with the kids. What I love most about North Country Horses is the personal attention you get with a lesson. When you show up you're met by Amanda herself. She has your child come with her to get the horse they are going to ride and it is a hands on experience for them from the beginning with her standing close by, making sure they're safe and helping out the whole way. She has Finn go out to get Isabella and hands him the lead rope after she slips the halter over her head, and walks alongside giving Finn pointers as he leads her into the barn. After she helps get the horse ready to be groomed she again lets the kids do the work, and this is almost Finn and Lev's favorite part of the whole thing. They get out the brushes and combs and go to work, really putting some elbow grease into it, and again Amanda is right there to tell them what to do without interrupting their experience. Finn really loves being able to do it all by himself, and he's even getting to the age where he helps tack the horse up. Amanda gets the rest of the tack on, taking extra care to make sure it is all set, and that's when she walks them out to the ring and they get on. The lesson is geared around what age and experience level your child is and can be either thirty minutes or an hour, in a group or private, and the rates vary depending on what type of lesson you choose. Amanda is really great at making the kids feel like they're doing it all on their own, and they take it much more seriously that way, Finn keeps his little feet right in those stirrups because he thinks its just him and the horse without realizing Amanda is less than an arms length away if he shifts even a bit. Lev was under the impression that Amanda wasn't even holding on to Isabella at all, even though she had a tight grip on her reigns just out of Lev's line of vision. From my own riding experience I know what great exercise riding can be.  A regular rider develops a more flexible and well-toned musculature in response to the horse’s movements. This effect is more pronounced in leg muscles, up to thighs, though the entire body receives the benefit. For people with underdeveloped muscles and those with tense musculature, horse riding is the most natural and enjoyable therapy. Another attraction of horse riding is the improvement and command in balance and movement that horse riders generally enjoy. Through the horse’s movements and the contact of the rider’s body through the hips, every step of the horse moves the rider automatically to the best achievable natural balance. After good practice of horse riding over time, the rider attains a greater degree and range of balanced movements. And more simply, for kids, riding improves balance and coordination. As a child progresses in their skills they develop confidence and a sense of freedom and the responsibility that comes with riding horses. In addition to the preparation of getting the horse groomed and tacked up before they can do the "fun part" of actually riding, the lesson doesn't stop when they dismount in the ring. They then have to bring the horse back, help get the horse un-tacked and groom the horse again before helping putting it back in its stall and making sure it has food and water. Finn and Lev love getting the food and water and settling the horse back in after their lesson, and I love that it is a completely rounded activity full of fun, exercise, and responsibility building components. If only I could incorporate that into when they play at home! Beyond just lessons, North Country Horses also does a number of horse shows throughout the year, and Amanda can walk you through every step of the way with that as well. Finn is going to do his first show this fall and he can't wait to get a ribbon just like the ones I have hanging up in my room, once a horsey girl always a horsey girl, what can I say? Amanda has a number of different horses ready for lessons, and she is an expert at matching riders up with the right horse for their skill level and ability, and she takes the same amount of time with a beginner as she does with an advanced student, and the same personal attention. This is what I truly love about North Country Horses, like I said, the personal attention, especially just starting out with Finn and Lev. The little bond they're forming with the horses is the same as the one they are forming with Amanda, and they trust her enough to feel safe and confident in this incredibly new activity, which is so important for them. So if you're interested in getting your little one up in the saddle, even just to try it out, contact Amanda at, and also stay tuned to the website because we are planning a Mamatoga Open House coming up in the fall at North Country Horses. Amanda just finished up a busy summer of horse shows and doing a summer camp at the barn, so it is the perfect time with fall coming in to stop by. You can have your child try a lesson or just come to meet the horses first and take a look around! We will let you know the details very soon and hope to see you there! [slideshow]