Hidden Creek Farm in Ruckersville is no stranger to change.
From adding mini pigs to their farm, to transforming from a sale barn to a lesson barn, to adding an indoor arena – mother and daughter duo Kandi and Tammy Stirling say they like to think outside of the box.
Hidden Creek Farm offers horse riding lessons for all levels, mini pigs for sale, special programs for birthday parties and adult “wine & rides”.
Tammy, Kandi’s youngest child, began teaching lessons on the farm in 2003 while still in college. She says there’s no typical day on the farm, which is why she loves it.
Approximately 20 to 30 people currently take riding lessons at their farm. One difference between Hidden Creek Farm and others is the distinction between group and private lessons.
“Most horse farms will have a price for private lessons and a price for group lessons, but the group lessons are held for example on Tuesdays and Thursdays at a set time. If you can’t come at the time, it’s a private lesson,” Tammy said. “It shouldn’t be that way. We say that all of our lessons are group lessons unless you specifically ask for a private lesson. If you can come Tuesdays at 10 a.m. and no one else can, I don’t think that’s your fault.”
Lessons at Hidden Creek Farm are for all ages and are seat-based riding rather than forward seat. The Stirling’s teach western, English, dressage, sidesaddle, and flat and over fences hunters and jumpers.
“We can teach it all because it all stems from the same where you sit in the saddle and you use your legs to control the horse and a little less reign,” Tammy said.
Tammy says since giving the lessons, it’s taught her to pay more attention to her riding as well. Tammy herself has ridden several winning jumpers and continues to compete today.
“I like teaching because every student is different and every student is different with different horses,” she said. “It just makes it a lot of fun to find that one horse and rider that work really well together and the kids are really learning the most.”
But before Hidden Creek Farm began lessons, Tammy described it as more of a big sale barn. In the 2009 snow storms, their 24-stall barn collapsed. While they didn’t lose any horses in the accident, that’s when Hidden Creek began transforming from being a sale barn to more of a lesson barn.
In addition to the lessons, the farm also breeds mini pigs for sale. The mini pigs were added after Kandi brought Tammy as a child to a horse auction. Tammy, who was 8 years old at the time, convinced her mom to purchase two pot belly pigs for $50. From there, it slowly went into breeding mini pigs.
“One of the things that keeps us going here is the fact that we breed mini pigs. We do a really good job on them and they’re a nice supplement,” Kandi said.
Hidden Creek Farm is no stranger to breeding either. In 1983, they were one of the largest Chinese shar pei breeders in the world according to Kandi. At the time, they built an addition to their Ruckersville home as a whelping box for the Chinese shar pei. Since the breeding of the shar pei has ceased, the Stirling’s have converted the space into an office, then a space to hold overnight camps, and are now converting the space into a farrowing room for the mini pigs.
As well as constructing a room for the pigs, an indoor arena is being built on the farm. The indoor arena will include lights and a sound system.
“I’m looking forward to being able to keep working through the winter when there’s snow on the ground and still be able to ride. The indoor arena won’t be heated, but it’ll still be warmer than being outside.” Tammy said.
In the future, Tammy and Kandi said they hope to offer some technical clinics including teaching people to fall off a horse properly.
“If you think outside the box, you get a lot of other things going – it’s not just the lessons,” Kandi said.
To connect with Hidden Creek Farm, call (434) 996-6993 or visit them online at www.hiddencreekva.com.