December 2009
Featured Articles

Fayette Co. Facility Helps Horse-Loving Children Excel in Equestrian World

 

Lance Ezelle, manager Fayette Farmers Co-op, with Jill and Steve Dean, Hunter Creek Stables owners, who are loyal Co-op customers.

Hunter Creek Stables Prospers with Hard Work, Self-Reliance and Confidence

Hunter Creek Stables is a full-service equine facility located near Fayette on Highway 107 specializing in Hunter Jumper discipline. Owners Steve and Jill Dean operate the farm with the help of their son, Cooper.

Jill is the instructor and coach, while Steve takes care of maintenance on the farm as well as manages their other business interests. Steve also handles the announcing at the state 4-H show and does many of the Alabama Hunter Jumper Association events. Cooper and a student worker, Julianna Dubielak, help clean stalls, groom and feed horses, and perform other chores as needed.

Alexa Rodgers of Northport warms up one of the lesson horses at Hunter Creek before practice.

 

Jill has overcome many obstacles to get where she is today— a professional coach and trainer. At the age of 19, she was a working student earning her way to train with the Junior Olympic Equestrian Team as a junior rider. She trained, rode horses, mucked stalls, groomed and fed horses, in addition to other chores, to help pay for her Olympic training.

Then her father had a hard time financially, which led to her getting the payment books on her truck and horse trailer. At about the same time her show horse died and the insurance wouldn’t cover him, so she took out a bank loan to buy another one to train. She had to have some way to earn money to pay back the loans, live and go to school. Teaching riding lessons seemed to be the logical choice to pay the bills and still be involved in the horse business.

How did the decision to teach children to ride affect the direction your life has taken?

"Teaching lessons enabled me to pay my way through Mississippi State University; however, it took me seven years to finish, as I could only afford to take a few classes at a time. Being financially on my own at 19 years of age taught me to work hard, be self-reliant and be confident I could conquer life’s difficulties. The other thing I found was that I loved teaching children to ride so much more than I ever loved competing myself. Teaching lessons pays the bills, but there is such joy in seeing children with a real love of horses excel in the equestrian world."

Jill has ridden and shown nationally for over 35 years and has coached for the last 25 years with many honors like the 2006 Alabama Hunter Jumper Association (AHJA). Also in 2006, Hunter Creek Stables was named Show Barn of the Year by the AHJA. Local, state, regional and national champions have trained at Hunter Creek under Coach Dean’s supervision. The most recent honors for Dean include coaching the 4-H Southern Regional Gold Medalist and two-time Silver Medalist in the Hunt Seat Competition.

How do you evaluate a beginning rider and what do you hope to instill in them?

" I take pride in evaluating each student’s confidence level, ability and aspirations for their age and maturity. Lessons reflect an individual’s needs in a certain area, and I help them meet those needs in an atmosphere of fun and safety. Whether you want to learn to ride as a hobby or take the challenge of showing at some level, we can help you achieve those goals at Hunter Creek. Lessons are taught progressively to build a strong foundation with the fundamentals of classic riding. We want to instill in our students the love of the horse and a spirit of sportsmanship that will live a lifetime in their character. Hunter Creek students build life-long friendships and memories and also learn about the values of hard work, dedication, commitment, teamwork and of course have fun."

What do you look for in a horse or pony?

"A horse or pony must have a calm disposition, be child friendly and have fluid, flat-kneed movement. I select the horse to fit the child’s ability and confidence level. When you coach Hunter Jumper or any other discipline, you are dealing with two athletes, the child and the horse, so compatibility is critical.

"Current students Emily Barnes, Allie Lyle, Josie Perkins, Julliana Dubielak, Jalynn Musgrove, Karrli McNeil, Alexa Rodgers and Cooper Dean all agree that the spirit of teamwork, friendship and sportsmanship evolve from a love they all have of this noble animal, the horse. The hard work and hours of practice are all worth it when the judge selects you and your horse to receive a ribbon.

"Parents must be supportive and make the commitment to take their child to lessons and practice weekly and in the summer before the State 4-H show to two sessions a day." Parents of Alexa Rodgers, Jalynn Musgrove and Allie Lyle are Tina Rodgers of Northport, Trisha Musgrove of Fayette and Renate’ Lyle of Hamilton, respectively, indicated they all have seen a higher level of self-confidence in their daughters through their riding lessons. Mrs. Lyle said Allie used to be a very shy girl, but through horse lessons has become self-reliant and a self-confident young lady. This became evident in Montgomery at the State 4-H show where Allie won first place in the horse judging competition for the entire state. The mothers all agree Jill and Hunter Creek have been a positive influence in their children’s lives and it shows in how hard they work to attain their goals.

What are the services offered at Hunter Creek?

"We offer boarding from pasture to full stall care as well as having lesson horses available for children who do not own a horse or pony. This is great for parents who are not yet ready to commit to purchasing a horse or pony. Discounted yearly annual rates are available and private lessons for haul-in customers are also available. When parents feel it is time to purchase a horse or pony for their child, we will find an animal that is suitable for that child."

Jill said it takes teamwork to keep her operation going and she relies on Lance Ezell, manager at Fayette Farmers Co-op, Kelly Truell, assistant manager, and all the other employees at the Co-op for all her farm needs and to answer questions she or Steve may have about products. She knows her horses’ nutritional needs are met by Co-op horse feeds and they carry all the tack and animal health products Hunter Creek might require. They are always ready to help in any situation that might arise.

Hunter Creek Stables is having a Holiday Horse Camp on December 21 and 22 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days. For more information about the horse camp or any other Hunter Creek services, contact Jill Dean at (205) 270-8942. The address at Hunter Creek Stables is 786 Highway 107, Fayette, Alabama.

Your local Quality Co-op appreciates your business and is ready to help with all your equine, livestock and farming needs. If we don’t have what you need, we will be glad to order it for you. We want to earn and keep your business.

Don Linker is an outside salesman for AFC.

Hunter Creek students (from left) Allie Lyle of Hamilton, Alexa Rodgers of Northport with Karrli McNeil of Hamilton behind, Josie Perkins, Cooper Dean, Emily Barnes, Jalynn Musgrove and Julianna Dubielak, all of Fayette, are ready to ride.