Soon after the Harris family moved to the city limits of Buckley, Washington to locate Friendly Horse Acres on a farm with more acreage, there was a knock on the house door. A man stood at the side of his anxious daughter. He introduced himself as Mr. Whitmore from down the road. This was his daughter Naomi. She was horse-crazy. Could she work for the Harris family in exchange for horse personship lessons?
Laverne took a chance on Naomi.
It was the start of official lessons at Friendly Horse Acres, because that first student led to others.
Children and a few adults work at the farm to learn about horses. The lessons are not typical riding or driving lessons, but instruction in the handling of the equines. Leading, grooming, mucking and the basic communication that must go on for different species to understand each other are part of the curriculum. Over the years the students have participated in parades, visits to nursing homes and senior centers, as well as numerous visits to libraries to entertain and educate the public about horses and ponies.
Although horse shows are not part of the regular routine, students with more experience have successfully competed in schooling shows.
Over the years more than a hundred students have been part of the life at the farm. Some of them stay with Laverne for many years. Others only last for a few lessons. Some have gone on to purchase horses of their own.
And Naomi, that first student, what has become of her? She stayed with the program at Friendly Horse Acres, helping it to develop and then she moved away with her family to Eastern Washington. Over the years she consulted with Laverne through letters as she formed a relationship with her first horses in 4-H. Naomi entered university as a student dedicated to become involved in the equine industry.
Steve and Laverne have hopes that other students will decide to make horses their life work. It looks promising. As a non-profit organization, Friendly Horse Acres offers opportunities for all children, especially at-risk young people who would not have the chance to be with horses except for generous contributions to Friendly Horse Acres.
Hourly lessons are offered at Friendly Horse Acres. Weather is always a consideration in the Pacific Northwest. Be prepared for anything! Boots with heels are necessary for riding. Everyone who takes part in riding or driving will be required to wear a helmet. Friendly Horse Acres can provide some helmets.
No one will be turned away from the fun at Friendly Horse Acres because of lack of funds. However a contribution is always appreciated. The recommended donation for individual riding lessons is a minimum of $30 per lesson, but more is appreciated. Lessons last approximately one hour. Children under the age of five can take lead line lessons. Laverne has taught children as young as 18 months.
For some people the art of driving is a more compelling prospect then riding a horse. The Miniature Horses of Friendly Horse Acres are especially suited to pulling a cart. The recommended donation for an individual driving lesson is a minimum of $30 per lesson, but more is appreciated. Lessons lasting approximately one hour. All donations are tax deductable.
Many students enjoy taking lessons in both riding and cart driving.