German teen Stella Eck recently traveled to western Lincoln County with her grandfather in order to visit a local friend and ride horses.
The 14-year-old spent two weeks in Vale, staying with her grandfather’s former neighbor in Germany, Ingrid Hackler, she said.
Most mornings, the teen spent her time at Mauney Farms, located on Bill Ledford Road, riding 18-year-old American Quarter Horse “Laddy.” The specific horse breed is celebrated for its ability to sprint short distances.
For the last two years, Eck has been taking English Riding lessons near her hometown of Heidelburg, Germany, located an hour south of Frankfurt on the lower western end of the European country.
Andy Mauney, owner and operator of the Vale farm, has 21 horses on his property, used for teaching and training individuals from across the country how to ride the area’s rustic trails and fenced-in arenas.
“The more they do,” he said of students, “the better a horse person they become. We have a tough program out here. I tell them we’re going to throw everything but the kitchen sink at them.”
Eck had a unique opportunity this month to ride trails more difficult than the ones she is accustomed to overseas.
“I’m trying to expose her to something she wouldn’t see in Germany,” Mauney said.
Her most memorable trail moment last week occurred when a deer unexpectedly jumped out in front of her horse.
“Riding is cool and funny,” she said. “You don’t know what your horse is going to do each day.”
She also laughed when telling the story of the warm but strange welcome Hackler offered her while killing a snake that had been hiding near the Lincoln County resident’s pet rabbits.
“She came outside with a shotgun and said, ‘Welcome to the country,’” Eck said.
Since the age of three, she has wanted to ride, but her mother considered lessons too expensive.
It wasn’t until Eck turned 12 that the family located a place to ride for a reasonable price.
“I was so happy,” Eck said. “I love animals.”
The teen and her grandfather planned to visit New York after leaving the area, but Eck hoped another Lincoln County trip would be in her future.
“I want to ride here again,” she said.
For more information on Mauney Farms, call (704) 742-1557 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.