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Courses for Horses...

And riders, too

If you own a horse, you know there are few places to go in the Pikes Peak region where you can do training outside of an arena. Especially training for trail riding. And there certainly isn’t any place you can get that experience for free.

 Well, scratch that. Now there is.

The new Equestrian Skills Course at Bear Creek Park fills the bill when it comes to teaching a horse to walk over river rock, into a pond, over a log or up and down steps. The course, which opened in May, is free to the public. 

Located near the Norris-Penrose Events Center in the northeastern corner of Bear Creek Park (closest to 8th Street), it’s still in its infancy. There are two main attractions open now – a step feature, where horses learn to go up and down rock and concrete stairs, and a water feature. The latter has a shallow pond that can be entered from a soft, gradual beach, over a layer of river rock, or even over a log. 

By tackling these features, both horses and riders challenge their abilities and learn how to cope with different situations. 

“It used to be a jumping course,” says Debbie Bibb, who helped get funding and volunteers to build the space. Bibb, who lives on a ranch near Florissant, saw the need for such a venue in the area. She thought El Paso County was the perfect location and it’s drawing interest from Denver, Pueblo, Canon City, Cripple Creek and all over southern and central Colorado. 

That’s because there’s nothing like it for many miles.

“Actually, (we think) there’s nothing like it in North America and even the rest of the world from what we’ve found – free and suitable for all ages and abilities,” Bibb says. 

Eventually, the non-profit group known as Friends of the Equestrian Skills Course will have the entire 15 acres available for riders. 

Because it’s geared for all ages and abilities from beginners to advanced riders, signage will indicate which level riders are attempting. 

“It’ll be marked a lot like a ski area,” Bibb says. “And there’s lots of natural terrain that will replicate what it’s like to ride on a trail.”

Even though just two of the features are completed, they expect it will get a lot of use. 

“But that’s the thing about horse people,” she says. “They don’t mind waiting their turn because they like to watch and see how other riders are doing.”

So far, the site has been funded by private donations and manned by volunteers who have done everything from cut down dead trees to pouring concrete. 

The group received $5,000 from Roundup Riders of the Rockies in Denver and $3,500 from the American Quarter Horse Association. Other donations have covered the $13,000 costs so far. The county is not supporting the venue financially. 

Bibb, who also serves on the local Open Space and Trails Coalition, knows that horses and riders need to learn to interact with hikers and mountain bikers, too. That may eventually become part of the program. 

“Our trails should be comfortable for everyone,” she adds. 

For more information:

visit www.facebook.com/FriendsOfTheEquestrianSkillsPark or email Bibb, president of the group, at friendsequestrianskillscourse@gmail.com.