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Putting you in the saddle

Goshen’s Over the Top Stables
helps new riders adjust to reins

Youth finds riding gives her newfound confidence

By Kathleen Adams
Contributing Writer


(August 2005) – When Steve Rucker’s youngest daughter approached him last year about taking riding lessons, he was somewhat surprised. That’s because when describing 13-year-old Deanna, a slender, bespectacled brunette, Rucker uses the term “China doll.”
“When she played basketball, she would give the other girls the basketball if they came up,” Steve said.

Deana Rucker

Photo provided

Deanna Rucker
training a horse for compitition.

So with no real expectations of how well Deanna would interact with horses, Rucker was astonished when eight months into a lesson program at Over the Top Stables in Goshen, Ky., Deanna was commanding 1,000-pound animals to walk, trot, canter and clear two-foot jumps.
A U.S. mail carrier, Rucker said watching Deanna develop her athletic skills through horses brings tears to his eyes.
“When she gets up on a horse, she feels powerful and taller. I can see that in her. I don’t know if she realizes it or not.”
Deanna, soft-spoken and shy-acting around strangers, listens to her father’s remarks. Every once in a while a nervous smile crosses the teen’s face. The North Oldham middle school student says she doesn’t remember what prompted her to sign-up for horseback riding lessons, but she does recall how she felt the first time atop an equine.
“I guess I was scared of falling off,” she said.
The teenager credits Traci Coates, owner of Over the Top Stables, with getting her to relax around the animals and overcome her fears.
“She helped me with every step,” Deanna Rucker said.
While Deanna is reluctant to tout her accomplishments, Steve Rucker isn’t. The Goshen resident says not long ago, he watched as Deanna readied her horse for a jump. With Deanna in jump position, the horse suddenly refused the jump. The teenager was unseated and fell to the ground.
“On the way home, she said, ‘You know dad, what surprised me about that fall was that it didn’t hurt a bit.’”
Steve Rucker believes the horses at Over the Top Stables are teaching Deanna “how to take a punch” while enhancing her self-esteem.
Coates, 35, understands the tremendous potential horses can unleash in their human counterparts. The Spencer County native started riding the animals at age 3. And up until two years ago, Coates actively competed in Three-Day Events which encompass dressage, cross-country and stadium jumping.
“I competed a lot,” Coates said.
A wall in Coates’ office testifies to that. It is adorned with photographs of the petite blond from various competitions.
After graduating from the University of Louisville in 1993, Coates was self-employed giving private riding lessons, as well as exercising, training and reselling horses. In 1995, she began leasing approximately 500-acres of land that contains three barns, paddocks, a dressage arena, round pen and outdoor arena along Hwy. 1694.
Forty-three stalls on the property are home to Coates’ seven lesson horses as well as boarders. Coates said boarders include every breed from Thoroughbred to Quarter to Arabian.
“With this business, you have to look at it as separate businesses,” Coates explained. “There is the boarding, the lesson programs and camps. I also do training and sales.”
Some 40 students, a mixture of children and adults are enrolled in Over the Top’s lesson programs said Coates.
And all students – young and old – learn how to groom and tack up their charges.
“It teaches them a lot about responsibility,” Coates said. “They’re (horses) not just a couch to set on. I want them to see a lot of work goes into it.”
Prior to beginning a lesson program, Coates assesses each client’s individual goals.
“I have people come to me and say, ‘We want to get our kids in lessons, or I, as an adult want to take lessons, but really all I want to do is just be comfortable and be able to go out on a trail ride.’ Some people are interested in horses, they start the lessons but they have no idea what they want to do and that’s fine.”
For 38-year-old Kim Dehler of Buckner, basic riding lessons led to the fulfillment of a life-long dream.
“I grew up wanting a horse,” said the Ohio native. “I was the little kid with 50 model horses.”
A week before the Kentucky Derby, Dehler consulted with Coates and purchased a 7-year-old Quarter Horse named Red.
“He definitely has brakes, and that’s good for me,” Dehler said of Red. “And he can lengthen his stride. My goal is not really to be competitive, but to be a better rider.”
Dehler added the day she and Coates went scouting for Red, they also looked over two other horses.
“The first horse was nixed for conformation reasons,” Dehler said. “Traci saw what I couldn’t see. The second, I couldn’t even get on. She knows my style of riding and found the horse that fits me. She’s knowledgeable. I couldn’t ask for a better instructor.”

• Call Over the Top Stables at (502) 228-5853.

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