Green Riders & Green Ponies
Learn at Greenleaf Stables
By Ingrid Edisen, Staff Writer
Green is a good place to start at Greenleaf Stables
in Dripping Springs. “Young riders are totally welcome here,” says owner
Christina Windsor. “They come fresh to the enterprise and can make all
kinds of progress quickly.”
The key, says Christina, is instilling confidence.
“A child who has learned how to feel balanced
on a moving pony can do just about anything — and she feels it!”
And it’s the same general idea with starting and training ponies, Christina
adds. “If you build incrementally and logically, breaking requests down
into their smallest component parts, the ponies understand and feel more
confident — which is vital when you are training sport ponies for sale.”
Christina mentions some advice she applies to
both kids and ponies: “[International eventer] Nick Larkin said it best
when he came down recently for a cross country clinic: ‘If you act like
you have 50 years, it will take five minutes. If you act like you have
five minutes, it will take 50 years.’”
A lean and avid eventer who hails originally from
Westchester County, New York, Christina moved to Austin from North Carolina
in 2001 with her husband, Jeff, and their young son, Henry Greenleaf Windsor.
They built their barn in early 2006. When Christina is not off competing
her Belgian Warmblood mare Viva la Dance in Area V horse trials or attending
clinics, she is running her business, teaching, schooling ponies and doing
farm chores. Her son is old enough – seven – to kick in some help,
and this adds to the fun of having a family business, she says. “Henry
is a big help with the barn chores. He loves to harrow the arena and run
the spreader. He even gets into cleaning tack sometimes.” Henry is also
a good little rider and looks forward to the day they go to their first
Christina started her riding career as a 10 year
old at the Vershire Riding School in Vermont, spending summer after summer
eventing in the ‘80s. During her high school and college years, she apprenticed
under two European dressage riders in Connecticut, Austria and Germany.
And during her graduate school years in North Country Acres studying the
Forward Riding System.
Once in Texas, Christina sought out eventing coach
Lida McAllister, owner of LBR Farm in Spring Branch just north of San
Antonio. Lida is an active Area V competitor and “one of the most encouraging,
inspiring and lovely people I have ever known,” says Christina. “Eventing
is all about learning,” Christina adds. “This sport cannot be done alone.
We all need coaches and we all need eyes on the ground.” To that end,
Christina schools regularly with Lida and attends every clinic she can
fit into her schedule. This June it will be Lucinda Green, and in August
Nick Larkin will return for a summer jumping clinic. This Fall Christina
will compete in the Area V Novice Level Championships.
A Lesson at Greenleaf Stables
This May, Emma Ginsberg, daughter of Austin’s
Todd and Anna Ginsberg, was gleeful as she mounted up and took her fourth
weekly riding lesson with Christina. When asked how old she was, Emma’s
precise answer was “five and two thirds!” The afternoon weather was perfect
and Emma wore a soft pink Barbie-themed outfit and a big smile as she worked
on her riding skills.
“Eyes up and heels down,” Christina reminded
her student. Christina had permitted Emma a few moments off the lunge line
in the controlled environment of a sturdy round pen on a dead quiet, 13-hand,
15-year-old bay pony named Star. As Emma and Star made their way around
Christina, they encountered two poles that had been laid out to give Emma
markers to practice “whoaing and going.”
Christina’s tack for such lessons is just the
right size for folks like Emma. The skirt of the child-sized saddle is
appropriately scaled down so when Emma uses her legs she reaches the sides
of her mount. The bridle has rainbow reins and there is a grab strap attached
to the saddle. “I’ll let the kids get a taste of holding the reins and
being off the line, but until they can balance, steer, increase and decrease
pace and halt with only their seat, eyes, legs and weight, they don’t really
get cut loose,” Christina says.
The same careful approach goes for beginning trotting.
She wants to see a strong two-point with “airplane arms” at the walk for
at least one go around the lunge circle before beginner students really
get to start trot work. That way the kids don’t start their riding careers
riding backwards because they are using their hands for balance, she says.
That doesn’t mean the kids can’t get a preview
of things to come.
“I want to trot!” Emma announced. Christina,
a mother herself, knew just how Emma’s mom Anna would be feeling at this
moment, but Christina didn’t communicate any tension. She just put Star
back on the line and with a few directions to Emma and a little encouragement
to Star, they moved into a slow jog with Christina alongside.
Of course, once they began trotting, Emma couldn’t
stop laughing. She loved it. Christina kept a very close eye on her student’s
progress and only trotted the pair for little bits at a time. The entire
lesson was designed to build up her student’s confidence and skill level.
Every minute of the lesson was tailored to that end—but Emma was having
too much fun to notice!
“She’s fearless,” Emma’s mother noted, and explained
that her daughter had showed that same fearlessness in other sports such
as gymnastics. Of course, horseback riding has become Emma’s favorite thing
to do. I could easily imagine the youngster snuggling into her pillow at
night, dreaming of what she might tackle next in her upcoming lessons with
Christina. Christina will eventually show her student the way to better
balance not only on the flat, but also over jumps, varied terrain and
open country. We all have to start small but to dream big never hurts.
To contact Christina Windsor email: firstname.lastname@example.org,
or call (512) 917-1658. To learn more about Greenleaf Stables sales ponies
and riding program, visit: www.greenleafstables.com.
Emma Ginsburg does some stretching
during her riding lesson with Christina.
Christina and Coach Lida McAllister
before Stadium at Holly Hill Horse Trials in Benton, Louisiana. Photo
by Jeff Windsor
Henry Windsor with Pass the Pepper.