Oak Hill Academy has a proud equestrian tradition, and we know that the benefits of horseback riding are limitless. Equestrian programs build confidence, promote emotional and physical strength, and improve responsibility and empathy among children, adolescents, and adults alike. And as with our academic program, it is our instructors that make our equestrian program so special. We are thrilled to welcome a new talent to our school—Fran Jones, our new Assistant to the Equestrian Program and Horsemanship teacher.
A lifetime of experience
Fran Jones has been around horses since she was 3 years old, and began professionally training them when she was 19. Her career started in Florida, where she trained Thoroughbreds for 14 years. She has experience in both English and Western disciplines. Within the English discipline, she trained flat hunters.
Her favorite discipline, however, is Western, where she practices gymkhana. Gymkhana includes equestrian events that revolve around speed and tactics, such as barrel racing and pole bending. She loves cutting and cow work, as well. She has also raised and trained Paint horses, where she would show them in halter classes.
Her passion for teaching
Of all the work she has done with horses, though, Fran’s biggest passion is working with students and horses.
“God gave me a gift with horses,” she said. “I have a passion of bringing kids and horses together. That’s why I’m here.”
Fran has always cherished the moments where she witnessed the strength of the bond between horses and people. During her time volunteering, she remembers a particular moment with a child who had difficulties swallowing and would not eat, but when the horses were around, she felt comfortable eating—and she also learned how to ride.
Another moment that stands out to Fran was when she worked with a child doing pole bending. She remembers telling her, “You have to dance with the horse.” Fran recalls how incredible it felt to watch such a young child communicate with such a large animal.
An ideal destination for horsemanship
Fran considers horses her life’s purpose, and she was drawn to Oak Hill Academy to help fulfill that purpose.
“There is no place like Oak Hill Academy,” Fran said regarding her first impression of Oak Hill. “I think that what Oak Hill is offering the children is something you can’t find anywhere else. The fact that Oak Hill has not only the academic curriculum, but also has the social curriculum, is amazing.”
At Oak Hill, Fran plans on starting a drill team with a flag routine. This team will start and improve within the horsemanship classes offered at Oak Hill. She plans on having each student participate regardless of experience, even if it means driving a cart or just walking. Each student will have their home state or country’s flag so they can honor their home while showcasing the community of Oak Hill.
Additionally, Fran plans on having students of all levels and disciplines participating in competitive shows. To accomplish this, beginning the first semester of the Fall 2022 school year, there will be horseback riding lessons after school for each student’s particular interest. Even if a student does not want to ride, they will have other options, like driving the cart or simply learning equine care.
“My biggest thing is just building relationships and helping the kids get the best benefit,” Fran said. “I want every child to be included. It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ they are; it matters that they try, and that they want to try.”
Making an impact
Fran’s ultimate goal at Oak Hill, however, is making an impact. “I look back on my life and I know there are several people that really impacted me and made a difference,” she said. “I’m hoping that one day, one child can say that about me.”
At Oak Hill Academy, Fran will inspire students to build relationships with the horses, as well as build confidence. When it comes to horseback riding, Fran recalls one of her favorite sayings: “My horse is the wiper of my tears, the keeper of my secrets, and the protector of my heart. That’s what it’s all about.”