With her horse, Dixie, in tow, riding instructor Andrea Heimer spends her days making house calls across Whatcom and Skagit counties.
Seeing demand from her clients to receive riding lessons without the need to travel to a boarding stable or faraway arena, Heimer has developed a mobile instruction service, Rolling Stone Equestrian, that allows her to meet her students in a variety of locations while cutting overhead costs from owning or renting physical space.
It’s a model similar to those followed by many mobile entrepreneurs, although probably few are business partners with an even-tempered, brown and white horse with floppy ears.
“A good lesson horse is invaluable,” Heimer said, about Dixie. “It’s great to find a horse that’s good to work with.”
Rolling Stone Equestrian offers a variety of instruction services, including basic lessons for individuals or groups and advanced training for more serious or competitive riders. Clients range in age from five years old to more than 70.
Riders who own horses can receive instruction with their own animals. But Dixie is always available, as well.
Lessons can be held in virtually any open space, although Heimer said she prefers teaching beginners inside a fenced arena, both for the riders’ safety and for Dixie’s.
Heimer earned certification as an instructor in 2011 having spent most of her life riding and caring for horses.
Equestrian work today, however, has its challenges, she said.
The costs of caring for horses and riding or showing them professionally have risen with the recession. Fuel needed to haul horse trailers is a difficult expense. Plus, recent droughts have led to spikes in hay prices, Heimer said.
With the higher costs, Heimer said the mobile aspect of Rolling Stone Equestrian has so far proven popular with clients who have their own horses. Since Heimer can come and meet them at locations of their choice, and she also has her own horse available for lessons, her clients can get by without having to haul their own animals.
In addition to giving lessons, Heimer also offers a “boot camp” for the horses themselves. During a two-month program, she works with clients’ horses to acclimate them to a variety of environments and get them comfortable with grooming, riding and trailer transport, as well as other equestrian activities.
Heimer said she thinks the connection between humans and horses, once a salient motif of Amercian West culture, is being lost in an increasingly urbanized world. Offering riding instruction, particularly in a way that is designed to be easy for beginners and experts, is her way of keeping elements of that connection alive, she said.
Heimer added that since she began offering instruction several years ago, she’s noticed positive psychological and emotional benefits that horses can impart to people. Riding and caring for a horse can help children develop better social skills and leadership capabilities, she said, particularly for those who are shy or have trouble interacting with others.
Working with a horse can also help older students who once rode but quit after being knocked off or injured gain back confidence, she said.
“I want to expose as many people as possible, and give them a good experience,” Heimer said.
Evan Marczynski, lead reporter for The Bellingham Business Journal, can be reached at 360-647-8805, Ext. 5052, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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