Sharing passion for horses with area residents
Kathy Slack says she wants to give people the same experience with horses she had growing up outside Detroit, from the fun of riding to the responsibility of caring for the animal's every need.
At the 14-acre Bee Cave Riding Center off Hamilton Pool Road, she uses her 37 years of horse-training experience and lifelong love of the sport to impart the knowledge she says is integral to the horse-riding lifestyle on more than 80 children and adults each week.
She arrived in Texas with her daughters, who traveled to the state to attend the University of North Texas. After a year working as an intensive care unit nurse at University Medical Center Brackenridge in Austin and helping her daughters settle in to college, they asked her, "Why would you want to leave?"
"Austin somehow takes hold of you," she said.
That was 16 years ago, and bringing her horses to Texas led to people asking if she could teach.
"Well, it's my hobby, but I thought I should go for it. So I bought this property and set up shop," she said.
Slack and her staff work with riders of all ages in a quiet, pastoral pocket of Bee Cave. The sounds of brushes scraping against dusty hooves, faint neighs and buzzing cicadas fill the air as Hailey Martin, 16, takes her 8-year-old pinto pony Bandit out to a patch of grass to eat. Slack's students don't simply ride the horses and leave. Her lessons include the complete care of the animal.
"Our philosophy in horses is to foster the responsibility and the commitment that comes with lessons, leasing or ownership," she said.
Students, including during competitions, work as a team to care for their animals.
Lessons—available in private, semiprivate and group sessions—include escalating instruction in various types of riding: hunter/jumper, dressage and western riding. And with 30 horses, students of all ages and skill levels are able to work with a horse or pony that fits their needs, Slack said.
The riding center also hosts summer, spring break and holiday camps, with various options to suit different levels of commitment.
Slack is also using the Internet to reach more people. She has worked for several years on a smartphone app, available for free on iTunes with 99 cent in-app purchases, that gives western-style riders audio lessons they can listen to while riding. Riders can also watch her YouTube videos, which have garnered hundreds of thousands of views.
Slack swears by the benefits of the bond riders and their horses develop, as her own story exemplifies.
"I think it helped keep me very nicely on track to be a successful young adult," Slack said. "I think the hardworking horse kid progresses into the hardworking adult."
Horse riding styles
Owner Kathy Slack offers training in various riding styles, from precision horse jumping to the classic rodeo horse riding events many Texans are familiar with.
- Ranch sorting
- Barrel racing
- Pole bending
- Private lessons: $60 per hour
- Semi-private (2-3 riders): $45 per hour
- Group lessons (4-6 riders): $35 per hour
- Summer camp: $400 per week
- Holiday camp: $400 per week or $80 per day
- Spring break camp: $400 per week or $80 per day
Bee Cave Riding Center, 15740 Hamilton Pool Road, Austin, 512-632-RIDE (7433)
"Riding Horses with Kathy Slack" is available on iTunes. Lesson videos are available at www.youtube.com/user/ridinghorsesdotcom