A little girl looks up at her horse. The big chestnut towers over her, but she isn’t afraid. Slipping her foot into the stirrup, she hoists herself up into the saddle in one fluid motion. The horse twitches his soft ears forward and waits for the first command. A year ago, this girl wouldn’t have even approached an animal so big, let alone ask it to move for her. Now, she’s as confident on horseback as she is on the ground, all thanks to her time at JHK Equestrian Country Club.
JHK is a family-run business bringing the world of horsemanship to the Rio Grande Valley. Established in 2002, it provides an array of horse-related programs to beginners and advanced riders alike. The facility sits on a green expanse complete with big white barn and friendly stable pets. Inside the barn live JHK’s certified lesson horses who, in addition to being extremely safe, have fabulous names like Kwanzaa, S’mores, and Mariachi.
JHK was founded by Jami Ricks, a lifelong rider with over 35 years of experience and numerous national show championships under her belt. She and her daughter Nacole, herself a winner of numerous championships and scholarships, operate the business together. The Ricks run a tight ship at JHK: the stables are clean, the horses are healthy, and the safety rules are strictly observed. “We take the safety of our clients and horses very seriously,” says Nacole.
The Ricks family started JHK with a simple mission in mind: to engage their community in the world of horseback riding. “It doesn’t matter if you ride as a hobby or for your career,” Nacole explains. “Horseback riding teaches people so many critical life skills.” At JHK, riders develop discipline, respect, and responsibility. They learn to tune in to the animals so they can ride with precision. They learn to take responsibility for their horses – no one leaves a JHK lesson until the horse is properly unsaddled, watered, and fed, and all the equipment has been put neatly away. And they learn to have confidence. In Nacole’s words, “knowing you can control a 1,000-pound-plus animal gives you confidence in other areas of life.” Judging from the loyalty of JHK’s students – some have been there for almost seven years – horseback riding is bringing something special into their lives.
Countless individuals have blossomed at JHK, and the Ricks wanted to offer that experience to even more people. That’s why JHK has recently expanded its list of services to include birthday parties, team-building events, summer camps, family rides, and more. People from all over the Valley are enjoying the new programs. Recently, CAMP University, a non-profit organization serving young adults with special needs, brought some students out for an afternoon with the horses. “Seeing those students light up around the animals was one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever seen,” Nacole smiles. Children love JHK’s “paint the pony” parties where they can gently press a handprint of washable paint onto the white-coated Kwanzaa. And UTPA’s women’s basketball team had a blast at the pre-season team building workshop they held at JHK.
Many of these programs are surprisingly affordable. Moms n’ Tots, a class where parents can bring their youngsters to interact with the horses, is only $10 per session. JHK also offers a half-off discount on riding programs to people who come to volunteer with them. Furthermore, the club has a history of donating lessons to community and non-profit organizations. “Experiencing horses shouldn’t just be limited to those who can afford more,” says Nacole.
Young and old, beginner or advanced, aspiring professional or casual hobbyist – JHK Equestrian Country Club has something for the horse lover in everyone. And who among us hasn’t daydreamed at least once about flying across the grassy plains on our trusted pony? Make the dream come true – throw on your boots and head over to JHK.