ISABEL — Tia Gilleece has been riding a horse before she could walk. With Bit & Spur Training, she has recently taken her lifetime of knowledge as a horsewoman and started a place where she can teach others what she has learned about riding and life.
"Bit & Spur offers an array of services such as speed events, roping, reining, horsemanship, working on balancing along with posture. Basics of riding to more advanced," Gilleece said. "One thing I like to do with older kids is to take them to move cattle. It's a skill that honestly helps boost their confidence and an experience they can say they have."
Gilleece’s training facility is located about 5 miles northeast of Isabel. She said none of this would be possible without a generous donation of land by Vernon and Donna Hirt of Sawyer. These lessons are put on display at "fun shows," which Gilleece said started a few months ago. The third and final show is this Saturday, Oct. 24. She said she plans to start up with the fun shows again next spring, when the days lengthen and the weather is more cooperative
"My favorite part, well parts, is watching my students become better riders, grow in confidence and achieve goals they have set. It's honestly hard to pick a favorite," Gilleece said. "I love watching all my riders achieving milestones. They will tell you I sometimes get a little over-excited and may scare them with my enthusiasm. I can't help it."
Gilleece said the main focus of Bit & Spur Training is the riding lessons for students ages 2 to 71. She said each rider is different, which means they can have different goals. Lessons can be done individually or in groups.
Oakley Panek, of Cunningham, has been taking riding lessons from Bit & Spur Training. Oakley is 5 years old and her mother, Jamie Panek, said she had never been on a horse before Gilleece started training her.
"She has learned how to maneuver her horse and make him stop by herself. She has learned a lot more of the foundation of riding this fall than what I anticipated she would," Panek said.
Kyrian Keeling, a high school horse rider from Pratt, said she has made leaps and bounds she has made under the directions of Gilleece and other Bit & Spur trainers. She has learned how to saddle her horse, ride patterns, reigning, showmanship and bareback riding skills. That might not be the most important thing Keeling has learned, though.
"Just as important as the technical side of horse riding, the Bit and Spur family has given me a new found confidence in myself and a sense of pride in doing things I never imagined I could do," Keeling said. "They are so positive, patient and encouraging of me in every aspect of my riding but also in my day to day life as well."
Gilleece gets her knowledge from being born and raised on the back of a horse and attributes all of her knowledge to her mom and dad. Besides Bit & Spur Training, she is a stay-at-home mom and works for her dad and other ranchers.
For more information on Bit & Spur Training, check out its Facebook page.