Thick bristles smooth a dusty brown coat as Mazey, an 18-year-old Appaloosa/Quarter Horse cross mare, enjoys a thorough brushing from 11-year-old Becca Kurtz.
Kurtz, of Watsontown, ducks under a crosstie and grabs a metal hoof pick, gently coaxing Mazey to raise each of her hooves one at a time for cleaning. Finally, it is time for the saddle pad, saddle and bridle.
“Grooming is one of the best things for a new student,” said Amy Spencer, of rural Dewart. “They get to get in there, hands on, and learn to be comfortable and confident around their horse and learn how to safely start sharing space. Not only do they start to relax, but the horse does as well! I think it helps build the confidence in the rider more and more as they learn to be more efficient and sure of themselves from getting their horse’s coat clean to becoming comfortable and sometimes strong enough to pick up the horse’s feet and clean them all on their own.
“It’s not a quick or easy job if done properly, but I feel it’s such an injustice to skip or skim the rider through.”
Spencer has been giving horseback riding lessons since she was a junior at Warrior Run High School. She credits her mother for sparking her passion for everything equine.
“Mom always had horses. She’d throw us on a pony and we’d go on trail rides through the Muncy hills on dirt roads,” Spencer said. “We didn’t have a trailer back then, so we’d go as far as we could in a day so we could be back by dark.”
Horses became more than a hobby as Spencer started giving lessons. Fifteen years later, and she is still making a living by following her dreams.
“I wanted to be a vet, but took a year off after high school and never went back to classes,” she said. “For me, it wasn’t a bad thing. I am very fortunate to get to do what I love every day. It is more than a job — it is a lifestyle. At times it’s like I’m married to the barn.”
The process hasn’t been easy for Spencer.
“When I first stepped out on my own, it was a little trying at times,” she said with a laugh. Spencer admits it took a lot of side jobs to make ends meet.
“I was fortunate to be able to help out Mom and Dad,” she said. “I also spent a lot of time in my brother’s shop. I cleaned — and I really don’t like cleaning.”
Over time, Spencer was able to amplify her interest in horses through getting more involved in shows — specifically through jumping and dressage classes. She enjoys sharing her experiences with new riders.
“One of the coolest things has been seeing some of my students get through high school and then graduate college while enjoying time with horses. It is pretty exciting to see,” she said. “Seeing some of my students get involved in showing and do well is also very cool.”
Spencer admits, though, that she has plenty of help during lessons from her four-legged friends.
“The horses just seem like they know and can read the rider. Sometimes with fearful riders, the horses seem to sense that and act extra cautious and gentle,” Spencer said. “Then the same horse may get a more confident rider that needs more of a push, and the horse delivers. There is some weird, quick bond that just opens up a unique relationship between horse and rider.”
Spencer, who has given regular lessons to students as young as 3 years old and those up into their 60s, stresses the importance of continued improvement with riders.
“When they are in shows, the goal is to do something a little better than the last time out,” she said. “If they get a ribbon, then that’s just a bonus.”
As Spencer attempts to build her business on a farm her parents bought just a few years ago — now called Spencer’s Farm & Feed — she continues to dream big moving forward.
“I’d like to continue helping others learn the ins and outs of dressage and jumping and I’d like to see some of my horses continue through the levels. An indoor arena here at home would be nice, too,” she said.
“The real problem is time. There never is enough time in a day to get everything done that I’d like to do.”
For now, Spencer focuses her energy where it matters most — helping young riders like Becca better understand the world of horses.
“I haven’t had a whole lot of lessons with Amy, but I really like the ones I’ve had,” Becca said. “I’ve wanted a horse of my own for a while now. She is really helping me understand what all it takes to own a horse — something other instructors haven’t taught me.”
For Spencer, it all comes down to being a responsible horse handler.
“I’m big on my students learning how to do as much as possible for themselves,” she said. “Some day they may be blessed to have a horse and I may not be there to help them. The more they learn to take the responsibility of their horse — and remember that their horse simply can’t do some of this stuff for themselves and they are depending on us — the better!”
To find out more about Spencer, the lessons she offers and upcoming summer riding camps that will be available at her farm, connect with her on her Facebook page by clicking here.