Horse Sense

The Pyle Center is renowned for the large numbers of kids that participate in either baseball or softball each summer. But tucked away behind its gamut of fields lies another opportunity for those who might like to try something other than the traditional ball and stick sports.

Lifelong horse enthusiast Jan King and her family own an 11-acre horse farm where they board horses, give riding lessons and host a pair of two-week summer camps.

Growing up in New Castle County, King began riding at nearby Glasgow Pines every chance she had. She loved horses so much that she introduced the sport to her eldest daughter, Kaitelin, when she was just 5 years old.

She began lessons the next year and then received their first horse, Stuart Little, as a Christmas present from her grandfather.

“I’ve always wanted to run a ranch and when my daughter started taking lessons it kind of snowballed into her getting her own horse,” King said. And grandpa knew best. “He said, ‘Horses are like potato chips, you can’t have just one.’”

Grandpa then bought King’s youngest daughter, Melissa, a pretty little pony (which she named Lucy) for her ninth birthday.

Now they have 10 horses, and two miniature donkeys for younger beginners who might feel a bit intimidated by the bigger animals.

“I just noticed people had the love and desire to be around these animals,” she said. “I know the love horses need and said, ‘This is something I can do.’”

Kids of all ages can come to the ranch, pick a horse that suits them and begin lessons. But before the fun begins, King emphasizes how to properly care for the horses.

King teaches her students horse safety, behaviors, and how to properly groom, feed and clean the horses and their living area, before they even mount the steed.

“We don’t just let the kids run around like lunatics,” King said. “We teach them to be conscientious of their surroundings and how to care for the horses because it’s important. And it’s not uncommon to see a kid with a shovel in their hand. But after one lesson they want to have their own horse.”

King mentioned that, though her horses have never kicked anyone, it is quite possible for that to happen, primarily if they’re startled by someone walking in their blind spots. She explained that was a natural instinct for the large herbivores, but by-in-large they are very smart and gentle animals, she said.

She’s had children as young as 2 ride on her horses while led around by the reins.

“They are very intelligent animals and they know when they have to babysit,” she said. “They just melt and are on their best behavior.”

In addition to lessons and camps, King’s horses participated in Bear Trap’s Fourth of July parade last year and in pony rides to raise funds for her daughter’s All-State cheerleading team’s travel expenses.

King is offering the first of the two, two-week day camps in July, followed by another in August. They run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday through Friday, for only $150.

She mentioned that comparable camps in the local area run more than $200, and some outside the state can cost more than $600.

Camp T-shirts, crafts and other activities are included in the cost of the camp.

In addition, King noted that her facilities are open to horse-owning vacationers, as well, for a reasonable fee. Interested boarders can bring their own feed, care for their own animals if they wish, or she and her family can care for them for an additional cost.

Would-be day-campers and interested owners can contact King at (302) 732-1444.