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Horse

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Addison Azmoun leaps a fence. Photo by David Luces

Horseback riding is a sport that requires full commitment, courage and a particular skill set, one based on mental fortitude and bravery to even get up on the horse. 

For members of the Old Towne Equestrian’s middle school team, they can’t picture their lives without their horses. Now their collective passion, as well as their recent successes in tournaments throughout the season, has propelled them to the Interscholastic Equestrian Association National Finals taking place April 26-28 in Pennsylvania.   

From left, Addison Azmoun, coach Lauren Sobel, Graney, Ali Treuting and Hairston show off the awards they’ve received this season. Photo by David Luces

Myrna Treuting, head coach of the team, couldn’t be prouder of the girls. 

“We’ve had a pretty strong team this year,” she said. 

To get to nationals, individual and team performances throughout the season are crucial in getting the points necessary to qualify. First, if the team has enough points, it qualifies for regionals, and the top two teams then go to zone finals. The Old Towne team won the IEA Zone 2 Final March 16, securing a spot in nationals and bringing home a trophy back to the Old Towne Equestrian Center barn. Two members of the team: seventh-grader Maggie Graney of Garden City and eighth-grader Ali Treuting, Myrna’s daughter, also qualified individually to compete at nationals.   

“This is the first time that the middle school team has [collectively] qualified for nationals,” the head coach said. 

According to Treuting, the team is the top ranked middle school team in all of New York State. 

Fellow coach Lauren Sobel said the journey has not been easy. 

“They are very dedicated, hardworking and they show great sportsmanship,” she said. “Going to nationals is very exciting for us.”

Sobel said most of the girls have been riding at the barn their whole careers, and started at a very young age, some before they could
even walk. 

In preparation for nationals, the coaches have made sure the riders are securing extra practice and are getting used to riding without stirrups. 

In many of the competitions, riders draw the name of the horse they will ride out of a hat the morning of the event. It is a way of evening the playing field as many riders become comfortable riding with their own horses. 

Treuting said it’s the luck of the draw sometimes, and it doesn’t come down to the horse but to the skill of the rider. She mentioned her team has experience riding many different horses and can easily adapt to a new steed. 

“I think going to nationals is a great opportunity to advance and learn to ride different horses  outside of your comfort zone,” seventh-grader Tess Hairston of Selden said. 

Graney added the season has been pretty good, and it’s really cool to go back to nationals this year. The young girl had qualified individually for nationals last year as well. 

The members of the team are close with one another, and though they don’t go to school together, they relish the time they spend with each other at the barn. 

“It is exciting, you get to learn together and get to grow as friends,” Hairston said.  It’s nice because we get to see each other more often and do things that we love.”

Tess Hairston practices drills. Photo by David Luces

Treuting has owned the Old Towne Equestrian Center for close to 30 years and started a horseback riding team about 15 years ago, just around the time IEA was created. The organization’s mission is to introduce equestrian sports to students grades four through 12. 

In addition to the middle school team, Treuting coaches a high school team and the Stony Brook University Equestrian Team as well.   

“I think we can do quite well at nationals, we have a very good team,” she said. “We are so proud of them, they work hard and they deserve it.”

The Old Towne Equestrian Center is located at 471 Boyle Road in Selden.

Pony Boy, who was named after a song by the Allman, will greet visitors on Feb. 13. Photo by Giselle Barkley

He might be under five feet tall but 25-year-old Pony Boy at the Smithtown Historical Society farm has a big presence. For this pony, the farm isn’t just a sanctuary, it is also a place where he can help teach children about animal ownership and farm life.

As the Historical Society’s sole stallion, Pony Boy will extend a helping hoof for the society’s Help a Horse Day events on April 25 and 26.

According to the society’s website, Help a Horse Day is a national campaign started by the ASPCA to raise awareness  of the plight of horses and encourage equine rescue.

Kris Melvin-Denenberg, director of Development and Public Relations at the society said Pony Boy and his companion, a female donkey named Jenni Henrietta, were purchased 14 years ago from a farm that closed in Huntington around that time. The director added that it’s possible the small horse was abused in the past. When Pony Boy first arrived on the farm, he didn’t like any male volunteers to approach him from his left side, which is where people typically approach when greeting a horse or pony.

Pony Boy’s best friend, Peter the sheep, lays in the sun after resting inside the barn. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Pony Boy’s best friend, Peter the sheep, lays in the sun after resting inside the barn. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“He’s a prime example of what a good foster [process] we do,” Melvin-Denenberg said. “Over time he became more and more accepting of men and now there are guys who can put a halter on him, which we could never do before.”

Despite his initial timid disposition Melvin-Denenberg said their pony is always gentle when interacting with children.

Pony Boy didn’t only get used to men or being in the spotlight when kids are near, but he also made a new friend while living at the farm. When Jenni Henrietta passed away several years ago, the stallion gravitated to Peter, a blind sheep living on the farm. Before Peter developed cataracts, the duo bonded. Pony Boy now helps Peter when he needs a farm friend to lean on.

While members of the historical society’s farm animals usually call out to members of their group if they are separated, Melvin-Denenberg said Pony Boy and Peter will sit in close proximity to one another and communicate. She added that horses can form a bond with any animal with whom they share their home.

“They’re herd animals,” she said about horses. “So they are very social and they get very upset if their companions … get separated. They do have concerns — they do worry and look out for each other.”

But the animals aren’t the only ones looking out for each other. Melvin-Denenberg said programs like the Help a Horse Day event teach children how to care for an animal. It also helps them understand the benefits of having a horse on a farm. In the past, horses provided transportation, plowed the crop fields and provided fresh manure for the farmer’s crops. In return, the farmer would care for the horse.

The society doesn’t just want to show families how animals like horses helped on the farm, they also want to encourage people to familiarize themselves with the needs of the animal they wish to adopt. They hope to do so through their programs.

The main difference between ponies like Pony Boy and horses is the animals’ heights. Photo by Giselle Barkley
The main difference between ponies like Pony Boy and horses is the animals’ heights. Photo by Giselle Barkley

“We want [children] to learn about the responsibilities of adopting an animal whether it be a horse, a sheep or a fish. You need to do your research,” Melvin-Denenberg said. “Find out everything you can about the animal. Learn how to properly groom the animal [and] what their veterinary needs are.”

Families can learn more about farm animals like Pony Boy  and horses overall on Monday, April 25, at the Frank Brush Barn, 211 Middle Country Road, Smithtown, at 7 p.m. as Town Historian and Board President Brad Harris presents a lecture titled Famous Horses of Smithtown. Admission is free.

As part of the society’s Spring Break programs, children ages 6 to 12 can come meet Pony Boy, learn  about animal care and how horses helped farmers, and create horse-related crafts on Tuesday, April 26, from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the Frank Brush Barn. Cost is $25 and $22.50 for members and includes a snack and a beverage. Registration is required by calling 631-265-6768.

Finally, children ages 3 to 5 can take part in a child and caregiver horse-themed reading adventure at a program titled Tales for Tots: Horses! on April 26 at the society’s Roseneath Cottage at 239 Main Street, Smithtown, from 11 a.m. to noon. This event is free but registration is required by calling the Smithtown Library at 631-360-2480.