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The Greenhorn Chronicles 5: Leann (Pitman) Manuel on Becoming a Horse Woman and Riding 4 Life’s Beginnings (1)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2022/05/08


Leann (Pitman) Manuel’s bio states: “Leann was as good as born on a horse, and has been fortunate to work with them daily since her very early twenties. From Pony Club and 4H as a child, through national level competition and several World’s Show qualifications with her Quarter Horse as a teen, to some Dressage tests, a few Cowboy Challenge clinics, and the daily operations at Riding 4 Life today, Leann’s horsemanship practice continues to seek out anything and everything she may be able to learn or experience with horses. Leann is passionate about helping others realize the value of having horses in their lives – no matter the breed or creed – and she hopes to continue to grow and nurture the horsemanship community in her region well into the future.” She discusses: earliest memory with a horse; the trend with a single digit age and a familial line; funding a business around horses; clients and staff; the niche of people or individuals on the autism spectrum.

Keywords: 4H, autism spectrum, equestrianism, Fort Worth, Leann Manuel, Pony Club, Quarter Horse, Riding 4 Life, Texas, Western classes.

The Greenhorn Chronicles 5: Leann (Pitman) Manuel on Becoming a Horse Woman and Riding 4 Life’s Beginnings (1)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citations after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Today, we are here with Leann Manuel. We will talk about equestrianism. It is another addition to the series. So, my first question, typically, is around the foundation or the history of becoming a horse woman, a horse person, in this industry. What was the earliest memory with a horse for you?

Leann (Pitman) Manuel[1],[2]: Gosh, there was always a horse in my backyard. Some of my first memories are as a toddler of a barn being built in my backyard, and my family helping. So, there are pictures of my mom as a 10-year-old on her first horse. It’s in the genetic fabric of my immediate family, I guess. My mom’s passion. Ironically, when I was a kid, she didn’t think I would get into it.

She only had one horse. She sold extra equipment. Only kept around what she needed for her horse. Lo and behold, yes, it became my passion too. I ended up with my own horse, bought specifically for me when I was 11 years old.

Jacobsen: Typically, is this the trend with a single digit age and a familial line in it?

Manuel: It was, certainly, a trend for all of my peers. That I found myself in 4H Club with. I was in 4H Club, Pony Club, Quarter Horse organization, any kind of the communities in the horse industry. It was true of pretty much all of my peers. They came from existing horse families, especially if they stuck with it long-term.

For 4H, as it is government supported, it is a volunteer-based program with provincial and federal funding in it. That’s where we saw more kids who didn’t come from a farm background or an agricultural background, wanting to learn about horse. They would come to club meetings and learn a bit.

But when it came to participation of owning a horse, that’s when we saw a lot of those folks drop off. Because their families were either too intimidated of owning a horse and everything that entailed, and couldn’t financially support it, or there wasn’t an easy inroad for them to continue.

Jacobsen: How did this continue over time and to the point of founding a business around horses? That’s a big step.

Manuel: It was a big step, but a slow and inevitable progression as far as I experienced it. 11-years-old in Pony Club taking lessons. 13-years-old, my mom’s horse passes away. My parents purchase another horse. I fell in love with it. This horse has a rescue story behind it. It was purchased for not much money at all.

I ended up with the kind of bond with that horse that took me from the little novice kid riding up and down the road to a few years later competing at Thunderbird when it was still at 200th Ave. with the Keg restaurant at the end. I was 15 years old and way in over my head, and out of my league.

But the bond I had with this horse. I was competing with pros in the open division and winning. I look back at that. As a kid, I had no idea what I was doing. I was just at a horse show with a horse doing my thing. At 15, you don’t realize professionals up and down the coast from Washington State, Oregon, and California, watching me ride by and take their points, “Where did this kid come from?” [Laughing] I rode that horse for 8 years on the Quarter Horse circuit.

She was an American Quarter Horse. That was the association I was heavily involved with at the time because that’s the horse that I happened to have at the time. Along the way, other projects come along. So, I had her that I was showing. I was in 4H. Someone gave me another project, “Here, Leann, another horse to ride.”

Because my other now really accomplished show horse was way out of the league out of what was available to compete with in 4H. I took this Haflinger Belgian Quarter Horse cross 3-year-old not even halter broke really. It got out of the trailer and dragged me from the trailer to the barn where the other horses were.

That was my 4H project for the year. By the end of the 8-month project year, I was competing walk-trot-canter. He was doing cross rails. We were in some Western classes making it. We were bombing it. He went back to his owner and joined a lesson program. I had a project always cycling through that I was riding. By the time I hit graduation, which was this fork in the road, my dad was determined that there was no real way for me to make money in the horse industry.

Even though, I was competing at the professional level. The only next level to test me was to go to the World’s in Fort Worth, Texas. I couldn’t afford to go. I stayed back and mucked stalls at my friends facility while she went with her family to compete in my spot on the team.

So, financial barrier to really getting access to that community, that market, that level of competition. My dad insisted on my going to university. I got some scholarships and went to UVic. I left horses a little behind. They were what I did in the Summer time a little bit. I had another young horse, which I showed and developed a bit, ultimately, after a few years of university, coming back home in my early 20s, facing some mental health issues and PTSD from trauma, I realized; without horses, I don’t have solid ground to stand on, for myself.

This is part of who I am. It is cellular. It is in my bones. My best self and healthiest is when I have horses to work with. It became the foundation for what I do today at Riding 4 Life. I came home riding horse, teaching a few, riding, lessons. Inevitably, if you have something to offer, and don’t have money, when you’re young and have horses, you teach riding horses, muck stalls, or ride people’s horses to earn money to pay entry fees, to buy the saddle you need.

That’s how I started. I taught my first beginner lessons when I was 14 years old, maybe 13. I was training a few other people’s horses on the side for cash when I was 15, 16. It kept going from there. In my early 20s, I was teaching riding lessons in my parents’ backyard property again when one of my long-time clients who bordered her horse at my parent’s place when I was away at university; she was a foster parent.

She worked with special needs kids. She was starting a business. Getting out of being a foster parent directly and getting into being more of a supporter and foster of the community, she started a business with behaviour intervention and community support work with kids with various barriers. In particular, things like autism or developmental disabilities, or medical issues that made them very fragile.

She was always looking for things to do. She used funding to take them to riding lessons to help them with me, then this happened with 2 or 3, and then hit about 8 or 9. She had clients like that. She said, “You know, Leann, you should start this as a business.” That’s where that jumping off point happened with horses from passion, identity, hobby, skill set, to monetized formally.

It was pretty interesting because I’ve in my work life, never been as successful as when I am growing that. I grew that in my hometown for a few years, Port Alberni. Other life events made it impossible for me to continue. I fall off the radar a bit as an equine business operator. I still had horses. I fight to keep them, feed them. I head off to the Okanagan in 2008, which was my first brush with the restaurant industry. I picked up a job waiting tables in a restaurant in Osoyoos trying to feed my horses.

Tip money was the first money I had in my pocket when I crash landed here. I bought some hay and away we went. Here we are, 2022, I sent emails to all of my clients to see who wants to re-register for this year. There was over 60 clients on that list.

So, it’s busy and growing. Things tend to grow to fill the capacity for whatever resources we have to serve those folks.

Jacobsen: How clients do you have now? How many staff do you have to meet the needs of those clients?

Manuel: Gosh, like I said, the actual individual clients on our weekly roster. We are at about 60 to 65. We operate a Spring, Summer, Fall session. Without an indoor session, we cannot run a Winter session. Myself, my husband, we have 3 or 4 part-time staff who have been interns. Young people who have come up through my program or gained experience. There’s one who has gained experience and recently joined the program.

They help me teach beginner lessons now. They range from 14 to about 20. Then the other detail is roughly 50% of my clientele is on the autism spectrum, including some of my staff.

Jacobsen: How do people find out, by which I mean clients (or prospective), about Riding 4 Life, especially with the niche of people or individuals on the autism spectrum coming to you – at such overwhelming rates out of the proportion of the clientele, which is large itself?

Manuel: So, we specialize in autism services. We recently added beginner lessons as something we put front and center, because I was getting so many people requesting it. Even though, it was not my focus. It created this opportunity where I said to some of my teens who were looking for more, “Do you want to teach riding lessons?” We started an internship riding program.

I held my shingle out for beginning lessons to create work for them. Because we had the skill set here, the equipment. We had great horses. If I am teaching my lesson, and if there are two or three others with me with their students, “Let’s see if it works.” Out first crack at that was 4 years ago.

Of course, in the after school hours here last Summer and Fall, we had a 3 and 4 o’clock session with 6 or 7 horses with 7 instructors running out there at the same time. It offered training wheels. That’s how I describe how I teach. You get somebody going. You get the training wheels. As you get someone going, and develop their confidence, you slowly take those training wheels away. Same for our instructors.

They don’t think they can do it. I had one young woman. She moved away now. She was selectively mute. She came as a beginner, rider, client. She ended up as an instructor. Slowly push her out there, “You can do it.” [Laughing]

If the wheels really fall off there, you can do it. So far, so good.


[1] Instructor & Founder, Riding 4 Life Equine Enterprises.

[2] Individual Publication Date: May 8, 2022:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2022:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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