Hope Reins Horse Show
For months, children at Palmer Home have practiced for Palmer Home’s Third Annual Horse Show, held each year in late September. This year, forty-two children from the age of two to seventeen participated in the horse show.
The youngest participants started the day off with a costume contest, while the most advanced riders participated in jumping, barrel racing, and pole bending competitions later in the day.
“All our competitions are based on skill level, not age,” said Pam Cunningham, Palmer Home Riding Instructor. “We had a fifteen year old—it was just her third time on a horse, and one of the older students led her around. She was afraid but incredibly interested.”
While the children have been practicing for several of the more traditional events over the last couple months, other events, like the Egg Stomp and Cup Competition, were not rehearsed. These competitions were included this year to bring an element of surprise and fun for the riders.
“Because horses don’t like to step on things like eggs, the competition was to see whose horse stepped on their egg first,” said Cunningham.
In the Cup Competition, students were given cups filled with 7-Up and then led through a series of commands to complete on their horses. The student who navigated the commands the most smoothly and had the most 7-Up left at the end of three minutes was declared the winner.
“The kids really had a blast. We try to keep the variety going,” Cunningham added.
Cunningham has competed in riding competitions throughout her life and has instructed riders across the United States and in Germany. Most recently, she taught riding lessons from her own home when Palmer Home first approached her about becoming an instructor for the children on campus.
“Bonding with an animal as large as a horse, overcoming that fear, and seeing the horse love them back gives a child confidence,” said Cunningham. “It’s very special to see a child who has never sat on a horse laughing and cantering and jumping.”
The next big project for Palmer Home’s Hope Reins program is taking a group of students to the Kentucky Rolex three-day event, the only four-star eventing competition in the Western Hemisphere.
Although many of the children at Palmer Home enjoy the Hope Reins program, the number of horses available for use is limited. The program continues to accept donations, including horses that are appropriate for children’s riding lessons.