Fountain Greene Farm has paired up with Christchurch to develop a program specializing in a hands-on riding experience and learning about all aspects of horses. Leading the program is Emily Johnston Gentry who has been working with Fountain Greene for six years.
“I came here (Fountain Greene) and worked a couple summers with owner Nancy Banfield to get an understanding of the industry,” Gentry said. “After COVID-19 hit, I took a full time position after I finished my Bachelor’s degree in biology; I decided to stay because I loved it so much. Fountain Greene has helped me pursue a career in teaching.” Gentry’s second career is commander in the U.S. Army reserves so she commutes when she is on duty. “The organizational and motivational skills I have learned in the Army come in very handy in the barn.”
“Fountain Greene farm specializes in retired horses and lay-ups, with an extensive rehab program. Students from Christchurch come to Fountain Greene farm after school for the eight-week course. Some of the day students have started working on the farm on the weekends to gain experience. “If they are willing to work and want to learn, they are welcome,” Gentry adds. “I encourage riders at all levels to participate. We support each other.”
“I focus on their horsemanship skills, so they really get an understanding of how to take care of horses,” Gentry said. “They handle retired horses, lay ups and even foals.” Besides working in the barn, students also participate in weekly Google Meets with Gentry to learn about a broad range of subjects in the horse industry. Every Monday at 7:00 p.m. all are invited to participate (Gentry’s contact on the Fountain Greene website). The topics cover genetics to foundations of horsemanship. The lessons are followed by quizzes and jeopardy challenges.
“I like educating online, so when students are in their lesson, they ask questions and want to expand their knowledge. I like when their brains turn over another leaf and they say, ‘Wow, this makes sense. I get why we wrap horses’ legs or why we take a horse’s temperature,’” Gentry said. “We need these kids to become the future horsemen, grooms, vet techs, and vets, as well as riders.”
Students also participate in a range of activities on the farm. They get lessons in carpentry and build jumps. Gentry created a Fountain Greene Monopoly game where students try to “buy” horses in the barn and avoid the “cleaning extra stalls” card. “We like to do a lot of team challenges. The most recent challenge followed up on an online lesson. The teams were challenged to design a working horse farm on a 10 acre plot.”
Each term a student is selected from Christchurch for the “Barn Rat” award which has become a highly prized sports honor. Gentry continues to inspire all those around her with her complete horsemanship program. Each student takes care of her own horse and learns the basics of safe responsible horsemanship while having fun. Gentry adds, “They are proud of themselves because they become self-sufficient on the farm-empowered by their knowledge and accomplishments.”