TAILS FROM THE TRAILS
Tucked away behind the shady trees at 13442 Indian Mound Road in Wellington, Judie Jenner shares her little 6-acre slice of heaven with five horses, five ponies and all of her students. She still has trouble believing she ended up with the farm, her perfect property.
“I used to come down from Pennsylvania and upstate New York,” Jenner recalled. “I stayed here in Wellington, and showed hunters in Ocala, Tampa and Homestead. After a few years of that, I sold enough horses to buy this property from Carlos Arellano. At first, I rented it, but then it worked out that he didn’t need it, so I sold my house and ended up buying it.”
That was 15 years ago, and Jenner gradually did less of the showing and more of the teaching. Now, that’s all she does — and she does it very well.
“I like doing basic lessons,” she said. “It’s more fun than going to shows. Years ago I used to take my students to the local little shows. I came from that world. I knew it. I prefer just to teach the basics now. It’s a lot calmer and less stressful for everyone.”
Jenner teaches both group and private lessons, flat and basic jumping, nothing over 2’6”. Her typical student loves horses but is not an experienced equestrian. She likes teaching everything about horses, their care as well as the riding, especially how to act around horses and how to read them in order to understand their moods. She teaches everyone, kids and adults, age 3 and up.
“I like watching the rider’s satisfaction, seeing the understanding dawn on their faces when they finally get it,” Jenner said. “Some people start out fearful of being up high on a powerful animal and not having perfect control. When they realize they’re going to be OK, their expression and body relaxes, and you see the enjoyment start. I find that thrilling.”
During the season, clients do bring in their horses and show at the nearby Winter Equestrian Festival. Other owners board there as well. During the summer, Jenner also Camp Giddy-Up, limited to no more than a dozen campers per week.
The thing which sets Ravenwood apart from other barns is its ambience, its calming feel and oneness with nature. People and horses calm down, slow down and relax there.
“A lot of times, parents approach me about riding lessons for their children,” Jenner said. “Then, before you know it, they start riding as well. Many times, they rode as kids and had to give it up because life got in the way. I have lessons where moms and kids ride together. That’s special.”
Riding is a great stress reliever, she pointed out. When you ride, you can let go and forget all those annoying daily details. Having the right horses also helps.
“A good school horse knows his job and enjoys it,” Jenner said. “He wants to keep his rider on his back. He helps the rider stay balanced, and goes in a regular, cadenced way.
All of my school horses ride the same way, whether they’re 10 hands or 17 hands tall. They have a quiet, four-beat walk, and all you have to do is say trot. Teaching horses should be somewhat automatic, dependable and above all, safe.”
It’s a nice life to be a Ravenwood horse.
“If they get ridden three times a week, that’s a lot, but they always do a good job and watch out for their riders,” Jenner said. “They work well either alone or with others, aren’t stubborn, and don’t have a no in them.”
They’re all experienced and are infinitely forgiving of the errors common with inexperienced riders.
“I especially love good mares. They never want to mess up. They have that caring instinct, which translates to caring for their riders,” Jenner said. “The horses always know better than the riders what they can and can’t do yet and will make a safe choice.”
Sonia Buetel of Wellington found Ravenwood a year and a half ago when her daughter, Addison, then 3 years old, wanted to learn to ride.
“I went in search of a trainer who was willing to work with young children,” she recalled. “When I asked around, Judie’s name kept coming up, so I visited the farm. I like her very much. She’s quite good with children. Most important, to me, is she teaches them how to safely be around horses.”
Jenner doesn’t just teach her clients to ride, she teaches them all about horses.
“Every lesson is different, and Addison is always learning something new,” Buetel said. “Her ponies are the best, just as sweet as can be. I feel very secure having my child there. Judie never leaves her unattended. She stays with the kids every second. I’ve recommended her to a lot of my friends. It’s a nice place where kids can ride, learn and have fun.”
Jenner is also a generous donor, always willing to help out local charities. She often donates riding lessons or a week at Camp Giddy-Up.
Looking around at her farm — the shady grass paddocks, the rope hammock, the contented horses — Jenner is content.
“I’m grateful to have all of this,” she sighed. “And I love sharing it with others. That makes it even better.”
For more information, visit www.ravenwoodridingacademy.com or call (561) 793-4109.