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June 2022- Danielle Ray, Landmark correspondent

PRINCETON — Cornerstone Ranch was a flurry of equestrian activity during a three-day horseback riding clinic last month instructed by Ron McLoughlin of the Classical Stock Seat School of Arizona.

“We love hosting clinics, because in this area it is hard to find riders who ride classical stock seat or know of any of the Foreman methods, so we love to spread our knowledge and hope to reach more of the horse community over years to come,” said Julia Connell, who teaches horseback riding lessons, organizes and leads trail rides, and works at the Dowds Lane ranch her mother Susan Connell owns.

a person riding a horse drawn carriage

McLoughlin, who flies all the way to Massachusetts from Arizona for the annual clinic, has been hosted at the ranch for eight years. Susan Connell grew up riding under the same methods with Monte Foreman, and even knew McLoughlin as a young girl.

“In 2010 we discovered Ron was doing clinics at a facility in New Hampshire, so we went there several times to ride, then started having Ron come to Princeton for clinics,” Julia Connell said.

This year they had 14 riders in the clinic, which was held May 13 through 15. Participants ride for about six hours a day, and when they are not riding McLoughlin holds classrooms in which they “discuss the importance of good and correct equipment, care of equipment, the methods we use and why we use them, what ‘classical riding’ means, and the importance of balance and the correct seat,” Julia Connell said.

Her mother said they hold the yearly clinic “as part of our commitment to being good riders and horse people.”

Riding Instruction at the Ranch

“As part of the learning and bonding routine, we typically go out to eat on Friday night, which is the first day of the clinic, and Saturday is a potluck dinner at the ranch,” Susan Connell said.

For Friday night’s outing, they decided to travel via horse and wagon for dinner and drinks at Lilac Hedge Farm in neighboring Rutland. Three wagons and three teams of horses brought everyone to the popular local brewery and restaurant.

“With the high price of gas and in celebration of our great Earth, we can do something very energy conscious,” Susan Connell said of the inspiration behind the mode of  transportation.

Driving a pair of Percheron horses

“It was a super fun time taking everyone out to dinner and ice cream in the wagons, and the clinic was so good for everyone,” she said. “The participation by students and employees over the three days was a complete success, and by Sunday, the last day of the clinic, I could feel all around me just how the time spent together had brought all the riders closer to one another and to the horses. It was the ultimate team-building, and the horses benefitted to boot.” 

Horseback Riding Clinic

For Julia Connell, being a part of McLoughlin’s clinics is something she is no stranger to, having traveled to Arizona herself several times to study with him.

“She loves the clinics,” her mother said. “I am always delighted to see Julia so inspired by Ron and his teachings after she spends time getting instruction and direction.”

Julia Connell said they “always have a range of riders” who participate in the clinics the ranch hosts.

“Some riders are beginner level while some are far more advanced,” she said. “Every year we have a lot of our consistent students and wranglers but also welcome newcomers to learn the systems we use and learn about how we can better our riding skills to improve our horses’ quality of life.”

She went on to say that this year they “had spectators come all the way from Connecticut, because they too feel it is hard to find the use of these methods in the New England area.”

“We focus less on competition, and always put the horse first.”

Besides private and group horseback riding lessons for all levels, Cornerstone offers year-round horse-drawn ranch tours, guided trail rides, ice cream during the warmer months, and sleigh rides with hot chocolate and s’mores in the winter season, workshops, birthday parties, group outings and more.

“We are looking forward to putting everything we learned and discussed throughout the clinic into action,” Julia Connell said. “We are very busy in our lesson program, and look forward to our upcoming summer programs and full day workshops for kids and adults. We will also have live music starting soon on Saturday evenings under our newly built pavilion. We’re looking forward to lots of fun and good memories made at Cornerstone this summer.”

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