Humble home of the horse lords

Image via Thinkstock
Image via Thinkstock

Learn horsemanship at Epona Stable

by Adam Tatelman, Staff Writer

Since the first civilizations rose, humans have respected and relied upon the strength of the horse. A cavalry charge was the go-to military assault tactic until the invention of the mounted machinegun in WWI. For even longer, the horse has served as a farmhand and a transporter of goods. To ride a horse is to take part in an ancient tradition of domestication and companionship, and there’s no better place to learn horsemanship locally than Epona Stable.

The stable itself is unassuming, not much more than a small barn with a riding circle, some jumping hurdles and about a dozen horses. One could easily pass right by it, but don’t let the facade dissuade you. Athletes and film actors of all stripes have trained here, and you can too.

Epona Stable offers a number of different options for the equestrian-in-training, but there is a lot to learn about the nature of horses before one ever sits atop a saddle. To establish yourself as the leader, to know where to stand, and to understand the horse’s body language are all essential elements of horsemanship. Every class covers all of these things and more, and you’ll be paired with the same horse each time so that you grow to work as a unit.

Aside from the basic horseback riding lessons, there are also safe trail riding lessons which prepare the rider to deal with pedestrians or pets on the trail. You can learn show jumping once you’ve got some experience, and there’s a horse care program that teaches actors how to clean and saddle horses for scene work in addition to basic riding skills.

Some of Epona’s classes are a little off the beaten track. The Giddy Fit program incorporates horse care with obstacle courses as physical preparation for horseback riding (trust me, you need those core muscles for stability). The Equine Assisted Natural Healing program—a meditative practice using the calming bond between horse and rider as a focus—is meant to help people cope with PTSD or ADHD.

The instructor, Felicia Allen, learned European riding, dressage and show jumping at the Royal Danish Riding academy at Christiansborg Palace. Over her 40-year career, she’s studied with Olympic horse riders like Margaret Dodson. For as long as she’s owned and operated Epona, there have been zero accidents. She also has a program designed to rehabilitate horses who have been abused; her love for horses is clear, and she is a great role model to learn from.

In Gallo-Roman religion, Epona is a symbol of grace, goddess of fertility and a protector to horses. Given Felicia’s technical expertise and philanthropic efforts, I can think of no better title for this stable. Anyone with the time, money, and passion could make horsemanship a lifetime pursuit at Epona Stables. Private introductory lesson packages are $325. Epona is located east of Coquitlam Centre at 3323 Devon Road, Port Coquitlam.