- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - On its surface, the history Crimson Stables has built upon is a lot like the history of other equine training centers. It’s a storied, 30-year old facility with a 30-year old Hanoverian to match. The head trainers’s boots are high, black and shiny. She’s vetted in the English style and trained in the pastures of Kentucky. At one time, the stables even operated under the ostentatious brand, Devonshire.

Still, what sets this re-invented facility apart from its counterparts just might be what it takes for a horseback riding center to find success two miles northeast of a city like Bloomington. Aimed at making the sport more approachable, owners Mike Ross and Scott Rolen’s vision is for a premiere, family-friendly stable that caters to both equestrians steeped in the practice, and novices interested in exploring the pleasures of a new experience. From that, Crimson Stables was born, named after the city’s collegiate colors and a reference to the open pasture’s scenic “crimson skies.”

“Horse people don’t really like to teach beginners, at all. They focus on the advanced-level riders and stay with them because they like to show, and kids are hard to teach,” said Amy DuKate, manager, head trainer and instructor at Crimson Skies. “You have to have years of patience, and it’s a lot harder to put kids on a 1,000 pound animal while they’re trying to coordinate their balance, and use their hands separate from their legs, separate from their head. It takes a lot of time, and there’s not a lot of people willing to do that.”

Originally Devonshire Equestrian Center, then re-tooled as Rocky River Horse Stables, the nearly nine acres of pasture and arena space at 2025 N. Russell Rd. came under new ownership last summer and began a nearly year-long renovation effort to update the barn, stalls, fencing, outdoor rings and indoor arena. While the number of stalls may fall from 39 to 37 to accommodate an expanded tack room, the facilities will still be large enough to host the Indiana University Equestrian Team and trips from Wonderlab.

As of now, there are 13 lesson students taught by the facility’s two instructors. Ranging from city kids new to the sport, to adult novices checking an item off their bucket list, to middle-age students that show their horses through 4-H, DuKate hopes to grow that number to 113 by season’s end.

“A lot of your facilities are show-focused, and they cater to the people that only want to show or have already chosen to make this a huge part of their lifestyle,” said DuKate. “What we want to do is really gear this toward new individuals, and maybe 10 percent of the 100 will go down the path of making this a lifestyle, which will help, but in the meantime, it’s education and a new sport.”

In terms of style, whereas the previous owner practiced saddle seat, DuKate’s expertise is in eventing. That means more jumping, and more strenuous work for the horse. It’s one of the reasons why the indoor arena is being fitted with its own specialized footing. Traditional indoor arenas can be hard on a horse, so Crimson Stables has integrated the use of Nike Grind, a footing made out of re-purposed worn-out shoes and consumer that provides greater cushioning, reduces dust and resists compaction.

Despite their differences, Crimson Stables is critical in its instructor employment. DuKate, a native of Franklin, Indiana, moved to Lexington, Kentucky, at age 18 to later graduate from the University of Kentucky with an equine science and management degree. But it’s not her degree DuKate credits for her extensive knowledge. From her job as a veterinary technician at a horse hospital in Lexington, to her time re-training off-the-track thoroughbreds with the Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center, DuKate’s passion was first established as a 10-year 4-H member where she showed horses and became a United States Pony Club member.

“One of my big things is making sure the instructors aren’t backyard taught,” said DuKate. “I’m making sure they’re taking the steps they need to take to be a good instructor that teaches quality lessons, which is hard to find in the equine world.”

That 30-year old, cream-colored Hanoverian out in the field - emphatically bobbing his head and bearing the amiable name, Gus - may be the best example of the facility’s ability to encompass both approachability, and experience.

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Source: The (Bloomington) Herald-Times, https://bit.ly/1TLlqt3

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Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com


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