For Shuping, a lifetime of riding and training

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 3, 2007

IVOR—It’s hard to tell which Bob Shuping likes better — training horses or teaching special needs children.

He is happy when he doesn’t have to choose but can combine the two, and during his 30-year career, the 49-year-old teacher has spent many hours teaching children with all kinds of problems how to ride and care for horses.

&uot;Some of my most rewarding classes were at a group home for boys in Frostburg, Md.,&uot; he said.

&uot;Some of the students had been in street gangs, some were orphans and some were placed there by social services.

&uot;In my program, we not only had some very good quarter horses and ponies, but we had wild mustangs provided to us by the Maryland Bureau of Land Management.

&uot;We trained the mustangs while we worked with the boys. It was amazing to see some of those kids, hardened by their lives on the streets, simply melt when they worked with a horse.

&uot;They were able to drop their guards and actually care about something.

I saw some amazing transformations.&uot;

Shuping, who has traveled the United States and Europe training horses and teaching riding, settled seven years ago with his wife, Debbie, on their 70-acre farm near Ivor on Seacock Chapel Road.

He is a special needs teacher at Nottoway Elementary School on Route 616 during the school year and teaches riding year-round on his farm. His school students this time are not in his riding classes, however.

Currently he is teaching riding to three students, two women from Suffolk who are in the advanced stages of dressage, and a teenager from Ivor, who is just beginning to learn the basics.

&uot;I am teaching them the long-established method of classical dressage, which is based on the nature and structure of the horse, carried out in a gradual, planned program.&uot;

Shuping says there is no prettier sight than to watch a horse and rider as one perform dressage.

The former college professor has not competed for a long time, he said.

&uot;But I’ve done my share,&uot; he said

His love of horses began while he was in high school in northern Virginia.

He said he took a few classes in horsemanship and stable management and then worked with special needs students using horses.

&uot;Then, when I got out of high school, I worked during summer camp as a riding instructor.

The director I worked with there had attended a school where they taught

riding, stable management and blacksmithing.&uot;

Shuping said the school was highly recommended so he enrolled.

It was after completing his training there that he began working at the group home for boys in Maryland.

Shuping’s next job was as a trainer and rider for the Royal Lipissan Stallion Show.

&uot;This is a show that tours the country, educating people in the art of classical riding and introduces them to the Lipissan, which is a very old and rare breed of horse.

&uot;It’s a beautiful show, the lights, the music and costumes and such magnificent riding.

I toured with the show for two years and loved it.

Incidentally, that’s how I paid off my college debts.

Shuping was then sent by the United States Sports Academy to Saudia Arabia for two years to teach children of the officers of the Royal Saudia Air Force to ride.

&uot;Actually, these were all boys; girls in that country seldom ride.&uot;

Shuping said the horses were mostly pure-bred Arabians — beautiful animals and a joy to work with.

Back in the U. S., he worked with Olympic level horses owned by Gwyn Stockabran in California and again worked in a group home for disturbed children.

Locally, Shuping has worked as an Arabian trainer at a horse farm in Whaleyville, near Suffolk and at Claremont in Surry County.

Currently Shuping and his wife own four rare-breed horses, a Warmblood-Percheron, a Andalusian-Shagya cross and two Dutch Warmbloods.

One of the Warmbloods, Rolex, just happens to be one of the biggest horses in the area, Shuping said. &uot;He stands 18 hands high. Needless to say, we’re very proud of him.&uot;

With teaching, training horses and taking care of the farm, it would seem that Shuping would not have time for other activities.

He has other interests, however.

He writes children’s books, deals in real estate and plays 12-string guitar with his musical family.

Stepson Aaron Bowls, a senior at Appomattox Regional Governor’s School, plays jazz bass, while Shuping’s wife Debbie, plays the violin.

Another stepson, Nathan Bowls, a graduate student at Virginia Tech, plays drums in three different musical groups.