A place where equestrian dreams come true
Story by Judi Martha Collins, photography by Sheryl Redmon
“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a person.”
-- Shasta Charles, Diamond K Stables
It’s early Saturday morning, and dew still sparkles in the grass as shafts of sunlight break through the trees at Diamond K Stables on Wesley Chapel Road in Putnam County. Students from the stables’ rider training program stride across pastures where geldings and mares graze and a 1-month-old filly frolics in the morning light. Her name is Visionaries Embrace, and she carries the champion bloodline of one of the rarest horse breeds on earth — the Cleveland Bay. The horses nicker greetings, anticipating that the students bring tasty treats and the promise of a brush down and a bath. Visionaries Embrace presses close to her dam as halters are buckled on and the horses are led down a gravel lane that travels over the hill, past grassy meadows, riding trails, the training ring and to a barn.
Today is “barn day” at Diamond K Stables. Students are here to learn how to clean and maintain horse tack, tidy up the barn, and practice horse maintenance tasks. Student Jett Linsey fills a manure spreader with stall muck to be recycled as pasture fertilizer while Avery Harrison shovels fresh shavings into newly cleaned stalls. Sophia Kline, Ninel Malaukova and Kaeley Clifton clean and oil bridles, halters and saddles and inspect for wear and tear. Still others wash horses, clean hooves, and check for any symptoms of skin or hoof problems. Next time, the tasks will rotate so everyone learns everything. Hours spent in morning barn day training are exchanged for free afternoon riding time — it’s all part of a 12-level equitation training program designed to teach riders how to make their equestrian dreams come true.
The letter “K” in Diamond K Stables is short for “Kiera.” Established in 2013, the 115-acre, award-winning equestrian center is the brainchild of Lawrence and Diana Richard whose young granddaughter, Kiera, wanted a horse. Now nine years later in a December 2022 interview, Kiera smiles and recalls the memory, “From the beginning, I dreamed of riding trails, jumping fences and competing in equestrian events. That went way beyond what my grandparents knew about horseback riding! But when their search for a local English equitation and jumper coach proved fruitless, one thing led to another. They bought a farm, hired a full-time stable manager/riding coach, and made a commitment to bring to Georgia’s Lake Country a comprehensive equitation training program. And they started a now internationally recognized breeding program for the rare Cleveland Bay horse.
“My dreams have come full circle. I learned to ride, grew up, and advanced to win many championships. Now, I aspire to continue to train, compete and reach even higher levels.” But more than that, Kiera and her family also aspire to help other horse lovers pursue their own dreams. “Our training program is run by Shasta Charles, Diamond K’s farm manager and head coach,” Kiera notes. “Some riders board their own horses here and pleasure ride or train to become advanced equestrian dressage and hunter/jumpers skilled in equitation. Others who don’t own a horse can ride one of Diamond K’s and learn basic and advanced riding skills.”
Sailing over fences
More than 100 riders — children as young as 4, adults as old as 81, and many ages in between — currently train under the sure hand of head coach Shasta Charles and four other skilled equestrian coaches. The progressive training program moves riders through beginner, novice, intermediate and advanced levels. Widely recognized as one of Georgia’s leading equitation coaches, Charles also coaches the award-winning Lake Oconee Academy Interscholastic Equestrian Team and the Georgia College Equestrian Team.
Charles explains that although Diamond K has a coach who teaches western style riding, the program specializes in English equitation and jumpers dedicated to becoming equestrians. “Our goal is to teach all riders the correct form and function for riding as well as knowledge needed for future equestrian endeavors,” she says. “That also requires learning basic ‘horse psychology’ and how to ‘bond’ with a horse; how to properly feed, groom and care for the animal and the tack; insight into potential health issues and how to spot early symptoms of problems needing medical care. Basically, we begin with the parts of a horse’s anatomy and build from there. Competitive rider or not, our goal is to teach anyone at any level who wants to learn how to care for and properly ride a horse.
“Some riders specialize in dressage and progress from beginners to become finished ‘on the flat’ [no jumps] competitive riders. Some compete in hunter or jumper events and sail over fences astride 1,000+ pound bundles of horse flesh! In ‘equitation,’ the rider is judged to ride correctly and in balance with the horse. In ‘hunter,’ the horse is judged on its ‘way of going’ — style, pace, movement, manner. In ‘jumper,’ performance of the ‘jumps up/knock downs’ is being scored.”
Nurturing the future
Gabrielle Gordon, president of CBSNA, notes Diamond K Stables’ important lynchpin role in helping save the rare Cleveland Bay horse breed from extinction, “According to the Cleveland Bay Horse UK 2022 Census registry, Bayfield Bodhi is one of only 24 licensed purebred Cleveland Bay stallions known to be alive in the U.S. today.”
It is estimated that less than 1,200 purebred Cleveland Bay horses exist worldwide. Charles confirms the contributions Diamond K Stables makes with their award-winning breeding program, “Bodhi has recently sired four yearlings, each qualifiers for championships in their own right. Bodhi currently holds the distinction of producing the most young yearlings sired by a single stallion to qualify for championships in the United States.”
Training, breeding and boarding are Diamond K’s primary programs. Other activities include trail rides, children’s camps, parties and special events. Diamond K Stables welcomes all horse lovers.
For more information, call 706-473-2452 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Published in the January-February 2023 issue of Lakelife magazine.