E is for Equestrian: Student finds help, healing in horses

Mt. Juliet, Tenn., senior Paige Montgomery bridles a horse before stabling it for the night at the WKU Farm on Wednesday afternoon. Besides her work on daily upkeep with the horses, she is also on WKU’s equestrian team and helps teach equine classes.

Alexis Custard

When Paige Montgomery needs someone to talk to, she doesn’t always phone a friend or a family member. Instead, she heads to the farm to be with her four-legged friends.

Montgomery, a senior from Mt. Juliet, Tenn., started riding horses when she was 7, when her mother wanted her to learn how to ride on a trail.

After dealing with her parents’ divorce and her brother’s death at a young age, Montgomery learned how helpful horses can be.

“It’s like a friend that won’t talk back, but will just listen,” she said.

She confided in her horses when she had no one else to talk to and cared for them by doing stall cleanings and giving them their medicine.

Now, she is majoring in agriculture and spends her spare time teaching equestrian lessons for WKU at the Agricultural Exposition Center.

Montgomery said she plans to open a therapeutic riding program for handicapped people.

She was inspired by her brother who had a brain tumor. The cancer spread to his spine.

Montgomery said she spent a lot time in the hospital with her brother and while there, she saw what handicapped people go through. She said they are able to connect well with horses, and it helps with exercise, which is why they would benefit from a therapeutic riding program.

“It really benefits everyone,” she said. “I’ve even seen autistic kids learn to talk from it.”

Montgomery said one of the most rewarding things about riding and teaching equestrian lessons is getting to see people get the same joy out of it that she does.

She said it’s cool to see how much she can teach somebody and to see people respect the horses the way she does.

“Once you get up there and have control of a 1,000 to 1,500 pound beast, it’s amazing,” Montgomery said. “It’s cool to see how you can train them and how they learn so much, even though people think it’s just an animal.”



One of Montgomery’s equestrian teammates, Bowling Green sophomore Natalie Oliver, said Montgomery has taught her how to be patient and gentle when riding the horses.

“She’s really gifted with horses,” Oliver said. “I’ve always admired her, because she didn’t brag about how good she was.”

Montgomery has about 15 people enrolled in her classes.

The students learn the basic parts of the horse, how to take care of them, the cost and the basics of riding and how to walk, trot, canter and gallop.

Montgomery’s teammate Elizabeth Conner, a sophomore from Lynnville, Ind., said that when she met Montgomery through equestrian tryouts, she seemed like she knew a lot about horses.

She said Montgomery taught her how to relax and not get frustrated with the horses.

Montgomery’s teammates said they consider her a role model.

“She is very dedicated and gives back to the program a lot and already has a plan,” Oliver said. “She’s a person you can look up to and knows what she wants, and she is going to get there.”