Smith: South Fayette's teen's horse camp continues to grow

| Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

South Fayette High School senior Carrie Torre has known how to ride horses since before she could walk.

Since both her parents, Rick and Karen, knew how to ride, she began on her childhood pony Twinkle and progressed to a bigger horse named Babyhorse until she was 10 and learned how to ride both English and Western style and also how to jump.

She then progressed to a quarter horse named Haley, which has taken her to blue ribbons at both eventing and hunter jumper shows throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio. From ages 4 to 11, she traveled the northeastern United States with her miniature horse, Missy, with which she was national champion in the pleasure driving class and a reserve champion in costume class at the American Miniature Horse Registry's National Competition.

This was all very exciting but nothing compared to four years ago, when a neighbor with three young daughters approached her about giving horseback-riding lessons. Although only 14 years old at the time, Carrie took on the challenge of riding instructor. Teaching them once a week now has grown to giving 15 to 20 lessons a week to a client base of more than 40 children. She opened her first Pony Palooza Summer Camp last June and, this summer, she held camp for five weeks.

Carrie and business partner/best friend Cassidy Toole are co-instructors at the summer camp and have as their priorities safety and fun. The horses are child-safe, but the students still are taught how to work safely around them. At every lesson, the students clean their horses by properly brushing them, saddle them up, ride based on their individual experience level, and then unsaddle and brush the horses again. They also are taught basic horsemanship skills and various theory lessons on the parts of a saddle, names of brushes, horse anatomy, horse colors and breeds, and more.

Pony Palooza Equine Education also offers birthday parties on the Torre farm, half-hour and hour private or group lessons, Christmas camp, and outings or educational opportunities for Girl Scout troops.

Rylie Kennedy of Oakdale recently completed the July summer camp and, according to her mother Michaele Kennedy, even had her birthday party at the farm. “Rylie is a shy and quiet child, and I think she has really found her passion with horses. She would spend every waking minute of every day at the barn if I would let her. Carrie really works to make the kids understand the basics of safety and horsemanship. She has really thrived while taking lessons,” Michaele Kennedy said.

Carrie plans to go to college next fall and major in actuarial science and minor in German with the hope of being on the college's equestrian team. She also wants to continue passing on her love for horses to more children.

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Charlotte Smith is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media and can be reached at 724-693-9441 or

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