Schultz Bruce, Cormier, Howard J., Hebert, Lanette G.
JEANERETTE, La. – Lolo Robicheaux, a 4-H adult volunteer, teaches 4-H’ers to ride horses simply for the love of teaching what she enjoys.
“I want kids to learn about horses, even if they don’t have one,” Robicheaux said.
In this five-day class, middle school students learn equestrian basics, working their way up to trotting. The cost is only $10, and students are required to wear a helmet while riding, which will be provided so youths don’t have to buy one.
Students start out each class by grooming their horses before saddling up.
Robicheaux starts the children out with exercises intended to teach balance. For example, she has them riding with their eyes closed so they can learn to feel the movement of the animal.
Robicheaux said learning to ride a horse can develop skills that carry over into other aspects of youngsters’ lives.
Riding a horse requires cooperation, communication, knowledge and understanding of what is needed in a partnership, she said, adding, “They are in partnership with the horse, but they are in charge.”
Robicheaux also teaches equestrian classes part time for the Acadiana Therapeutic Riding Organization (ATRO) in Carencro, where disabled children learn to ride.Robicheaux earned her master’s degree in secondary education with a concentration in camp management. Her thesis study focused on the benefits of equestrian instruction.
For this class, Robicheaux asked for volunteers to help with the class, and she got seven. Three are graduates of the LSU AgCenter Master Horseman program.
Stuart Thibodeaux is among the volunteers.
“I’m trying to be a certified teacher, and I also work at ATRO,” Thibodeaux said.
Student Lanie Richard of Erath has a Shetland pony and a horse. Her mother, Jessica Richard, said Lanie wants to be a barrel racer.
Jessica Richard said her daughter has learned more from Robicheaux’s class than from an expensive horse camp she attended last year. She said she’s glad Lanie is getting proper instruction on riding fundamentals.
“When I was younger, I rode horses,” Jessica Richard said. “You just got on a horse and rode.”
Lanette Hebert, regional 4-H coordinator, said the program is the essence of 4-H.
“When you think about the elements that we try to instill in our 4-H program efforts, this one captures all,” Hebert said. “This educational effort provides a safe environment with caring adults that gives youth the opportunity to master skills, display competency and practice service.”
Howard Cormier, LSU AgCenter regional equine agent, said the Iberia Parish camp is a perfect fit for the Master Horseman program.
“The Master Horseman program prepares leaders to help kids, and this is an excellent way to put their knowledge to work,” Cormier said. “These children are not trying to compete in high-level performance events, but they do need to learn what makes a horse tick, how to be safe and how to recognize the signals horses give to each other and the human partner.”