First, let’s begin with an issue that has everyone in the horse industry concerned: How do we get the next generation interested in and desiring to cultivate the love of horses that we nurture daily?
Let me share with you my small contribution to this challenge.
The Thacher School in Ojai, California, is a private boarding school for high school students and has been in operation for over 125 years. Many of these students will become tomorrow’s leaders. Along with academic excellence, The Thacher School has had a horsemanship program that is truly the centerpiece of the school’s philosophy. Over 100 years ago, Sherman Day Thacher said that the best thing for the inside of a boy (and now girl) is the outside of a horse.
At The Thacher School every new freshman is assigned a horse, stall and tack. These students are required to be out at the barn and have their stall cleaned and horse fed before 8 o’clock each morning, seven days a week. They will also ride for two hours, five days a week. After their freshman year, students have the option of riding one, two or three terms throughout the academic year and also participate in other sports.
A few months ago I received a telephone call from the Head Master of The Thacher School. He asked me the following question: “What would it take for you to come to our school to be the Horse Program Director?” This was not on my radar. After thirty-plus years in the horse industry, training, showing and teaching horsemanship, I assumed that I would maintain this course for the next ten to twenty years as well. However, after many conversations, thoughtful consideration and prayer, my wife Cheryl and I decided to accept this position and were very excited about investing our time, energies and expertise into these amazing young lives.
Honestly, if it was just going to a school and teaching young people how to ride horses, I would not have been interested in this position. However, there’s something unique about horses that have the ability to teach life-lessons in a very meaningful way. From personal responsibility and character building to self-control, horses are great teachers.
These bright young people come to The Thacher School during the most formative years of their lives. In some small way, I hope to make an impact and investment in this next generation.
In some ways I’ve spent the last 30-plus years preparing for this new position and chapter in my life. Thousands of you have brought me a horse to train, attended one of my clinics, or listened to one of my presentations. To you, let me just say “Thank You!” Wishing you the very best on your journey!
Written by Weaver Leather Prostaff Trainer and Clinician, Richard Winters of Richard Winters Horsemanship