Horseback Riding in Hillsborough, NC
At Blue Skies of Mapleview horses are loved, respected and understood, not dominated. Owner and manager Deborah Pearson-Moyers takes a horse-centric approach and encourages her riders to learn to observe and honor what each horse is telling them.
Horses are looking for leadership and guidance, and will follow directions if you communicate properly. Campers learn how to approach a horse, halter and lead them so they’re not frightened. As they are herd animals and thrive in a social setting, Deborah doesn’t believe in keeping horses in stalls; they are only in the barn during inclement weather.
Blue Skies also takes a more natural approach to riding lessons. All students learn to ride bareback first. It’s a slower method, but it teaches the students balance and how to move with the horse without relying on the saddle and stirrups. In the long run, this noncompetitive approach creates a lifelong love for the sport of horseback riding.
Deborah started giving lessons in 1996. She moved to North Carolina when her husband surprised her with a house purchase near an old friend from England. (He is English, and they met when she was doing graduate studies there.) They named the property for the big blue skies that were between the sunrise and the sunsets they enjoyed.
The first horse was eventually joined by boarding horses and ones purchased for the family. The horses used in lessons and camp are carefully selected for their soft eye and sweet disposition. With four children of her own, she has had a lot of experience choosing the best horses for kids.
A typical day at camp
All riding is done in the morning when it’s cooler. Campers are put into three groups based on levels and participate in three daily riding clinics. They build up their skills and experience by learning all the gaits, playing mounted games, and a taking a trail ride on Friday.
Team-building exercises boost self-confidence and help the campers make new friends as well as learn about inclusion and creative problem solving. They also learn the horses’ names and talk about the different breeds.
Besides riding lessons, they may do a little horseback yoga. Some days there is a guest speaker such as an equine mobile veterinarian or a farrier (the specialist who takes care of feet and horseshoes).
Art time inside is a welcome respite from the heat. Deborah's background in studying art and color therapy helps the campers learn that they are all artists. They learn to really "see" the horse and to draw them from the inside out.
Finally, there is swimming in the pool to end the fun day!
Who comes to camp?
Horse camp is for anyone aged 7-17. There are five weekly sessions that run from 8:30 to 3:00.
Many campers return year after year and they always welcome new riders and those from other barns. While horseback riding tends to be more popular with girls, there are always a few boys, so please do not be afraid to send your boys to camp!
Women’s Intuitive Riding
Blue Skies also has opportunities for adults. Working with grown-ups is a bit different from kids, as they are more interested in the why of things.
Originally inspired by the book, The Tao of Equus, the women's riding program is a semester-long course meets one morning a week. There are four different groups from Monday through Wednesday, with Thursday reserved for women new to Blue Skies. Each member sets her personal goals for the class and Deborah and the horses help achieve them. The women ride every week and also develop deeply healing relationships with the horses and each other. Deborah’s background in counseling and psychology as well as her over twenty years of teaching horsemanship and riding helps her provide the women with a safe and fun environment of trust and development.
Because Deborah came from a modest background and could not afford riding lessons as a kid, she tries to dole out as much financial aid as possible. Last year Blue Skies awarded twenty partial scholarships. This helps the program to be one of the most ethnically diverse horse camps in the area.
Holiday with Horses, the largest fundraising event takes place over Thanksgiving weekend. Family riding sessions finish with treats and hot cider; it’s a great opportunity to get your family out of the house for some bonding time!
What should parents know about the camp?
Deborah makes safety for the campers, the counselors and the horses her first priority (this comes from being a mom first). Every morning is spent at the barn and the afternoons are spent in Deborah’s home, so the camp is very personal and family-oriented, making children feel comfortable quickly. Be aware that you’ll hear a lot of horse talk at the dinner table each evening after camp!
How to register
Download the registration form from the website, sign the waver, and apply early! Camps do fill up.