Shauntelle Harding looks over one of several rescue horses her family has welcomed at their ranch in Oasis.

Every year is Year of the Horse for local riding stable

Harding Heights Ranch began with one horse, but their stable has grown and includes rescue horses.

Just when you thought the celebrating was over and the New Year’s resolutions could be forgotten for another 12 months, it’s time to kick up the festivities again.  While many of us were sleeping last night another page of the calendar turned over, the Chinese calendar that is. As of midnight we ushered out the Year of the Snake and welcomed in the Year of the Horse.

The Chinese new year falls between Jan. 21 and Feb. 20 each year, this year falling on Jan. 31. It starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later, culminating with the Lantern Festival.

While many will have donned silly hats and popped corks on Jan. 1, welcoming 2014, going by the Chinese calendar this is the year 4712.

According to the Chinese zodiac, those born in the Year of the Horse are energetic, bright, warm-hearted, intelligent, and able.

Similar to the zodiac followed by many in Western culture, Chinese zodiac time cycles are sectioned into 12 divisions except rather than months named after constellations in the sky, the Chinese recognize years associated with animals.

Shauntelle Harding, of Harding Heights Ranch, has her own take on the traits of horses, and, glancing over at one of the 15 equine examples her family trains and cares for on their property in Oasis, she smiles and relates her experience.

“I see in them their intelligence, their ability to forgive, they’re genuine, intuitive, loving, strong,” Harding said.

“They can be your best friends.”

The Harding family began with one horse but soon found their stable growing, buying new animals themselves and, increasingly, taking in “rescue” horses from intolerable situations.

“We brought in (the Clydesdale) when he was only six months-old,” Harding said, regarding the large draught horse as it nuzzled her shoulder. “He was left in a barn, starving, covered in manure. His legs hadn’t developed properly and the vet told us it wasn’t likely he’d ever walk normally. He thought we should put him down. Now here he is and you’d never know anything had been wrong with him. He’s training to pull the horse carts and sleds.”

In addition to bringing wagon rides and horse riding to numerous community events in the area, Harding Heights Ranch offers guided tours, horse camps for kids 4 and older, farm tours, and opens their ranch for birthdays, a women’s riding group and holds an Easter egg hunt in the spring.

“They’re very affectionate animals,” Harding said. “All they want is to be comfortable and safe and they’ll do almost anything for you.”

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