KINGS VALLEY — Good horsemanship is more than staying on the horse, as students at Kings Valley Charter School are learning in an equine skills class. Kids are learning about the journey of horses, said Kezzie Kvidt of K Ranch in Kings Valley. “We learn about the tack and saddles, learn the parts,” she said. “We learn about cleaning the stalls, talk about grooming. It’s about keeping the horse healthy and keeping us healthy.” Students work with four different horses, depending on the day. Many of Kvidt’s horses have been rescued. Noni, a chestnut mare, is the latest rescue. “She’s had a little training,” Kvidt said. “(The students’) project is working with her a ton, just getting her acquainted.” Riding a horse is about clear, precise communication between the rider and the animal, Kvidt said, and students know they have to be extra clear when riding Noni. “It’s not just driving,” she said. “It’s a give and take, or they (the horses) get grouchy.” Sitting in a saddle is not as easy as sitting in a chair, said Kendel Gonzalez, 12. “You have to put your legs in the right position,” Gonzalez said. “But if you’re trotting, you have to tighten the muscles in your stomach so you don’t fall out (of the saddle).” Each horse has a different personality. As students got ready to ride on March 20, each one had a preferred horse to ride. Gonzalez brushed down Danny, cleaned his hooves so his feet don’t get bruised, and got his tack ready. She said he is allergic to the dust in his hay. “So we have to put water in it, and dump the water out and give it to him,” Gonzalez said. Tori Fite, 14, prefers to ride Dash. “I think he is more like me,” Fite said. “Danny does what he’s told, but Dash fights sometimes. He’s really affectionate. He’ll nuzzle you. It’s really cute.” Emily Clements, 12, and her brother Max Clements, 15, got Noni ready to ride. Photo by Emily Mentzer Kendel Gonzalez, 12, uses a pick to clean out all the muck from Danny’s hoof before she rides him. A horse’s foot can bruise if it is not kept clean of rocks and dirt. Noni was not as quick to lift her feet to be cleaned as Danny was, but that’s part of the experience. Emily will have to take more care with Noni to give her a good experience, Kvidt said. See EQUINE, Page 18A Continued From Page 1A “They have to put more energy into riding perfectly so she (Noni) had a good experience,” Kvidt said. “Then they’ve (students) done something for someone else. Horses teaches them that there is something else.” Besides the basics of horsemanship, Kvidt said students are learning life skills. When working with a horse, one has to give good directions. Sometimes the horse may not feel like doing what it’s asked, and has to be asked again more firmly, Kvidt said. Photo by Emily Mentzer Chores are part of the learning experience. Tori Fite, 14, Max Clements, 15, and Kassidy Tompkins, 11, head out to clean stalls, water and feed horses. “You have to work on yourself; it’s your relationship,” she said. “It’s not anybody else’s. You gain that confidence and then get feedback on your body language. And it’s from a horse, so you know it’s honest.” Students get to work in fresh air, learn about work ethic, communication and confidence, which is “huge,” Kvidt said. “Building kids who have those skills is important, working hard, saying what you want and being social,” she said. “And no matter how hard you work, you might not succeed.” Students learn empathy through working with horses, Kvidt said. When things don’t go as planned, they stop and ask, “Did I do something, or is the horse just having a bad day?” Kvidt said, in life, as in horsemanship, it’s important not to let it get you down if you don’t succeed, and to work hard. Kvidt has worked with horses and youth, often those with disabilities, before. She moved to K Ranch in Kings Valley in fall, and shares a property line with the charter school. At K Ranch, Kvidt runs a program to help build “strong youth through sound horsemanship.” She partnered with the charter school in January, which helps pay for the classes, to offer equine skills to grades 1 through 5, with more advanced opportunities to small groups of middle school and high school students. For more information: www.kvidtranch.com, or call 541-929-4176.