By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — SHELBY CENTER — Forrestel Farms sees visitors from around the world during it’s summer riding camps and private lessons, but their newest addition will extend that experience year-round and attract new uses for the farm’s facilities.
An arena is being constructed south of the barn that houses many of the horses and supplies for Forrestel’s riding operation, which will continue for a 33rd year this summer. Forrestel Operations Manager Margaret Darroch said the arena will be complete in January, a quick turnaround — excavation work began in October, with structural work starting only a few weeks ago.
The 144-foot by 68-foot closed facility, which has a 64” by 12” viewing area can be used as a weather neutral facility in inclement weather during the summer and a site for horse showmanship and riding competitions. The facility can even be used for weddings, which would make use of the farm’s bed and breakfast.
The big addition is the extending the riding season. Although lessons were held last year through Thanksgiving, the weather was always a deterrent to continuing Forrestel’s work through the winter, when many of the farm’s horses are loaned to camps in warm-weather locations.
“This is our first year of expanding to out-of-season camps,” Darroch said. “We’ll be weather-neutral.”
It will get a lot of use this spring, as students from across Western New York on the farm’s Interscholastic Equestrian Association team work on their equitation skills. The team started last year with five students from middle and high schools across the area and grew to ten for this season.
Riding Director Kat Ferry, who has returned to her hometown of Newcastle, England to recruit camp counselors for the summer, said the girls that made up the inaugural team were nervous at first.
“They hadn’t shown so it was all new to them ... a lot of the kids didn’t have the chance to do that because they didn’t have their own horse,” Ferry said. “They liked the challenge.”
The girls were keen to continue in a program that includes weekly lessons and challenging monthly competitions. Each competitions has riders taking on a new horse and new course, which gives them the chance to ride many different breeds and show skills that are learned during their “miles in the saddle.”
“It’s a completely strange horse to them,” Ferry said. “It’s all about their control over the horse, how they ride it.”
Darroch said an advantage of the IEA is that boys, girls and riders of different skills levels all compete together. Although there are fees for each competition and lessons, the ownership of a horse is not required — but ridership skill is.
They’ll be joined in February for the restarting of regular lessons, with riders of all ages and skill levels arriving in Orleans County. The real crush will come in the summer, when 10 weeks of riding camps bring young riders from across the world to experience their shared passion at a farm rich in historic character.
It figures to continue almost endlessly with the opportunity to provide lessons even when the grounds are deeply buried under snow. Darroch and Ferry said they weren’t sure how many new riders the farm will be able to serve, they just know it will be more.
“As many as we can cope with,” Ferry said.Contact reporter Jim Krencik at 798-1400, ext. 6327.