Hasty Acres Riding Club in Kingston Has Long History of Riding Instruction
HORSE HAVEN: “I learned to ride at Hasty Acres when I was a girl, and I rode Corky,” says Natalie Pontillo (right) owner of Hasty Acres Riding Club. “Corky, a chestnut quarter horse, is now 42 years old and retired. The kids can still groom him, however, and he will always have a home here.” Georgia Elek, Hasty Acres assistant manager, is also shown with Corky.
By Jean Stratton
Hasty Acres has been a special place for horseback riders of all levels for more than 50 years. Located at 121 Laurel Avenue in Kingston, it offers English-style riding instruction as well as the opportunity to learn about equine care.
Longtime rider and award-winning expert horsewoman Natalie Pontillo purchased Hasty Acres three years ago.
“I like being outside and active, and these horses are important to me,” she explains. “I not only learned to ride at Hasty Acres, but I also worked here. I love working with the kids and seeing them develop. It is so beneficial to them. They learn to ride and also to care for the horses, brushing and currying them.”
Twenty horses, including ponies, are available for riding instruction, and Hasty Acres also has eight boarders, whose owners often come to ride them.
Instruction begins at age 7, and is offered to all levels — beginners to advanced. In addition, the Heads Up Special Riders program is available for special needs children and adults, such as those with autism and cerebral palsy.
Both private and group lessons are offered year-round. There are three outdoor riding rings and one indoor ring.
“The emphasis is on balance and posture,” notes Pontillo. “The students learn to walk, trot, and canter. They also get used to the horses by learning to brush and curry them before riding. There is always a side walker for the smaller children. Also, when they are older, 8 or 9, they learn to saddle the horses.”
Lessons are a half-hour for private instruction, and one hour for group sessions. The groups are typically small — three to five students — and are placed according to similar levels. “We keep the groups small so that we can provide attention to each rider,” says Pontillo.
Two instructors (including Pontillo) are on hand, as is a special teacher for the Heads Up program.
“The therapeutic riding program offers opportunities for both kids and adults. We help our students achieve not only physical strength, but also to gain self-assurance, the ability to learn new skills, increased willingness to communicate, and an overall better quality of life.
“Riding and being with horses can help people with anxiety and depression issues too,” continues Pontillo. “It’s about having a commitment to someone other than yourself.”
In the general riding program, students typically come once a week, although many also come two or three times a week according to their interest and availability of time.
Lessons are $45 per session, and Pontillo points out that “We are budget-conscious for people, and try our best to keep lessons affordable.”
She notes that adult students also enjoy riding at Hasty Acres. “Sometimes, when parents watch their kids, they decide to take lessons themselves. We also have a Dad’s Class on Saturday.”
Whatever their age and experience, the students must wear appropriate apparel. Long pants (jeans or leggings), boots (riding boots or ankle boots, as long as there is a heel), and helmets are required. Helmets can be provided by Hasty Acres until the student purchases his or her own.
Jumping instruction is also available for the more advanced riders, and, in addition, Hasty Acres offers a summer camp program and birthday parties. The camp is held in July and August five days a week, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Campers are ages 8 to 13 or 14, and the focus is on riding and horse care. “It’s a hands-on experience with grooming and handling, and becoming comfortable with the horses as well as having daily riding lessons,” says Pontillo.
Birthday parties can be arranged for a two-hour session, and groups generally range from six to 10 children. They have an opportunity to learn about grooming and also to get on a horse accompanied by staff in the ring.
While the focus at Hasty Acres is not on competition, the more experienced riders can participate in shows in the area if they wish. Pontillo will help arrange their participation and accompany them.
In addition, some clients eventually lease a particular horse once they commit to a program of lessons. Then, they can practice riding on the same horse.
A student work program is also available for high school students. “They come at 7:30 a.m. on the weekend, work in the barn, feed the horses, and clean the stalls,” reports Pontillo. “They need to have a real commitment about coming, and it is a real hands-on experience for them to learn about the horses first-hand.”
Hasty Acres is a special place for all ages who love horses, who want to learn more about them, and then have the opportunity to ride. Many students become regulars and progress as experienced riders. Their enjoyment deepens the more time they spend at Hasty Acres.
“I have never experienced a more dedicated staff,” says one longtime rider. Adds another, “It is a wonderful atmosphere, with people who love horses, and want to share the pleasures of riding with the students.”
“We cater to people who want to learn a new skill and have a pleasant outdoor experience,” says Pontillo. “We are set apart by our emphasis on horsemanship and welcoming people new to the sport. We emphasize helping people to have an enjoyable time.”
The horses are standard bred, quarter horses, some thoroughbreds, and ponies. They are experienced, patient, and well-mannered, and specially trained to assist in the process of learning to ride.
“Riding lessons are an opportunity to turn an interest into a passion and to gain confidence and pride in horsemanship,” says Pontillo. “You will also get exercise and an opportunity to have fun and enjoy the outdoors.”
Students will also have a chance to meet Corky, the very special “gentleman” at Hasty Acres. Unique in his longevity (many horses do not live beyond 30 years), he is happy to interact both with his human and equine companions. He enjoys his time in the pasture with the other horses as well as being groomed by the students and staff.
Hasty Acres provides a relaxed, welcoming atmosphere for all ages and all levels of experience. “We aways look forward to offering the opportunities at Hasty Acres to more students,” says Natalie Pontillo. “We want to welcome you to our special riding
experience and pleasant environment.”
Hasty Acres is open Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.; and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday evening by appointment. The Heads Up program is offered Monday and Friday at 6 p.m. (609) 921-8389. Website: www.hastyacres.com.