At The Academy, we have two kinds of instructors- both human and equine. Our equine instructors are the most important part of our program and are treated as such. They are not 'tools for a job', they are teachers and receive the best possible care. From balanced nutrition to great hoof care, our horses love their jobs. Most are retired performance horses who are enjoying retirement teaching learning students about the wonderful world of horses.
Tessa Lawson, creator and founder of Zion Riding Academy, has an unquenchable love for all things horse. Discouraged by years of working for others where horses were not respected, students were not prepared for ownership, and instructors who had lost their love for horses- just in it for the money, Tessa envisioned a place where students learned more than just to show up to a tacked-up horse and ride for an hour. A place that fostered compassion, taught students the ins and outs of caring for horses, and changed the horse world for the better in the process.
Danielle Bell was our Assistant Trainer from 2016-2017. She is one of Zion Riding Academy's Graduates and now competes in jumping and cross country. She joined our team in 2016 and took great care of our horses. She now has her own lesson business and we refer all students under the age of 9 in the Humboldt County area to her for lessons.
Abigail Price joined our team in 2013 and brought her love of rodeo with her. She was dubbed the 'rodeo' instructor and helped our students pursue their goals in rodeo and gymkhana events such as barrels, poles and goat tying. Abigail is now training barrel horses with Professional Barrel Horse Trainer Lyndee Stairs in Fresno, Ca.
Abby Samaniego joined our team in 2014 and is a very talented instructor! The students love her and parents love her warm personality and superb organization skills! Abby now works with at-risk children in the amazing equine assisted therapy program- Wild Souls Ranch.
Miss Cool Summer Breeze goes by Breezy around the barn. She's the resident 'grandma' horse and has literally taught hundreds of first-time riders. Her smooth jog and lope and laid-back personality instills great confidence in our students of all ages. She excels at western pleasure type riding and loves to get out on a good trail!
Red Oak Redemption, or Booker as we call him, is a retired Reiner and a great big puppy dog! He loves people, will come when called, and loves a good scratch on the withers. Just don't leave anything near the hitching post because he will chew on it like a puppy! He's a perfect gentleman and, don't tell the others, but he's Tessa's favorite! He excels at anything you ask him to do- from western pleasure to dressage & jumping to cattle sorting. He's a one-in-a-million horse.
Duncan is a fabulous Belgian/Quarter Horse cross whom we adore. He belongs to Jesse Puckett, one of our academy graduates, and she graciously allows us to have Duncan help teach lessons. He's a beautiful palomino that looks like two different horses in the summer and winter! In the winter (Pictured) he is a light palomino color, but in the summer he turns a dark dark palomino. We love Duncan!
Former Equine Instructors
Smart Sailin' Cody goes by Peanut around the barn. He's our little barbie-horse gelding. Poor guy gets called a girl all the time. He doesn't mind. His smaller size makes smaller students feel a little closer to the ground. He is also a retired reiner that now loves teaching students to ride! He teaches students to ride english or western, or even jump, but can still spin and slide like a reiner. One of our academy graduates (actually the girl in this picture!) bought Peanut in 2015 and her dad even uses him for team roping and branding.
Dusty the Wonder Pony was a great addition to the lesson program. We don't usually like ponies, but Dusty is an exception. He allowed smaller students to achieve more independence as far as getting their own horse ready and ground work. Dusty belongs to the Dalton family and we are grateful that they let us use him to teach lessons! After helping out at Wild Souls Ranch for a time, he is now back enjoying life on his home ranch.