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People, horses 'connect' at Toad Ranch

Ribbons line the cookhouse at Toad Mountain Ranch and Resort, reflecting Susan Schlossman's lifelong affinity for horseback riding. Now, she's sharing her knowledge via a recently constructed camp for kids, lessons and workshops in English and We...

Ribbons line the cookhouse at Toad Mountain Ranch and Resort, reflecting Susan Schlossman's lifelong affinity for horseback riding.

Now, she's sharing her knowledge via a recently constructed camp for kids, lessons and workshops in English and Western riding.

Located in the Smoky Hills, overlooking Big Toad Lake, the 600 acres are home to 10 horses, two affable mules - Jackie and Molly - and an assortment of dogs and cats.

Girls age 9 to 13 are invited to learn to ride as well as sail, perform on stage, canoe, go tubing and take part in a luau and fashion show.

"I started going to camp as a kid," said Schlossman, who's originally from Texas, "when the horse bug hit me."

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Horse ownership came at 30 and now, after an 18-year "learning process," she is sharing wisdom gained in dressage, endurance racing, Western events and open shows.

"A horse show is a lot like theater," said Schlossman, a certified English and drama teacher with a master's degree in children's theater. Riders prepare for the production, dress for the event and head into the arena to perform before an audience and judges.

Schlossman teaches dressage, which has been called ballet on horseback. The equestrian discipline calls for specific patterns as designated by letters. Riders are judged on each movement in the compulsory route.

"Dressage is a good foundation," Schlossman said of the training suitable for any breed of horse.

Riding lessons - for kids and adults - are also available, covering the fundamentals of English or Western riding.

Exercises, she explained, cover communication with the horse while developing a "balanced seat."

For adults, riding a horse can be a form of therapy, "as beneficial as being on the psychiatrist's couch," she said. "People relax, unwind. When you're with a horse, it feeds something inside spiritually."

A horse can be enjoyed in later years, she said. She also offers sessions without riding, introducing grooming, handling and round penning.

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Riding, she explained, "is establishing dominance in a herd of two, getting the horse to connect with you and building a relationship."

Schlossman is well-versed in equine science, having attended clinics led by world famous equestrian judge Lynn Palm and "natural horseman" Ron Olson, who instructs on reading a horse's behavior.

Camp Toad will be offered the last two weeks in July, with openings available. A mini session is planned in August. A chef has been hired for the camps with organically produced fruits and vegetables on the menu.

A "cowgirl weekend" is planned for women in October, with participants invited to learn about horses, while enjoying lodging and meals - and massages - at the resort.

Toad Mountain Ranch and Resort is home to indoor and outdoor round pens, an outdoor arena and - soon - an indoor heated arena.

For more information, head to www.toadmountain.com .

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