Ruth Hogan-Poulsen’s core business is riding, teaching and training. With husband Bo Poulsen, she owns and operates the 150-acre East Hill Farm in Vermont, which is home to 40 horses. During the winter about a dozen of the horses travel with Ruth to Florida.
East Hill Farm has been in Ruth’s family since she was a child. Established in 1975, it is one of the oldest equestrian facilities in Vermont. Ruth and Bo bought the farm from her parents and their partners several years ago and run the boarding facility with two full-time staff members and a group of working students. The clientele is primarily youngsters and adult amateurs with mounts that run the gamut from Appaloosas to Warmbloods.
“It’s very much focused on dressage, but we also teach jumping,” Ruth details. “We pride ourselves on quality horsemanship. Everybody who comes here for lessons learns how to groom, tack up, clean tack – it’s good horsemanship that starts at the bottom because that’s where the sport begins.”
Meghan Maurice and Melissa MacLaren are full-time barn managers. Meghan also teaches and Melissa is Ruth’s assistant. Both women are in their 20s and have been riding with Ruth since they were eight years old. “All the kids that grew up riding here want to start working right out of high school, but my requirement is that they have to go away to college and graduate,” Ruth says. “They have to really make sure they know what they want to do.”
In her training program, Ruth creates a plan for each horse and rider. “The health and welfare, both physically and mentally, of my horses and riders, is very important,” Ruth notes. “I think it’s why I have clients who have been clients for more than a decade.” There are 40 horses on the farm, but Ruth actually only takes six in training; the others are school horses, boarders, or her mother’s. “I don’t like to have so many that each person and each horse can’t get what they want out of it,” Ruth explains. “They may want my girls to ride their youngsters, which is a less expensive rate, or they may want me to compete their FEI horse. I try to be flexible depending on what my riders, my clients, and their horses need to develop into what the owner’s goal is.”
Ruth has attracted her share of difficult horses for rehabilitation. “I like to understand the horses – why they are the way they are, why they behave the way they do, history or not on what happened to them before,” Ruth explains. “I have a good way of helping horses find what they need to do. I appreciate what difficult horses can teach you as a rider and as a person.” Some of Ruth’s musical work developed out of an extremely difficult horse named Soule Believer. She used music to help the gelding get through some of his anxiety and in 2001 showed him at Grand Prix in Florida. Ruth was featured in a PBS documentary titled Horse and Rider, which aired on the Nature Channel in the fall of 2002. Soule Believer’s name inspired her clinic and CD program title – Riding with Soul.
Ruth also travels across the U.S. to teach both regular dressage riding and musical clinics.
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