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Kids learn to be 'Healthy as a Horse'
Sonrise Camp equine program teaches nutrition, good health
Four-year-old Grant Loggins rides Pretty April 23 during the “Healthy as a Horse” program through Sonrise Camp. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

Healthy as a Horse

An equine-facilitated health and nutrition program

When: 9-11 a.m. or 6-8 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in May-July

Where: First Baptist Church recreation field, 751 Green St. NW, Gainesville

How much: $40 1 day a week, $60 for 2 days a week, $75 for 3 days per week

Contact: Call 678-316-4756 or email

Healthy as a Horse meet and greet

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 19

Where: First Baptist Church recreation field, 751 Green St. NW, Gainesville

How much: Free

When some people decide to get serious about fitness, they head to the gym. Janice Gardner heads to the stables.

“Horseback riding is very strenuous exercise,” said Gardner, a certified riding instructor and trail guide.

“You use your whole body.”

Although she’s been hosting therapeutic riding lessons for years through her nonprofit, Sonrise Camp, Gardner is heading down a new path.

She’s recently introduced “Healthy as a Horse,” a basic horseback riding session for children and adolescents that incorporates lessons on fitness and nutrition.

While the program is open to all youth, Gardner says it may be especially beneficial for children who don’t feel comfortable or accepted in team settings.

“Not every child is built physically or emotionally for team sports, but everyone needs an opportunity to be active,” Gardner said.

“Exercise is important for everyone.”

Horses make for the perfect workout partner and teammate because they accept everyone and don’t judge, Gardner says. Even better than that, horseback riding comes with built-in exercise routines.

“Some of the greatest (health) benefits of riding come from the simplest acts of grooming and caring for the horses,” Gardner said.

“As you groom or carry saddles and equipment, you are also doing weight-bearing exercise that helps maintain bone mass. Everything you do around horses requires you to burn calories and build muscle.

“Simply riding a horse requires muscles you probably don’t use for anything else. Horse riding is an ideal sport to work many muscles simultaneously.”

Gardner’s campers will also be introduced to yoga techniques and practices.

“The horse feels our movement as we ride and they react to every unbalanced move,” Gardner said.

“Yoga teaches us how to recognize imbalance and to correct them before we get on the horse. A balanced, confident rider creates a confident horse.

“Yoga can also provide strength and endurance benefits.”

The camp will be held in the recreation field at First Baptist Church of Gainesville, 751 Green St. NW. It’s designed to be a six-week session, with campers opting to attend lessons once, twice or three times a week.

Nutrition will be a key part of the process.

“Healthy as a Horse will give insight to good eating habits. The riders will enjoy learning how a horse eats to supply their bodies with energy,” Gardner said.

“Horses generally eat good grains, leafy greens and fruit. They will drink as much as 20 gallons of water a day.
“The idea is to encourage the participants to eat like a horse and forget the bad foods.”


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