As with most young girls, I was completely horse-crazy as a kid, but a bad fall from a runaway horse when I was 10 years old took the shine off my obsession. I had very little contact with horses for many years afterward, except for an occasional trail ride on a cynical, disillusioned animal. So it was with trepidation that I took up local riding instructor Andrea Heimer of Rolling Stone Equestrian on her offer of a riding lesson.
A week or so previously I had observed another of Heimer’s lessons, with one of her students practicing dressage moves in an arena outside of Mount Vernon. I know nothing about dressage, so I needed to have it explained to me that they were working on a “flying change”—switching which foot is leading as the horse canters around the arena. It looked complicated. The student, who has been studying dressage for several years but has only worked with Heimer for a short time, commented on the instructor’s calm and encouraging manner and seemed to be having a good time.
When it came time for my own lesson, I appreciated that Heimer treated me as a complete beginner. Precariously balanced on the soft, English-style saddle, the ground seemed very far away. Having only ever ridden on a Western saddle (and not recently), I grabbed for the nonexistent saddle horn and tried not to hyperventilate.
Heimer talked me through my initial panic and explained how to find my seat and what to do with my feet and hands. By the end of the hour-long lesson, I actually felt like I stood a chance of keeping the horse underneath me. This was the kind of teaching I never got as a kid, and actually made me think I might voluntarily get on a horse again someday.
Heimer, much like myself, wanted to work with horses from an early age, but was convinced by others that it wasn’t a viable career choice. After spending time as a journalist, however, her passion took her back to riding. She worked as an assistant riding instructor before striking out on her own and starting Rolling Stone Equestrian—so called because she’s always on the road making “house calls” with her riding instruction business. She works with arenas and boarding stables around Skagit and Whatcom counties to meet up with students. Those without their own horses can learn on Dixie, Heimer’s sweet-tempered lesson horse.
Heimer works with all sorts of riders, regardless of their skill level or goals. She can start at the very beginning with new or incredibly out-of-practice riders like me, but also helps serious dressage riders work on their technique and improve their communication with their horses, as well as show coaching and dressage clinics. She also works with recreational trail riders to improve their balance, desensitize their horses to scary things like water on the road, and learn how to jump small obstacles. “I want everyone to try everything,” Heimer says.
I asked whether the economic downturn, which has resulted in many people not being able to afford horse ownership, was affecting her business. “Horse owners are crazy,” she says, laughing. “They’ll find a way to keep doing it.”
For more information about Andrea Heimer’s Rolling Stone Equestrian lessons, call (360) 220-5396 or go to http://www.rollingstoneequestrian.com
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