2008 - Winter Issue - The Instructor
By Hillary Benjamin
On a typical day at Life Adventure Center of the Bluegrass (LAC), you might see the smiling faces of children learning how to canter in the indoor arena, or a group of teens tackling a challenge on the ropes course. Wherever you are on the farm, you see lush pastures and fields and know you are in the heart of horse country.
LAC is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing a wide array of services for youth and their families. Located on a 575-acre farm in scenic Versailles, KY, LAC embraces the philosophy that individuals learn best by doing. By offering a variety of programs based on experiential education, LAC helps participants learn lifelong skills such as respect, responsibility, teamwork and communication.
LAC has a rich history in Versailles, KY. Founded in 1869 by John Cleveland as an orphanage for young girls, the downtown property, then known as The Cleveland Home, later shifted into a residential facility for adolescent females. In 2005, the facility closed and operations resumed at a new location - a former livestock and tobacco farm in Woodford County, KY donated by Judge Field McLeod. This decision was made by the Board of Trustees, driven by the desire to serve the local community by redirecting resources to prevention services and expansion of youth programs. In 2006, the name was changed to Life Adventure Center of the Bluegrass to more accurately reflect the activities and programs taking place at the farm and regional schools.
Life Adventure Center of the Bluegrass offers a unique equine experience to youth and adults in the region. In an area where many farms focus on boarding, horse sales and competition; LAC encourages participants to build lasting relationships with horses and learn all aspects of horse care. In addition to giving hunt seat riding lessons, LAC’s qualified staff teaches students vocational skills such as grooming, anatomy, bandaging and taking equine vital signs. Much of the curriculum is based on CHA manuals, which help students gain both a visual and hands-on understanding of horse care. LAC also believes in the CHA principle of “safety first” in all farm activities. Students learn from their first day on the property how to handle and work with horses in a safe and respectful manner.
During the school year, LAC has youth riding programs for both public school and home school students. Participants learn about horse care and hunt seat riding in a supportive and educational environment. In addition to teaching riding skills, the equine staff use horses as tools to teach important life skills and promote positive character traits. Students also reflect on their daily activities through journal writing, relating what they have learned with the horses to their real-life situations.
LAC has a 12-stall barn, converted from an old tobacco barn, a small cross-country course, and large indoor and outdoor arenas so that lessons can continue in all types of weather. LAC’s horses, the foundation of the equine program, are accepted as donations or free leases, and come from a variety of backgrounds. They have had previous careers such as racehorses, eventers, show hunters, and western pleasure mounts.
During the summer months, LAC offers children a chance to spend their whole day with horses. The co-educational Summer Equine Camp is designed to give kids the opportunity to make friends and learn about horses in a positive, fun and educational atmosphere. Camp activities include horseback riding instruction, equine vocational training, character education, equine field trips, crafts, journal writing and horse games. On field trips, campers tour equine facilities such as the Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center, Three Chimneys Thoroughbred Farm and the Keeneland Racetrack.
For adult women who have a passion for horses, LAC’s Women’s Riding Program offers a chance to fulfill the lifelong dream of learning to ride. The program includes preparing the horses for riding, learning to communicate and build trust with the horses through natural horsemanship groundwork and riding in a group lesson. Many women with no prior equine experience feel transformed after their first foray into the world of horses. The program offers women the opportunity to reconnect with themselves, to gain personally meaningful experiences and to build camaraderie with other women who love horses. The effect that working with animals, and connecting with horses in particular, has on people can be profound.
In addition to its equine programs, LAC has a state-of-the-art high and low Challenge Course, where groups come out to play while learning about communication, teamwork, and personal challenge. If a group cannot make it out to the farm, LAC brings the low course to them. The Mobile Unit travels to schools in the surrounding counties and teaches children character skills through purposeful play. LAC’s miniature horse Amigo travels with the Mobile Unit and helps students with disabilities build confidence and self–esteem while learning how to lead and groom him.
Whether you come out to tackle the 40 foot climbing wall, learn how to take a horse’s pulse, or ride a flying lead change, you can be sure you will leave Life Adventure Center with a smile on your face, knowing you have had a positive, life-changing experience.