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Those at Equestrian Center learn more than just riding

ShannSullivan (back)  takes break with some her students three her 13 horses recent lessday Downtown Equestrian Center.  |

Shannon Sullivan (back) takes a break with some of her students and three of her 13 horses on a recent lesson day at the Downtown Equestrian Center. | Supplied Photo

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Updated: December 21, 2011 8:08AM



Shannon Sullivan’s established business, Downtown Equestrian Center, is technically a new business in town, now that the 71-acre property on which the riding stable sits has been annexed by the Village of Frankfort.

That doesn’t change anything for Sullivan, 27, an entrepreneur who has run her business and lived on South 88th Avenue with her two dogs and 13 horses for eight years. She is, however, happy with some changes the new owners, Frankfort resident Robert Watson and his family, have made.

“The Watson family has gone over and beyond making upgrades to the barn that have made my life and the life of my horses easier,” Sullivan said.

That’s important to Sullivan because her business is her life.

“Even when I don’t have to be out there, I’m out there,” Sullivan said.

Horses have been a nearly 25-year passion for Sullivan. She learned to ride her own horse in her back yard in Orland Park when she was only a 3-year-old. By the time she was 13, she was competing.

And, although she still loves to compete, Sullivan said she finds little time for it. She devotes her time to her 60 students, giving about 36 individual and group lessons a week. That’s time well spent to Sullivan, but not because it’s a lucrative career.

”You have to love it because it’s not a job you’re going to get rich doing,” she said.

She does love spending her time, not only with her horses, but with her students who benefit in many ways from the total experience.

“With a lot of the kids who ride here, over time, they learn responsibility, and patience,” Sullivan said. “You have to be patient if you want to ... ride a horse.”

Sullivan said in addition to the physical benefits which many people are unaware of, she has seen changes in social and life skills in her students.

“A lot of the kids who start out may not be the most confident at school, but over time riding builds self-esteem,” she said.

And Sullivan has seen kids develop friendships, even as they build a work ethic by grooming horses and cleaning stables.

“It’s just you on the horse when you’re riding,” Sullivan said, “but it becomes teamwork when we go to shows and do stuff around the barn.”

New Lenox resident Mary Schade agreed the benefits of horseback riding are many. She and her husband, Bill, have experienced it firsthand with their daughter, Elizabeth, 16, a Lincoln-Way West student.

Schade said Elizabeth had some physical issues as a very small child that required physical therapy. By the time she was 8, the Schades decided to give horseback riding a try and “it addressed all the physical issues” so that Elizabeth no longer needed therapy.

Schade said the benefits didn’t end there. She said she and her husband could quickly point out the life lessons Elizabeth has learned through riding.

“Shannon has always taught her students to ‘know where you are and look where you’re going,’” Schade said. “She always tells the kids they need to have a plan. Now that Elizabeth is learning to drive, that advice has come home to roost. It really can fit into so many contexts.”

Schade said she cannot say enough about Sullivan’s patient way of working with her students, and the wonderful people with whom her daughter associates.

“We feel like we found a jewel.” Schade said.

For more information, go to www.downtowneq.tripod.com or call (708) 203-2225.



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