BLOOMFIELD HILLS — There aren’t too many places in the decidedly urban metro Detroit area where someone could go to have an authentic equestrian experience.
Since Bloomfield Hills enjoys its own working educational farm, the Friends of Bowers Farm decided to change that.
Beginning this month, the nonprofit arm of Bowers Farm, operated by the Bloomfield Hills Schools district, will offer guided equestrian experiences to the public. The Saddle Socials will be available to kids 8 and older with a parent, along with former equestrians and those just interested in a casual encounter with a horse in their own neighborhood.
“Equestrian experiences at Bowers (Farm) go way beyond the typical riding barn format,” said Rachel Rotger, the president of the Friends of Bowers Farm. “We do practice skills in a traditional riding arena, but we also (have) access (to) over 90 acres of fields and woods that are shared with sheep, goats, cattle and the occasional peacock.”
Saddle Socials are two-hour hands-on events in which small groups work with instructors and horses to practice and learn a spectrum of skills. Herd behavior, basic horsemanship and riding are offered based on the interests and goals of each participant. The farm has a dozen horses, a mix of English and Western with a range of different breeds, from Arabian to draft horses and quarter horses.
Those who want to go beyond the basics can work toward a certification and become a monthly member of Bowers Farm’s Community Horse Program. That status provides independent access to the horses, including horseback riding, anytime during operating hours.
“What we know, and there’s research to show this, is that the relationship between the horse and an adult or kid can help build social/emotional skills,” said Alan Jaros, the director of Bowers Farm. “In today’s world, young people are stressed out. They’re busy and they’re focused on those core academics so they can make it to college, and there are few outlets for them to build those social-emotional skills. This is a real concrete way to give them that opportunity.”
For monthly members, Saddle Socials are free. First-timers can check out the program for $50 and can register for additional two-hour events for $100 each. One-hour private lessons are available to those working to earn a certification.
The money raised from those fees will benefit the Friends of Bowers Farm, which works to preserve the historical property and enhance programming and activities at the farm for BHS families and the surrounding community.
“The idea of the program is to make an accessible experience,” Jaros added. “We know there are other horse clubs around, but the cost of entry to those programs is quite high. Being owned by Bloomfield Hills Schools, the Friends wanted to team up with the district to give everyone a lesser barrier to that opportunity.”
The first Saddle Social was held April 14, and the second will take place 9-11 a.m. April 28. Events in May and throughout the season will be posted regularly on the Friends website.
For more information or to register for a Saddle Social event, visit FriendsofBowersFarm.org.
Charles L. Bowers School Farm is located at 1219 E. Square Lake Road in Bloomfield Hills.