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Greetings Students and Parents,

Winter is fast approaching and we are relieved to report that we have had zero illnesses or sickness in the ELS Staff or assistants. The few students who have reported a sniffle, sneezing, fever, or other suspicious respiratory illness, have quarantined and tested negative so far.

In response to an unfortunately expected surge in fall/winter Covid-19 cases in our state and immediate communities, Governor Inslee announced today, a return to earlier activity restrictions that will go into effect Mon 11/16/2020.

Below, we hope you will find answers to questions related to our preparedness and actions we have taken to continue to safely run lessons during Phase 1 if we return to that status from the current Phase 2.

Are there any changes to lessons at this time:

As of this announcement, outdoor activities have not changed from what we are currently doing.  We have complied with the state orders as if we have been in Phase 1 since reopening back in June. The following list of precautions remain in effect:

Instructors, students, and assistants continue to socially distance, wear routinely sanitized gloves, and masks throughout their time at Holly Farm.

  • Only one adult may sit on the deck per student, although we advise waiting in your car.
  • Parents of younger students are asked to assist mounting and dismounting as needed.
  • Kids who are not yet confident around or on horses are on a waitlist for Phase 4.
  • Bathrooms, surfaces, gear, and borrowed helmets are sanitized routinely.
  • Hand sanitizing stations are available on the arena deck.
  • Stay home if you have a fever from any source!

The staff at ELS are grateful that we have a huge covered arena that allows ample distancing and this activity is relatively safer than soccer or school monkey bars (it’s true!)

What if I Get Sick at The Last Minute?

The 24-hour cancellation policy is still in effect. However, during this Covid winter, we will allow makeups to be scheduled for lessons that have to be canceled less than 24 hours for suspected last-minute illness symptoms or suspected exposure if texted or emailed within 4 hours of the lesson. There are no ROLL-Forward lessons allowed in this exception. In general, please give us as much notice as possible.

If you have any additional safety concerns or questions about our policies, please email (subject: Covid Questions).

We are optimistic that we can continue to offer the kids and adults a fun, safe, physically challenging option vs. staying home. We appreciate all our solid base of amazing students that have stuck with us throughout this grueling ordeal. Additionally, and just as important, are the psychological benefits we typically see with human and horse interactions amplified during this stressful challenge we face.

To all our new students, we appreciate your confidence and patience as we navigate these uncharted waters.

Stay up-to-date on weather alerts, fun activities, videos, and inspiring stories coming soon on the Blog.

Thanks, and hang in there with us!

The ELS Herd of Humans & Horses!




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Greetings ELS Students and Parents,

Here is some information to help you prepare for the uncertain Covid-19 fall/winter.

Progress vs. Fun & Safe Riding Lessons During Phase 2:

Thanks to all our clients who are enduring this Covid-19 Pandemic with us. We appreciate your patience and understanding as we follow ever-changing guidelines that limit our ability to progress students in a normal fashion. Although progress is made, it is slower as the Covid requirements currently exist. As hospitalizations continue to surge in our area, we are taking more precautions over the winter, to ensure student safety while working around and riding horses. The Instructors are coming up with creative ways to keep you fit and enthusiastic throughout the winter. We expect to increase the riskier aspects of riding in Phase 3 or 4 as permitted such as cantering and small jumps. Meanwhile, thanks again for hanging in there with us. 

Deck Overcrowding:

The arena viewing deck is going to become too crowded for parents, students, and assistants to maintain social distancing as required by the state. There will be limited seating available so that the staff and assistants can sit under the deck heater throughout the day to maintain Covid gathering requirements and stay warm. We ask that parents wait in their cars wrapped in blankets or running the engine periodically to stay warm. Please angle-in park next to the north side of the parking lot, in front of the picnic area, and please, NOT NEXT TO THE STABLES! If you need to watch the lesson, please sit in the limited, designated seats and remain seated at all times.

The following are reminders and updates for fall/winter 2020-2021. 

To avoid deck crowding: arrive on time and wait in your car until the exact lesson time starts. Students should wait for people to leave the deck before entering to avoid close contact.  There is limited seating for one parent/visitor per student. 

Check out our Tips For Staying Warm Article!  Stay Warm!


COVID-19 updates:

If the student feels sick please stay home. 

In the event a student/parent believes ELS staff may have been exposed to the virus by being closer than 6 feet, notify Robyn asap.

In the event a student tests positive to Covid-19 or have suspicious symptoms, please notify ELS asap. 

In the event an ELS Staff believe they may have exposed a student, they will be notified asap.

Sanitize and/or wash gloves weekly.

Bring your own blankets to stay warm on the deck.

Provide super warmers for gloves and boots. They work!  These warmers usually last the whole hour. You can find them in bulk on amazon or local stores.

Covid-Related Cancellation Revisions:

At least 24-hour notice is still required to avoid being charged for the lesson. This is to ensure the staff and horses get paid for their time.

Bonus: Due to the high level of uncertainty about the worsening and impact of Covid this winter, we are offering an additional make-up lesson opportunity in your package of lessons instead of roll-forward lessons. This helps students that may be directly or indirectly affected by Covid. 

Staff may be substituted if they are in a quarantine status until they test negative.

For questions, please email me. I am happy to discuss any concerns.

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Staying warm while horseback riding in winter is challenging: Our clothes get damp when we sweat and, we have periods of reduced exertion when we walk around on horses, then we get cold.  As a longtime horseback rider, I’ve learned a few tricks over four decades of riding outdoors in frigid temperatures.

Follow these tips and you and/or your child will be vastly more comfortable when enjoying the stables in winter.

Please tell me what you think of the tips, ask any questions, or share your own tricks in the 

comments section at the bottom of this story. I try to respond to all comments. Thanks.


Parents may want to wait in their car with the heater during lessons or bring a cozy blanket just for the deck.  Reminder: Only one parent per student on the viewing deck.


Children have less body fat and mass and cool down more quickly than adults. Remember, clothes hold heat in but do not produce heat.  The Instructors use walking or trotting while posting which is good for getting warmed up, but grooming and tacking (getting the gear on the horse) can get cold quickly. The ELS Staff is trained to 


watch for students’ unprotected skin and make recommendations.


During riding activities, students may only need a breathable insulation layer (like fleece) over a fast-drying, wicking base layer. If it’s windy, you may want a waterproof-breathable hardshell over a midweight insulation layer, like a fleece or a vest, to prevent the student from cooling down.

We do not get the wind or rain inside the arena which makes it easier for students to layer and stay warm. Find the right outer layer for your purposes and you may only have to adjust layers infrequently.


Cloth or leather riding gloves are always recommended for riding. For winter, insulated, snug gloves that can hold reins is essential. The one-size-fits all are commonly good for year-round riding in the one-hour classes. Pre-warm your gloves and boots by a heater before going outside, so your fingers and toes feel toasty the instant you put them on. {Example: While driving to riding lessons}.


Our staff uses the Grabber and Hot Hands products from Amazon or Ace Hardware. These are wonderful additions to gloves and shoes. Please consider buying a box for the winter.

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The air quality is nearing normal and safe to breathe and resume lessons and activities at the barn!  Please do your best to help us by scheduling one makeup lesson by the end of September. This helps staff and horses through an already difficult year.  Thanks to all of those who already scheduled!  

For weather updates and ELS News at Holly Farm, check back to our Blogs. I will post something weekly on Mondays to the ELS Blog.

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9/18 Friday Eve & 9/19 Saturday Lessons On

It seems that the weather is finally cooperating and clearing out our smokey area with much-needed rain and a shift of the wind.  Understandably, this has been hard for everyone. Thanks for your continued patience for the next couple of weeks as the ELS horses and humans clear our lungs.  The accumulative effect can linger.and cause unwellness and complications for sensitive groups.

We can’t wait to see you all back into lessons!

Robyn Smith

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