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New program has Fort Pierce saddling up for horse lessons

FORT PIERCE — The Fort Pierce community kicked off a new program this year to encourage kids to participate with extracurricular activities, and it has taken off.

Called New Beginners, the program teaches Tribal youth – and adults – how to care for and ride horses. Tribal member Shamy Tommie Sr., the director of Chupco Youth Ranch, teaches the classes.

“It’s a good thing to teach kids about their culture,” Tommie said. “If you can get them interested and keep them interested, you win.”

Tommie said the classes, which are held every Tuesday and Thursday from 3-5 p.m. at the ranch, teach kids and their parents how to feed, groom, saddle and ride horses. Tommie also teaches them proper terminology for the equipment. The goal, he said, is to get kids riding, so they stay out of trouble.

“I think it’s a great new program for our Tribal members and youth,” said Kathreen Martinez, Fort Pierce community property manager. “It will keep them busy doing interesting, fun things.”

In addition, the classes are a way for parents to spend quality time with their children, she said.

Fort Pierce Tribal member Sheree Sneed participates in the program with her son, Roger, and daughter, Ari-annah. Sneed said the program gives her and her family the opportunity to not only learn about horses but also to learn about Seminole culture, which is extremely important for Tribal members and descendants on smaller reservations who don’t always have that opportunity.

“For the Tribe to put together a program like this is great,” Sneed said. “It helps us learn about our culture. I make my kids participate in a lot of things that are educational. I want to keep them involved in anything positive that will keep them out of trouble.”

The program currently has around 15 participants, but Martinez would love to see that number grow.

“We have had great participation from our community Tribal members and children,” she said. “They have worked very hard these past few weeks. We look forward to more participation from our community Tribal members.”

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