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Zahra nurtures equestrian skills in area youth

WARRENSBURG Up an unpaved road off River St., the large red barn labeled Kit N Kin marks the end of ones journey. Entering the building, it is apparent the day-to-day activities of this horse ranch are underway: teenagers are sweeping the floors and winding hoses, horses are being brushed, while others are tossing a Frisbee on a nearby lawn. Amy Zahra, daughter of ranch founders Austin and Kathryn Perry, is preparing for her second horse camp, which begins next week. The training camp is in addition to the individual riding-and-care instructional program which Zahra teaches on a regular basis. Her students range in age from five years of age to adulthood. However, the horse camp is geared towards younger riders. Zahras love of horses was instilled at the early age of four, she said, noting that her parents bought this place in 1960 and she and her husband Louis took it over in 1990. Her goals in teaching equestrian skills vary student by student, she said. Some want to overcome a fear, while others have aspirations of participating in shows with us, she said. Once the students have reached the necessary competency, they are encouraged to take part in any number of events at local horse competitions. The horse camp is a week-long day camp that takes a holistic approach to instruction, she said. I had some students that didnt even know how to lead a horse when we started with them, and others are more advanced. We try to cover everything starting with basic maintenance and care. The love of horses and horseback riding is ever-present here. We basically have an open door policy for our students. Zahra said. They are free to come visit the stables anytime they want during daylight hours. Zahra said that many of her students end up becoming owners of horses themselves. At the Kit N Kin, horse culture is not simply a hobby, it is a lifestyle, she said. A conversation with one of her students underscored the point. Either I am here with my horse, or I am at home thinking about what I can do with my horse, said Chelsea Gundel, 14, of Warrensburg. Gundel began training with Zahra four years ago as a novice. She now owns her own horse, which is housed on premises along with 44 others. Chelsea also works as a counselor during the horse camp. Horses have pretty much become my life, she said. Meghan OCarroll, 15, of Lake George has also been training with Zahra for four years. Her time at the Kit N Kin is a pivotal influence on her future. Ive learned basically everything about horses here I didnt know how to lead a horse when I started, she said.I am very interested in working with horses as a career. Zahra downplayed her impact on the lives of the youths she trains. We are giving them something to do hopefully we can keep them off the streets and from causing trouble, she said. I grew up with horses this is what I do. Zahras modesty is countered by not only the young riders, but their parents as well. Florence Converses 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, has been training with Zahra for six years. She gives these kids confidence, Converse said, Amy takes her own time on weekends to take these kids to shows not a lot of people would give up their time that freely.

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