Kathi Dancer and the Woodside Junior Riders
At 6 years old, Kathi Dancer and her younger sisters began riding with the Woodside Junior Rider (WJR) program at the Kiely Equestrian Center in Woodside. Years later, when her own children were old enough, Kathi’s children rode with the program too. In 1999, after more than 40 years of running Woodside Junior Riders humbly, quietly, and entirely by herself, Ursula Eisenhut decided it was time to pass the baton.
She asked Kathi to step up and take the reins of the WJR program, and step up Kathi did, at first sharing the load with Marty Raynor. For a few years, Marty orchestrated the children and their parents, and Kathi managed the horses and the facility. Then, about 12 years ago, Marty retired and Kathi shouldered the entire program on her own. That has meant procuring the horses every summer, registering the children, assembling and managing top-notch staff, working with the parents, buying all the feed and supplies, and maintaining the property (a huge job).
For Kathi Dancer, the Woodside Junior Riders program is a true labor of love and a way for her to grown the next generation of horse owners and preserve the rural equestrian heritage of the Town of Woodside.
A bit about Woodside Junior Riders
Woodside Junior Riders is the longest running children’s equestrian program on the San Francisco Peninsula. In this beloved summer program, children ages 6-16 learn to ride horses, and all about the care and responsibility involved with horsemanship. Registering 55 to 70 kids every summer, the program continues to be widely popular, and often can’t accommodate all the children who apply. WJR is able to remain affordable thanks in large part to volunteers. The children and their families pitch in to provide property maintenance and horse care. Additionally, mentorship is also a huge part of the program. The older children at WJR help the younger children with their daily horse care responsibilities. A critical part of the program, older participants in the program are assigned a horse and are responsible for its care. This means that the child is responsible for every aspect of his/her horse’s needs including feeding, grooming, mucking the stall and administering meds when needed. As Marty says, “We like to think of this as horse-ownership with training wheels on.”
And the program isn’t just good for the kids. Local and regional horse-owners have come to love the program too. Especially great for horse-owners who travel through the summer, the owner can lend his or her horse to the WJR program for the summer, and rest assured that their horses are well cared for and loved by the kids. Marty says its particularly gratifying to see the way the horses love the program too. “Some of the program horses recognize my trailer when I arrive to pick them up at the beginning of the summer”, says Marty. They will gallop over and practically load themselves on my trailer in their eagerness to get to the Kiely Equestrian Center. When they arrive on the property they just start whinnying with glee, and just melt in front of the kids.”
Running on a shoestring budget, the WJR program strives to keep tuition costs as low as possible which means that the program must also rely on donations from parents and the community.
A New Judging Stand for the Kiely Equestrian Center
When asked about the importance of the new judging stand constructed by J.B. Pellegrin, a recipient of one of the Woodside Community Foundation’s recent Community Grant Awards, Kathi said, “The old stand was falling apart and we simply didn’t have the funds to build a new one. Now the kids have a safe place to sit and watch the lessons during the summer program and we have a prominent place for our esteemed judges to preside over horse shows.”
Woodside Community Foundation President, Diane Talbert couldn’t have said it better, “Thank you Kathi for all your years of hard work making the Woodside Junior Riders Program something kids will remember for a lifetime.”
More information about the Woodside Junior Rider program or to make a donation.