Students learn life lessons at El Gezira Riding Academy
Published 3:17 pm Monday, April 11, 2016
By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer
HARPERSVILLE—Neither Ruwena Healy or her husband grew up riding horses, so she was surprised when her son Preston came home from second grade and asked to sign up for horseback riding lessons.
“It was really interesting because my husband and I don’t know anything about horses,” Ruwena said with a laugh.
Although he plays piano and participates in soccer and Boy Scouts, riding is now 10-year-old Preston’s passion.
“He’d quit everything to do this,” Ruwena said.
Preston takes lessons every week from Pam Ibrahim at the El Gezira Riding Academy in Harpersville. With years of experience as both a horseman and a trainer, Ibrahim can teach students of every age and experience level.
“We came out here…and it was magic,” Ruwena said. “(Pam) not only has a love for horses, she has a love for teaching.”
With 100 acres of land, three barns and a covered riding arena, El Gezira Riding Academy off U.S. 280 in Harpersville is a horse lover’s paradise.
On April 8, the school barn bustled with activity as students diligently groomed their horses for an afternoon of riding. Ten-year-old student Elle Thompson lovingly brushed her horse, Katrina, preparing her for the afternoon lesson.
“She gets dirty really, really easily,” Thompson said of the white mare.
Like Preston, Thompson also came to Ibrahim as a beginner after begging her parents to sign her up for lessons.
“When we first came out here, I could tell that this is where she was supposed to be,” Thompson’s mother, Amy, said.
Preston and Elle have blossomed under Ibrahim’s tutelage, becoming confident riders and show competitors. And they’re just two of Ibrahim’s students.
Countless students have learned from Ibrahim at El Gezira Riding Academy’s lessons and camps since the facility opened in 1990. Some have gone on to successful careers in the show circuit and some even own their own barns and riding academies.
“It’s more than just participating in sports,” Ibrahim said. “To be a true horseman, you have to do it from the bottom up. I try to teach the kids right from the bottom that the horse is a responsibility.”
Under Ibrahim’s careful instruction, students learn every aspect of horseback riding, from properly caring for a horse and riding equipment to dressage and jumping. Through the process, students also gain valuable life skills.
During the immersive summer riding camps, students are responsible for caring for their horse and their equipment. They’re also assigned chores to complete as a team.
“These are leaders, these are problem solvers, these are achievers,” Ibrahim said of her students. “(Caring for a horse) is a lot of responsibility.”
In just three short years of riding, Ruwena said Preston has gained confidence along with a passion for riding.
Amy said she’s seen Elle grow too.
“She has become very responsible because she’s responsible for Katrina,” Amy said. “She’s become a great leader and she’s secure within her self and she’s gained a lot of confidence in herself.”
Lessons and camps are available to students of all levels, and owning a horse is not required. For more information, visit Elgeziraridingacademy.com or call 907-8300.