Please take a few minutes to learn about what HorsePower for Kids is really like, from young adults and teenagers who are currently volunteering and also from adults who spent a good amount of their childhood at our farm. If you have something you’d like to contribute to this page, please email Saskia at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kendra Simmons, Age 26, March 2012
I consider myself very fortunate to have had the life I have had thus far, and growing up surrounded by so many amazing people, and specifically, so many amazing animals. As a young girl, I was extremely shy, but I was also absolutely horse crazy. I was in second grade when I started to go to Armando’s horse camp at what was then called Hire A Pony. I eventually started working there, got my own horse and was able to give to kids what was given to me. I learned so much about horses and the other animals, but more than that I learned about life. I learned what it was like to have responsibility for another, satisfaction of a hard working day, and also to be proud of who I am. I gained a self confidence that I didn’t have prior. The barn brought, and continues to bring, so many different people from different walks of life. To this day, I have many treasured friends, that had it not been our bond of horses and the farm, we never would have had something in common for a friendship to be initiated. Even though I had to grow up and don’t get to be an active part of HorsePower for Kids, I know that so many kids’ lives are still being affected through the power of a horse’s touch, and the bond of everyone in the “barn family” that started many years ago, and continues to grow and expand with more and more members. I am in awe of what Horse Power for Kids has become and I hope it is able to continue to grow and evolve into its true potential.
Caitlyn S., Age 17, December 2011
I started coming to HorsePower for Kids back when it was Hire a Pony. I was 8 years old. The first horse I rode was Ebony. When I was a little girl I went to camp there almost every summer. I made a lot of new friends and even had my first favorite horse named Gentleman. I had a lot of fun experiences there that I will remember for the rest of my life. Because of Armando I learned about horse care and how to become a better rider. I stopped going to the barn when I started high school, and let me tell you that was the worst decision of my life! Last summer when I went back I remembered how happy it made me. I told myself I need to be there because that’s what I loved doing. I knew it would keep me out of trouble and I would always have something to do. I made a lot of new friends by going back, and became an even better rider. I never thought that I would be where I am now. When I was little I always looked up to my camp counselors. I’m now a camp counselor there and it makes me really happy! It’s a lot of fun! I hope the little kids look up to me like I did when I was little. My “barn family” keeps me going from day to day and I don’t know where I would be without them. They’re all so special to me… and of course…so is Dundee! My love for horses has made a big change in my life. A lot of my friends say that horses have taken over my life… well… that’s okay because I’m glad. I’m happy I get to work at a place where I love the environment. I’ll always remember the first horse I rode, and the first horse I was ever attached to. I’m very glad I have the knowledge and experience with horses because I want to go to a college in Ocala and it has equine studies. I hope I never stop riding horses because I know that will get me far in life and when I start college. I hope one day I can have a horse of my own. I love the barn and everyone there!
Tori G., Age 18, December 2011
Before becoming part of this tight-knit family I was honestly really lonely, I was the oddball in high school, I had no friends, and literally all I did was go to school, go to my part time job, and then go home and play video games by myself upstairs. One day when I was at my grandma’s, my grandmother told me about this horse farm (for that’s all it really was when I first started volunteering here, now it’s like an animal farm! lol). But she had told me about HorsePower for Kids knowing how I love to work with animals. So I called the barn up and Armando, the founder of the farm, answered and literally like an hour later he scheduled to meet with me to talk about volunteering! I have always wanted to learn how to work with horses and learn about the farm life, but because of financial situations I never got that opportunity, until everybody at this amazing farm accepted me into being part of their family. It honestly changed my life! I made new friends, and I started to take English riding lessons with Angela, the trainer at HorsePower for Kids, and that helped me figure out what I want to do with my life. I developed a great passion for the equestrian world and when it comes to a career, horses have to be part of it! Thanks to Armando and everybody else who has supported me, I now have an amazing group of friends, I found an amazing hobby, and I also found an excellent path to a great future. I have now been here for a year, and I have never been so happy in my life, before I started coming to Horsepower for Kids!
This is how this barn has changed my life.
Anabelle L, Age 16, December 2011
I heard about HorsePower for Kids through Tori Goldman. Before I started coming to HorsePower for Kids, I didn’t have many friends in school, I sat at home bored watching television, and going on the computer every day. I also was very insecure, and didn’t have confidence in myself. HorsePower for Kids has built up my confidence and shaped my personality through the last 8 months. I didn’t know anything about horses, and never even dreamed of being able to ride and work closely with them. Once I started coming here, I felt an ache in my heart. I was overwhelmed with joy, and couldn’t contain it. The people at this place are truly my second family. They see me more than my own family does some days; we go out after long days of work, and still have smiles on our faces. I now am very confident in who I am, and don’t let people bring me down. I don’t care if I wear make-up or what I look like out in public. All I care about is being around the things and people I love. This is how HorsePower for Kids has molded my life.
Alexandra M. Scharf
University of Georgia, DVM/PhD Candidate
Cornell University 2011, B.S. Engineering
The first time I rode a horse, nearly 15 years ago, was at Hire a Pony. I am currently a veterinary student studying equine medicine at the University of Georgia and I must say my love and dedication to horses all originated from what was Hire a Pony. At the barn, horses were not objects or playthings, horses were our companions. This stable taught me and many others compassion and responsibility, what it was to live, what it was to fly and what it was to love.
When parents decide to introduce their children to horses in this day and age, many barns omit the most important aspects of equine care from the experience. Although horses can indeed be dangerous, horses are also empowering, brave, honest, and trusting. However, without exposure to the ins and outs of horse care, which is something Armando has always offered through his stable, children do not reap the benefits of the relationship that can be found with this animal. I encourage all who can to experience the environment Armando’s stable can offer and to allow their kids to learn to love a horse.
Valerie F., Age 16, December 2011
HorsePower for Kids has changed my life entirely. I’ve been riding horses at different places for 8 years. I’ve only ridden western but I’m looking into English lessons. All the other horse farms and horse camps I’ve been to would just slap you on any horse, good temperament or not, and let you go on 4 hour trails. It was fun as a kid but as I got older I realized those horses were unhappy, and by this time I had fallen off one summer and got a concussion and my parents bought me a helmet and made me wear the helmet when I ride now so the people at that same camp would make fun of me because I would be the only one wearing a helmet and as I matured the people became mean and told me they would teach me to saddle but never did , I never learned till I was maybe 13 or 14 so I left that barn and searched for more I found another one but the trail was like 30 minutes so I left that one and found another place and learned nothing there then my parents were looking for something to do around Christmas time and they went online and found like a Christmas festival and Hire a Pony riding academy or HorsePower for Kids and so my mom looked into the place further and saw that they did trail rides so me and my dad went on a trail ride together and the trail was amazing I was not the only one wearing a helmet and the horse I rode was happy and not crazy like horses at other barns so my mom looked into it closer and found that they did camp so she signed me up for that I was shy at camp at first because I was older but I eventually wasn’t shy anymore so I eventually got too old for camp and I started to volunteer over the summer I developed a work ethic it’s easier to do homework now easier to do chores because I now understand that all that just absolutely has to be done and I don’t have any problems doing chores or homework , I’ve come more out of my shell and I got a lot of exercise and learned so much about horses and animals more than any other barn the people are so nice and welcoming and excepting they don’t care where you come from or what you look like the people are nice I love it I try to go and work a lot but I live far away but I still bug my parents to take me , all the animals are happy and I can’t think of any other place to spend my summer or my weekend for that matter, I also got over 900 volunteer hours for college so this place has changed my life forever.
Jason C., Age 15, January 2012
Horses have always been a large part of my life. I was always the kid at school that was made fun of and horses were the reason I made it through the week. I started going to HorsePower for Kids four years ago when it was still Hire a Pony Riding Academy. I had recently left a barn because I didn’t like the people. I found the barn through a friend who took me on a trail ride. I instantly fell in love with the barn. Not too long later I started volunteering and taking English riding lessons. Every chance I got I spent at the barn and it became a place where I felt at home and I realized that the friends I made were my second family who would stick with me through thick and thin. Through volunteering at HorsePower for Kids I learned so much about horses, riding and myself. I realized that my life’s passion is horses and I plan to take showing and competing horses to the professional level and one day open a barn and help kids like me develop a love and passion for horses. No other barn could compare to HorsePower for Kids, and almost five years later I am still there and don’t plan on leaving anytime soon! This is how the barn has changed my life forever!
Bailey A., Age 11, December 2011
I enjoy the farm because it is very fun and relaxing. Everyone is so nice and the animals are amazing. There is always something to do at the farm so it is never boring! I LOVE the trail rides, lessons and camps. I volunteer too and even the work at the farm is fun!
The farm is truly my favorite place in the world and my home away from home. Thank you, Armando for creating such a great place for the animals and your visitors.
Jose Orosz, Age 24, February 2012
My uncle Armando is a complex man. He has a magnetism about him that draws you in. His humor I would have to say is my favorite attribute. He kept me laughing throughout my entire childhood, and has done so for many others. I know it is all about the cause, but to understand the cause you must first understand the man behind it. For as long as I can remember (and even before that) my life has been surrounded by horses. From the age of 5 when my pony Sugar preferred me on my back than hers, til I was 13 and going over a jump without the horse, and so on. I had found something that I was great at. Armando knew everything about horses, but if you told him that he would say, “No, I learn something new every day.” I was still convinced he knew it all. So I became a sponge around him. I feel like everyone becomes a sponge around him, it’s strange really. Just hang out with him for a day and you go home talking like him. I learned everything I know about horses from him and a lot of what I know about life from him. He has made an enormous positive impact on the person I have become, and again, has done so for many others. Being around Armando and the horses kept me out of all kinds of trouble, and that I think is the real point here. The environment that Armando has created with Horsepower for kids removes them from the bustle of the ‘everyday’. It is addicting for children and adults alike. Horsepower for kids provides more benefits for the community than we can begin to imagine. Hats off to a great man behind a great organization.