Horseback riding is an art as much as it is sport. It’s ingrained in the culture of Bridgehampton. As a Bridgehamptonite, I felt we would be missing out if we did not partake in the most ubiquitous local pastime that does not involve drinking rosé.
My daughter is 8 and has tried ballet, skiing, and has a love for animals. My goal was to give her a gentle and safe introduction to horses.
Many choices in the area cater to young riders. I took my daughter to try several lessons at a few of the barns around Bridgehampton. The quality of the instruction varied. I was looking for a hands-on teacher to give my daughter skills, not just an expensive pony ride.
My goal is to get her to like horseback riding, but not too much. I’ve heard from friends who have done the competitive riding circuit that it’s a slippery and very expensive slope.
Jimenez Jumpers, run by Joanne Jimenez, is located at the idyllic Two Trees Farm, just minutes from my home. I reached out and arranged a lesson.
My daughter immediately gravitated to Joanne with her perky personality and endless energy. She never stopped smiling as she ran around the ring leading my daughter and her horse “Daisy.” Joanne constantly reminded my daughter about the position of how to hold her hands with the reins, where to focus her gaze, squeezing the horse at the right moment and how to maintain posture and control while turning corners. It requires a great deal of coordination and body awareness. Joanne progresses her riders steadily with one skill at a time, level by level. I never felt like my daughter was pushed to do more than she was ready for. My daughter came away from the lesson with a sense of accomplishment. We did a few weeks of lessons, and my daughter will attend pony camp this summer at Jimenez Jumpers.
“My biggest joy,” Joanne says, “is to teach a beginning rider the posting trot rhythm. That’s the true essence of learning to ride. Once they conquer and achieve that, the sky’s the limit with their riding!”
Joanne focuses on achieving small daily goals. The first lesson is how to work around the horses, grooming and tacking up, then the riding skills. In just a few weeks, my daughter, who had never ridden before, achieved cantering and confidently jumping over small poles.
For some parents, the sport is about competition. It is a goal for my daughter to be able to “show” one day, but for now I want her to ride for her social and emotional development. Joanne agrees with this philosophy. “I come from a ‘whole child’ perspective. I want to engage my students with a full range of development physically through riding, emotionally and mentally through horsemanship and friendship and responsibility to care for animals and one another. True mindfulness.”
Joanne and her husband and partner and trainer J.P. Jimenez live full time in East Hampton with their three children, 17, 9 and 7. Joanne and J.P. also offer ponies for lease and manage involvement in horse shows.
Jimenez Jumpers offers lessons for riders of all ages, weekend afternoon camps throughout the year, and a five-day, week-by-week summer camp that culminates with a barn sleepover at the end of the summer. There is also a garden on the property that the riders help to tend during camp breaks.
“I see how much children and adults need horses in their lives,” Joanne says. “I’m so lucky to be able to do what I do.”
For more information on Jimenez Jumpers, visit jimenezjumpers.com.