The future of equestrian sciences is growing at Sparkleberry Ponies. With a holistic approach to equine activities, we foster, not only, the relationship between horse and rider, but also the rider's ability to connect with nature, center their energy, and become grounded with a mind-body connection. Learning to ride and connecting with animals can create amazing life experiences for children, which provide a great friendship and sense of responsibility as they learn to care for their horse or pony. Equestrian sports help to improve health and fitness, confidence, perseverance, and social skills. Our team of riders and instructors have been dedicated to the equine industry for much of their lives. They strive to share the joys of riding and inspire the amazing bond between horse and rider with today's youth.
Meet Our Instructors
Meredith Van Benthuysen
As the owner of Crying Coyote Farm and several other equine related ventures, Meredith van Benthuysen spends most of her time working with or talking about horses. She produces horse shows and auctions internationally. She is involved in international equine productions, serves as a volunteer with a variety of equine associations and is committed to equine benevolence and repurposing programs. She competes and owns horses competing in multiple disciplines and she sells horses. And when she is not doing something horse related... well, her husband says it always ends up horse related!
Meredith grew up on an Arabian horse farm in central Iowa and learned to ride with her veterinarian father. Upon moving to Central America with her family, she was introduced to the international jumping show circuit and began to compete over fences. Through the years, Meredith has actively shown horses in a variety of disciplines including jumpers, hunters, saddle seat, dressage, western disciplines and halter. In most recent years though, her interests have focused on sport horse competition and developing young horses for international competition.
With a particular attraction to jumpers and conformation horses, Meredith owns and has competed internationally with several hunter breeding, dressage breeding and jumper champions. She takes pride in identifying top young prospects and fostering their development into competitive show horses. Regardless of breed, age or aptitude, Meredith has an eye for an equine athlete and can help it reach its potential. She enjoys working with young horses and is always excited by the opportunity to work with a new prospect. Her latest adventure has been in breeding Welsh and Half Welsh ponies for top competition.
Most importantly though, Meredith enjoys "horse people". The camaraderie of working with people who have an equal love for the horse is what makes the work worth while and accomplishments meaningful. Meredith believes that the friendship and loyalty of the Crying Coyote Team will be remembered long past any award won.
As a young child Laura Bachmann grew up with an affinity for horses. At the age of 6 her parents finally gave into her constant begging to learn how to ride horses. Since then, Laura has dedicated her life to continually learning and sharing her love for horses with others.
Competing in different disciplines from barrel racing to hunter/jumpers, Laura has experienced an array of unique practices, training and teaching methods. From local horse shows, 4H and FFA, to the A-Rated circuit, Laura has ridden, competed, and coached horses and young riders. For Laura, "there is no greater joy than sharing her love for horses with children and teaching the fundamentals of riding and horsemanship".
After taking a short break from instructing to complete her education and succeed in the corporate world, Laura has returned to teaching young students. Recently authoring a children's book series about horses, HORSE RIDING: 101, Laura is inspired to devote her focus on sharing her passion once again.
Portia has been riding horses since a young child and has been training both horses and riders in the Tampa Bay area for 35+ years. She has ridden and shown many different disciplines so has a wide base of knowledge to help riders fulfill their dreams of becoming great horsemen/women. Over the years she has developed a passion for working with young riders due to their love of the horse and infinite ability to learn new skills. She has a strong belief that safety
comes first and that developing a strong foundation of horsemanship helps ensure young riders a positive outcome in their progress. Due to her life long involvement with horses she knows working with them helps kids in many ways by providing exercise, mental stress relief, develops empathy, responsibility, accountability and that hard work can get you anywhere.
Portia owns 4 horses herself and shows in the hunters with two of her lovely mares while the other two enjoy well earned retirement. As she has grown older she has found that enjoying the process of learning is more important than the final outcome and hopes to instill
this in her young students. She is looking forward to working with the future young riders at Sparkleberry Ponies Riding Academy