Laurie Bennett (left) and Jodi Scott McGhee (right), with Joker and fifth grade students.
Kendal O’Connor photo

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TRRFCC Horsemanship offers local students ‘equine-guided education’


Kendal O’Connor

CAVE CREEK – TRRFCC Horsemanship’s big annual Family Fun Night Fundraiser was held Monday night at the Buffalo Chip, but they have more events planned to help keep the program on a successful track in its seventh year.

TRRFCC has rented a theatre at Harkins Scottsdale 101 and have tickets available for a pre-showing of Mockingjay Part 2 on Wednesday, Nov. 18.

TRRFCC Horsemanship is a non-profit, “equine-centered character program,” within the Cave Creek Unified School District at Horseshoe Trails Elementary School. The program is structured around the six pillars of character: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship.

The hands-on program offers “equine-guided education,” for more than 400 elementary school students and is aimed to provide them with a well-rounded knowledge of horsemanship “from the ground up,” by creating a positive and safe environment that promotes sensitivity, confidence, and independence in students.

TRRFCC has also successfully expanded to include a mentorship program for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade students at Sonoran Trails Middle School.

The students in the program are split into groups and paired with a volunteer that takes them through a journaling station where they write about the chosen pillar of character for the month, a teambuilding station, and the horse station where they learn how to work as a team to groom and lead the horses.

Jodi Scott McGhee and Liz Covert created the concept of TRRFCC Horsemanship in partnership with Janiene Marlow, who was the principal of Horseshoe Trails Elementary School for almost ten years.

“Everything about TRRFCC Horsemanship brings something positive to the people involved,” Liz Covert, the executive director of TRRFCC, said. “The students, the teachers, the parents, and the volunteers, we all just really enjoy being here and get a lot out of it.”

Covert said the horses used for the program, who are borrowed from McGhee’s own riding school, are “worth their weight in gold,” because they’re so patient with the young students, which helps create an unspoken bond of trust and respect between them.

“Everything we do out here is collaborating with others and team work and communication, so it helps them become better people. We all come away better,” Covert said.

“Seeing [the students] develop as the year goes on and being able to relate the values that they learn and incorporate them in their lives and with other students is really rewarding,” Laurie Bennett, a TRRFCC volunteer, said. “There’s a special bond with everyone involved.”

Learn more about the TRRFCC horsemanship program online at