Farm Horizons, February 2015

New horse stable and riding academy encourages families to trot in and visit

By Tara Mathews

A new horse stable and riding academy in Corcoran welcomes families, and enjoys having a “busy barn.”

“Our main goal is to have a place where children and adults want to come hang out, and spend time with their horses,” owner Kraig Storbeck stated.

“We want an active barn,” barn manager/trainer/instructor Rika Turnacliff added.

Northwest Stables and Riding Academy offers horse boarding, riding lessons, and owner training for children and adults of all ages.

“Our discipline style is primarily English, but all disciplines are welcome with boarders,” Turnacliff noted.

Northwest Stables and Riding Academy has a 100-foot-by-200-foot indoor moderately-heated arena with a fully-heated viewing room, 27 horse stalls, a large outdoor arena, custom lockers for boarders, heated lounge, heated bathroom, heated grooming area, and 13 individual pastures, on 38 acres.

Riding from the ground up

Northwest Stables and Riding Academy is one of three United States Pony Club-approved riding centers in Minnesota, and the only one in the northwest metro area.

Being a US Pony Club-approved riding center means it can host shows and club meetings, and other clubs can use the facility for meetings and riding.

“There is nothing like our academy in the area,” Turnacliff stated.

The academy features English-style discipline, and is a tuition-based academy.

Students learn at their own pace and “from the ground up,” which means lessons include horse care, such as tacking, grooming, leading, and feeding; riding, including how to properly mount the horse and proper posture; and for advanced students, jumping and showing a horse.

“We want our students to become self-sufficient,” Turnacliff said. “They need to know everything about horses, not just how to ride.”

Most students take weekly lessons, but are encouraged to spend more time at the stables, she added.

“We are trying to create horsemen, not just riders,” Turnacliff noted. “They need to understand the day-to-day activity involved with having a horse.”

The academy welcomes riders of all levels for lessons, from beginners who have never touched a horse (true beginners), to riders who just want to improve their skill level.

There are seven lesson horses with varied degrees of training, and riders progress from horse to horse as their riding ability progresses.

The academy also offers half- and full-lease options for lesson horses.

“It helps people figure out if a horse is right for them,” Storbeck said. “They can get a grasp of the time and commitment it would take to have a horse of their own.”

Lessons are $60 for 45 minutes, which typically totals $240 per month and includes a shirt. Boarders receive a $10 per lesson discount.

The academy is very active in horse shows, according to Turnacliff.

“Horse shows are always an option for students,” she said. “It’s a great goal to work toward with lessons.”

Horse boarding with on-site staff

Northwest Stables and Riding Academy currently boards 28 horses, and is at about half capacity.

Its barn staff live on-site and horses have a person available for care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The horses are consistently handled by one person, helping to create a stress-free environment for them.

The barn staff follow a very strict routine, which also helps reduce stress on the horse.

“They know when it’s feeding time, they stand at the gate at the same time every day,” Storbeck noted.

“Even new horses that come in seem comfortable within a couple days because of the set routine,” Turnacliff added.

Teaching an old horse new tricks

Northwest Stables and Riding Academy specializes in off-the-track thoroughbreds, which are race horses that can’t be raced.

“We re-train the horses for new careers or disciplines,” Turnacliff commented.

Generally, the off-the-track race horses are 3 to 5 years old, and either can’t race or don’t race well enough.

“The horses are generally in good health, but are just considered too old to race,” Storbeck noted.

The academy offers other types of horse training, including dressage and eventing, as well.

“We are not a private facility, people can stop in anytime to check out our facility; we encourage it,” Storbeck stated.

About the barn manager/trainer

Rika Turnacliff grew up in California, working with show hunters on the A circuit, and moved to Minnesota, partly for a job in a private horse barn, in 1987.

She managed the private barn for a few years, then went on to begin her own boarding and training farm in Elk River, where she worked for 10 years.

After managing her own barn, she managed Dover Saddlery in Medina for more than two years, and left there in October to pursue her career as barn manager/trainer/instructor with Northwest Stables and Riding Academy.

“Teaching and training is where my passion lies,” Turnacliff commented. “I think many riders are lacking knowledge of the basics, and I hope to change that.”

She wants to increase the number of riders who are committed, she said.

“It’s not about random riding, and we are not the place or that,” Turnacliff said. “We are looking for committed people who understand that horse riding is a process, and without a consistent schedule, lessons will lack benefit.”

Many riders want to jump into shows or event riding, which is not an option when taking lessons with Turnacliff.

“Too many riders are going beyond their skill level,” she stated. “They haven’t put in the time needed, and even though the horse is capable, they’re not.”

Without learning the basics, riders can’t progress and become efficient, she added.

Check out Northwest Stables and Riding Academy’s facebook page for more pictures and information.

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