The many benefits of horseback riding include improved mental acuity, better physical fitness, added stress reduction, and the peace and tranquility which comes from bonding with an animal. All this is offered throughout the year at Windwood Farm, located at 34 Middle Island Avenue in Medford. It features horse boarding, an indoor arena, two lighted rings, and a hunt course. In addition, private horseback riding lessons, for beginners to advanced level, are available for ages 5 and up.
The lessons at Windwood Farm are taught by Michelle Macauley, who was introduced to riding at just 7 years old. “First, my mother tried dance class. She tried to see what my interest was. She tried different things. Dance wasn’t it, but horseback riding was. I wanted to go every day,” said Macauley, who grew up in Holbrook and would go riding in Bayport at what was formerly Suffolk Farms. “It’s now condos,” she said, as she recalled riding up until her 20s. She then stopped after getting married and having children. Macauley got back in the saddle in her 30s and was joined by her now 13-year-old daughter Mackenzie, who started riding at age 5.
“You can sit them on a horse at 2 to 5 years old to get them familiar, and then when they get more understanding, they can hold the reins as early as 5, depending on the child,” said Macauley, who has a knack for working with small children, since not only does she have three daughters of her own, but she also runs a daycare center out of her Holbrook home, called Kidz Under Construction, while teaching riding lessons on evenings and weekends.
Since Macauley knows from her own childhood experience that not every activity is right for every child—and sometimes it takes a few tries before finding what sticks—individual introductory lessons are available. “If someone says ‘I don’t know if my child will like it,’ you can pay for one lesson. You’re not obligated to get more,” Macauley assured. For those who find an affinity for the unique sport, packages are available.
For the busy working mother, getting back on the horse again was just like riding a bike, so she has a special fondness for welcoming adults who haven’t gone riding in many years, or who want to give it a trot for the first time. “It just came back to me. Things evolve, but the basics stay the same,” she said.
Riding is something that can benefit all ages, and an activity which the whole family can enjoy together. Macauley has first-hand experience regarding the positive effects that horseback riding can have on a child who takes an interest in it. “I think riding in general teaches them to take care of something other than themselves; plus, it’s bonding with an animal and teaching responsibility,” she explained.
The mother of three daughters rents out a space in Windwood Farms to teach classes and is growing her small business and passion project. “I’m more personable. I talk to parents, children, and they book with me. They have that one-on-one experience with me. They know me. It’s a little more personal than with a big facility throwing you with whatever trainer is available, and with a little kid, they need that,” explained Macauley about what she feels sets her lessons apart from those available at larger stables.
There are also valuable community-building opportunities for children who take lessons. The young equestrians get to bond not only with the horses, but with each other over their shared interest.
“We do a little club once a month. When you ride, you’re by yourself. When you’re starting out you can’t be in a group riding. You need to feel safe and know what you’re doing, so you really don’t see other kids. We have a little club once a month to get to know the other children, build a friendship, and we pick a topic to learn about—like, for instance, do horses see color—then they’re free to chat and play around,” Macauley said, adding, “We do Brownie troops also, and they get their horseback riding badges here.”
Children aren’t the only ones who enjoy the relaxed and individualized lessons given at this bucolic local site.
“I’ve had adults tell me this is their stress reliever,” Macauley said.
Call Michelle Macauley at 631-398-4873 to schedule your first lesson, or visit the Windwood Farm Facebook page to see photos or to find out more information.
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