Growing up from the little girl who wanted a pony, Samantha Word, owner and trainer at Riding-N-Style, has taken her childhood dream and transformed it into belt buckles, trophies, saddles, a four-year equine degree and now a Hot Springs horse riding instruction business.
“I was like a lot of other little girls who just wanted a pony. My parents actually did get me one. That was kind of the turning point. I had this terribly mean pony. She tried to run me under every tree branch, lie down in every ditch and she really did try to get me off of her. I was just stubborn and just stuck. I loved her so much. I wanted to ride this thing,” Word said.
Word got Queeny, a black and white Shetland pony, when she was about 8 to 9 years old, but only stayed with the family for one year until her parents got rid of it. After a few years’ hiatus, her parents got Word her first “big” horse when she was 12. Her passion for horse riding led to horse shows, several awards and a four-year degree in equine from Virginia Intermont College in Bristol, Va.
Competing against approximately 139 other girls and one boy for a slot on Virginia Intermont College’s equitation team, Word landed one of the eight slots on the team.
“We showed against Purdue. I remember that being one of my favorite wins personally because I heard such good things about their college. I showed against Duke, where they put all their emphasis in basketball. I showed against Notre Dame, where they do football. It was a really competitive region with some named colleges, but their just known for their other sports. Virginia Intermont was known for their equine program,” Word said.
The Mississippi horse rider came to Hot Springs approximately eight years ago and started her business, Riding-N-Style, at 149 Grey Fox Lane. Her daughters have joined her in the love for horse riding and showing, taking home several buckles, ribbons, trophies and saddles. Word continues to show horses, but enters them as unjudged.
“The only time I horse show now is I’ll go in unjudged so that I don’t take away ribbons from any kids who are up and coming. I’ll school a green horse that is getting ready for students because we need more coming from new students, riders and disciplines,” Word said.
With 25 years of horse riding instruction under her saddle, Word teaches students from 6 year olds to adults. Students can either learn western or English horse riding. Western events include barrel racing, timed events, horsemanship and western pleasure. English, Word’s favorite to teach, includes dressage, hunter jumpers and equitation.
“Equitation, we’ll take that as an example, parents don’t have to go out and buy the most expensive horse. They can just buy them a safe mount that we can practice and you are being judged on your time, energy and effort, your posture, poise and how well you can ride. So if the judge says jump this jump, halt, back up three steps, pick up a sitting trot then they can go do it. Not only do they have to maintain a certain amount of form, but they also have to be able to ride well,” Word said.
With being an expensive and time consuming sport, those who have not yet decided if horse riding is their thing can utilize boots, helmets and horses Riding-N-Style provides. It is recommended that those who get really involved and want to pursue horse showing to purchase their own horse.
Earlier this year, Word’s students swept away the Grand Champion ribbons at the Arkansas Hunter Jumper Association Spring Show in each category. Whereas other equestrian schools had roughly five to six competitors in each category, Riding-N-Style had one competitor per event, each winning their category. Riders were Word’s daughter Bailey Shive, Tiffany Lloyd, Jordan Gallimore and Caroline Cox.
Word says for children who don’t make the cut in organized school sports, horse riding might be their calling. She also strives to teach people who have fallen off of horses that they can ride safely.
“I always tell my kids that come to horse camp that I fell off nine times in one week and there are only seven days in a week. So sometimes I hit the dirt twice in the same day just from being silly and not paying attention very well to my horse,” Word said. “So it is normal if they come and they’ve had experiences where they have fallen off, but I’m going to teach them how not to. That’s the goal … to stay left leg on the left side and right leg on the right side and we work out everything else between.”