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Jaci Weishaar, left, instructs student Sierra Upshaw during a horse-riding lesson Wednesday at Victory Acres Farm in La Grande. Weishaar has operated Victory Acres for the past six years and offers lessons to beginners and experienced riders. (Chris Baxter/The Observer)
Her motto is simple. “Live your dreams.”
And that’s exactly what Jaci Weishaar is helping people do.
Weishaar runs Victory Acres Farm, a horse-riding academy at the base of Mt. Emily. She teaches all ages, from infants up to adults, the very basic to the most complex horse-riding skills.
“This was a goal of mine since I was a kid,” Weishaar said. “When I was a sophomore in college, I needed some extra money so I decided to start teaching. It kind of went from there, but I just did it in the summer. When I graduated, I basically put all my time into it.”
Weishaar, who grew up in the La Grande area, graduated from Oregon State University with a degree in agricultural sciences with minors in animal science and business and entrepreneurship. She also attended Equissage, the oldest equine and canine massage school in the country, and she is certified in both equine and canine massage therapy.
She has operated Victory Acres for the past six years.
Weishaar spent nine years in the local 4-H Horse program when she was younger, and from age 9 on she has shown in open, schooling and 4-H shows.
She’s also competed in everything from western, trail, reining and colt training, to English, hunter/jumper and dressage.
Her lessons mostly consist of building the basics that a beginning rider will need.
“I mainly focus on horsemanship,” she said. “We go from getting that good foundation, and taking that foundation and getting up to whatever goal (the student) has. If the goal is something that I don’t specialize in, then I usually try to find them someone that does.”
Weishaar said the majority of her clients are between the ages of 6 and 9, although there is no age limit to begin learning.
She starts her clients out by grooming and saddling the horse.
The student will then work on groundwork before eventually getting in the saddle.
“I have two arenas. We’ll usually start in the smaller arena and build up to the bigger arena,” Weishaar said.
“Every (lesson) I step back more and make them do more. I really encourage independence — and learning to do everything, not just ride.”
Weishaar offers private lessons, semi-private lessons that consist of two students at a time, mommy and me courses and group lessons of three to five people.
Private lessons cost $35 for an hour with the student’s horse, or $40 for an hour on one of her three school horses.
Semi-private and mommy and me courses are $30/$35 for an hour, and group lessons are between $25 and $45.
Pee-Wee lessons (ages 3-5) are available and run 30 to 45 minutes, and buddy riders (ages 4 and younger) is 10- to 15-minute classes.
Weishaar also started Operation: Horses & Heroes, a discounted program for active and retired military veterans.
Weishaar has three horses that she uses to train students. Shiloh, an 8-year-old quarter horse, is Weishaar’s main academy horse.
Fancy is a 6-year-old quarter horse who Weishaar uses on various projects when they come through the academy. And her fill-in horse is Auzzie, a 6-year-old quarter horse.
Weishaar said she welcomes anyone and everyone, no matter what their background is with horses.
But she isn’t satisfied with what she has.
She’s also looking at expanding the business in the future.
“Every year ideas hit me,” she said. “I don’t want to expand too fast, because I know I’ll burn out. Every year I try to add one new program or project.”
To find out more about Victory Acres Farm, log onto www.victoryacresfarm.com or call Weishaar at 541-786-3218 and start living your dream.