By Alison Mahnken
For the Courier
Denim and diamonds and dreams come true — such were the themes of the gala grand opening of Denver Equestrians on Saturday evening in Littleton.
The drizzly chill dampened neither the spirits nor the enthusiasm of some 200 attendees, dressed up and dressed down, who gathered in the facility’s barn at 5200 W. Coal Mine Ave. It too was dressed for the occasion, with white-curtained dividers backlit by pastel lights, tables draped in brown burlap and tan linens, towering patio heaters, a stage, a dance floor and tables for auction items, beverages and eats.
CBS4 newscaster Ed Greene emceed the event, which opened with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres, followed by dinner from Big Bang Catering, a silent and live auction whose items included a Broncos helmet signed by Peyton Manning, door prizes, a DJ and dancing, and of course photos of horses groomed to their shining best.
For Corrine Lettau, founder of Denver Equestrians, which acquired Normandy Farms and Stables earlier this year, horses have been a life-long love.
“I went on a trail ride for my 8th birthday. That was the first time I’d been around a horse, and I knew instantly that I wanted more of that. My parents were divorced, and they lived in the inner city of northeast Minneapolis. It’s not glamorous at all. My mom was a single mom and didn’t even have a car, so it seemed too much of a dream for me to even want to go riding, but it was a burning desire.
“When I turned 10, my mom took a job at a very exclusive girls’ summer camp as the art director, and so they had a riding program. I was submerged for two months in a very exclusive girls’ riding program where I knew I didn’t belong but yet I won all the classes. And the girls did not like that one bit! But it just set my heart on fire.”
Fast-forward to today, and a horse named Providence given to Lettau as a gift led her to found Denver Equestrians. The 32,000-square-foot facility is home to 25 horses.
“We just keep growing by about four horses every month. We do have 10 (privately owned) boarded horses.”
The facility can accommodate five more boarders and 10 more teaching horses. “Within the next year, we’ll be completely maxed out,” Lettau predicted.
The academy accepts students from age 3 on up and offers programs and services ranging from horse camp to saddle and bridle club to tack classes to private and group lessons to parties and advanced horsemanship.
“We have programs specifically tailored to adults,” said Lettau. Novices are their specialty, and the programs are comprehensive. “It starts with an Introduction to Horsemanship class, which includes a tour of the facility. We fit for helmets and boots, get all the paperwork signed, then go over the very basics” like leading a horse, horse psychology and body language, and the do’s and don’ts of safety and grooming. One-on-one assessment is followed by riding determined to be appropriate for the student.
“We’re very careful, very particular about how our clients learn, so they’re taking into account the whole experience of horsemanship, not just getting into the saddle,” said Lettau.
Horses are acquired from a variety of sources. Some are given by owners unable to feed and care for their animals in the current rugged economic climate.
“We get a lot of our horses from less-fortunate situations, so whether they’re on the auction block and their fate is undetermined, as long as they’re safe for kids to ride and safe for beginner adults to ride … we will bring them into the program,” explained Lettau.
Proceeds from Saturday’s gala and the Family Fun on the Farm held Sunday — with horse and pony rides, face-painting, kids’ crafts, picnic lunch, photo opportunities with horses and reduced package plans through the weekend — are earmarked for facility improvements such as a cover for the outdoor arena.
Lettau conceded that operating a facility with its many responsibilities, from horses to trainers to students to feedings to safety to upkeep, sometimes can be daunting. “When I do look at it as mine, I get overwhelmed.
“But I did this for all of the trainers. I did this for all the horses. I did this for all the little kids out there who don’t have a place to ride otherwise because they can’t afford their own horse.”
Denver Equestrians is at 5200 W. Coal Mine Ave. in Littleton (next to Normandy Pool and Tennis Club). The phone number is 720-633-4829; e-mail is: Ride@DenverEquestrians.com. For more information, visit http://www.denverequestrians.com/.