June 2016 - Horses For Happiness

Young rider Kelsey Yin shares her horsey passion with at-risk kids.

Horses For Happiness is all about giving at-risk kids the chance to enjoy and benefit from a day spent with horses. For the third year in a row, H4H has done that and more, giving its young organizer Kelsey Yin benefits, too. “It gives me a way to share my passion and love for horses and to give the campers an opportunity and a memory that they would not typically get.”

With help from her mom and fellow rider Kim Yin and from trainer Amy Hollman and her Horsebound riding school in San Diego, Kelsey started Horses For Happiness three years ago when she was in middle school. On May 8, seven girls, aged 8 to 15, arrived for a long, fun day at the barn. They were selected for the free experience by the San Diego Center For Children, which set the criteria for earning a spot in the camp and selected the participants.

The group included two returnees from last year.

Amy was Kelsey’s first riding instructor and says “she’s always been a remarkable young person.” The trainer loved the idea of helping disadvantaged girls get some time with horses when Kelsey and Kim proposed it three years ago and has happily provided the camp horses, teaching and volunteers in the form of regular students in her school. “I think it’s a wonderful idea and I’ve always been happy to help,” says Amy, who runs Horsebound in Rancho Penasquitos with partner Katie Thomas.

Even though it’s just for one day, Amy sees the impact on participants. “For my regular students who have the chance to be around horses, it’s all about responsibility, accomplishment and there’s a sense of purpose. It’s hard to see that in the kids who come out with Horses For Happiness, but by the time they’re done, you do see it.”

“The kids are a bit nervous about getting on a horse when they first come,” Kelsey says. “By the end of the day, you see the smiles. They’re having so much fun and saying they wish they could do it everyday.” When it comes time for the craft part of the day, most girls put their camp horse’s name on the decorated horseshoes they make. “I thought that was really nice,” Kelsey says. “They might not talk a lot but you can tell how proud they are and how much fun they are having.”

This year’s camp included lessons on grooming and handling horses. Returning campers learned so much last year they were able to lead some of the lessons. Riding, however, is always the favorite part of the day. This year included a special trail ride, meandering past the area’s 1903 adobe house and its original barn. The day concluded with crafts and snacks underneath the maple trees. Girls also had the opportunity to try out their hair-styling techniques on barn beauty queen—Akira, the golden palomino. “With her long, blonde locks, she is perfect for brushing and braiding—almost like a living My Little Pony,” Kim Yin notes.

Kim was instrumental in helping Kelsey bring her idea for Horses For Happiness to life and continues to share her daughter’s passion for all things equestrian. Kim rides dressage and offers tips to Kelsey in her progress with her new horse, Akira, the Halflinger mare and aforementioned equine ‘beauty queen.”

Amy Holman gave Kelsey a solid foundation of flatwork, but as a primarily western coach she didn’t have a lot of advice when Kelsey became interested in jumping. Instead, Kelsey hit the books. Anne Kursinski’s Riding and Jumping Clinic and George Morris’ Hunt Seat Equitation are her current favorite textbooks. “I look at pictures of the more advanced people jumping and look at how their positions are different from someone who might get jumped out of the tack.”

Kelsey has competed a little already and has her eye on the Sun Series at Copper Meadows and possibly some hunter/jumper shows on the Greater San Diego Hunter/Jumper Assn. circuit for this summer. But she’s already enough of a horseman to know it’s best not to rush things. “I just got my horse (Akira) so we are still figuring the whole thing out,” she says. “I don’t want to push her or me.”