For beginner horseback riders such as Taylor Bridges, there are many things to remember.
Instructor Karen Montieth reminded Taylor about the basic rules of riding as the fifth-grader steadily made her way around an arena atop Radar, a gentle, gray horse.
Hands and heels down, adjust your hips and talk to him, always talk to him.
Taylor, a student at Hayden Valley Elementary School, was among children who used a day off from school Friday to become acquainted with horses in a Western riding class at the Routt County Fairgrounds.
Longtime horse owner Karen Montieth organized the lessons to give children and adults the opportunity to take part in the popular Routt County pastime.
Although many children want a horse, the animals are expensive to feed and maintain, making horse ownership an unrealistic goal for some, she said.
"This blesses the kids, and gets them on the horse," Karen Montieth said.
More than 50 children and adults participated in one-hour lessons Jan. 28 and Friday. The youngest participant was 3 years old.
Seeing the reactions of children who have never ridden horses was fun for instructor Meagan Whiteside who, with her brother Colton Whiteside, donated time for the class.
"They beam -- it's a big ol' smile," said Meagan Whiteside, whose father, Steve Whiteside, runs an outfitting service and provided seven horses for lessons.
Ann Willingham was grateful for the opportunity to introduce her daughter, Mary, to horseback riding.
"She's super psyched," Willingham said. "This has been the thing to look forward to all week."
Montieth's daughter, Teah, also a fifth-grader, was on hand to give students riding pointers. Teah, who has been riding most of her life, is almost blind in one eye. Riding was a big confidence boost and helped her overcome difficulties with her sight, she said.
"My horse Nugget inspired me to stay strong and not think down on myself," she said.
Teah rode a horse named Oakey alongside Taylor and other students who frequently visit the Montieth home for horseback rides. Teah's best advice to timid students was to keep talking to their horses.
"It's OK, all you need to do is talk to them," she said. "If you're scared, they are scared."
Karen Montieth may organize more Western riding classes, depending on whether the town of Hayden is able to help sponsor insurance costs, she said.
-- To reach Tamera Manzanares, call 871-4204 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.