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Kendall equestrian center draws rave reviews from young riders

Morgan Orasco 10 rides her horse gives her horse hug Ellis House Equestrian Center far southeastern Kendall County. | Phocourtesy

Morgan Orasco, 10 rides her horse gives her horse a hug at the Ellis House and Equestrian Center in far southeastern Kendall County. | Photo courtesy of Regina Orasco.

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Updated: October 1, 2012 12:38PM

Psychologists have theories about the whys of it, but whatever the reason, there is just something about horseback riding that is especially appealing to a girl.

Morgan Orasco, 10, says it’s because riding a horse makes her feel more “one with nature.” Petite and confident Gracie Moore, 9, likes cantering and barrel racing. Rebecca Wolf, 10, likes everything about riding.

One thing they all agree on — the Ellis House & Equestrian Center in far southeastern Kendall County is a great place to learn all about horses.

Located on 40 acres of woods and open land just north of Route 52 at 13986 McKanna Road, Minooka, the Center is adjacent to the Baker Woods Forest Preserve and is operated by the Kendall County Forest Preserve District.

Kelly Porto, the Center’s riding instructor, said her goal with her students is to teach them “backyard horsemanship.”

“I want them to be able to get on anything and be safe,” she said. “I want them to be able to ride on English or western saddles or bareback.”

Porto said the Center takes students ages 7 and up. Classes are offered Monday through Saturday, and most are private, half-hour lessons. Students can opt to schedule classes one at a time, or sign up for five-week sessions. Kendall County residents get a discount.

“Our classes are pretty much tailored to individuals,” Porto explained. “A student can call up, and if we have time available, they can come on over for a class. We start them in with grooming and saddling the horses before the lessons, if the student is tall enough.

“If, after they learn how to handle the horse well, they want to move on to other things, like showing horses or jumping them, we’ll help them find other stables that offer those kinds of things.”

The center has seven horses, including a quarter horse, a Morgan, two pintos, a large gray, and even a miniature horse. Morgan Orasco says that’s one of the reasons she is really enjoying her lessons at the Ellis Center, even though she has her own Pacifino horse at home.

“I wanted to ride different horses besides my own,” she said. “I especially wanted to ride a Paint color.”

A Will County resident who takes two lessons a week, Morgan first went to the center when her mother scheduled her birthday there. She says she thinks the Ellis Center is a great place to begin riding because Kelly doesn’t yell at students if they do something wrong.

“She laughs,” Morgan said. “She doesn’t pressure you.”

Her mom, Regina, adds, “Kelly’s awesome! Kelly pushes them, but she still makes it fun.”

Gracie, who also lives in Will County, also found out about the center by attending a birthday party there. She had ridden at two other stables, but her mom, Jaimie, said they were really impressed with the Ellis Center and the people working there.

“She’s doing great under Kelly,” Jaimie said. “She entered her first competition this summer, and she won two ribbons. This is the best stable we’ve been at yet.”

Rebecca, an Oswego resident, first came to the center for one of the Family Fun Nights. Held the first Friday of every month from 4 to 7 p.m., Fun Nights include hand-led pony rides, hayrack rides, bag games and crafts, bonfires, and food from concession stands.

“She just loved it,” her mother, Mary, said. “We signed her up for one of the summer horse camps. She’s been at three different stables, starting when she was 5, and each stable had good points and bad points. But we’ll stay here for a while. I like that she’s the only student in a class and she gets hands-on experience with the horses.”

“It’s really nice here,” Rebecca said. “Small; not overwhelming. The first lesson we did, I learned how to do spirals, moving the horse with my legs instead of with reins. It’s a nice place to start out, to learn how to control your horse. I think I’m getting to be a better rider.”

Event coordinator Tina Villarreal said birthday parties, where kids get to spend two hours grooming and spending time with the horses, are one of the most popular ways for the center to recruit new students. In addition to birthday parties, summer camps and Family Fun Nights, the center also holds special events, such as the Renaissance of the Horse that will have other local stables showing off their riding specialties from noon to 4 p.m. on Oct. 1, and a Murder Mystery scheduled for 6 p.m. on Oct. 29.

The Ellis House also can be rented for weddings and other private affairs. For more information, contact Villarreal at 815-475-4035.

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