Saturday morning at The Pony Express Ranch, an equine rescue and home to the Equine Assisted Skills for Youth Program, Cheyenne is the first to arrive. Barefoot with riding boots in hand she runs into the tack room with Bella, the ranch pit pup hot on her heels. Next to arrive is Aleyah followed by Alex, Jamie and Ella. Just another day in the life of a pony girl (aka PG), and a good life it is.
Eager to take their riding lesson, the PG’s head out into the field to catch Milo, Balou, Natasha, Lily and Mindy, respectfully. Soon there are girls and horses everywhere as the grooming and saddling process begins. Out in the arena the girls warm up their horses and themselves on this cold, grey morning. Today’s lesson will have the girls learning how to ride a bounce jump. A bounce is a series of jumps set between 9-12 feet apart (depending on the horse’s length of stride), so that the horse lands and jumps through the line with no additional strides in between. The exercise requires that the rider stay focused and in balance all the while maintaining a steady rhythmic gait from start to finish. Finding the balance in life both on and off the backs of their equine partners is what this day, and this program is all about.
The lesson is over but the day is far from over as the girls work in exchange for riding lessons, and the work has just begun. After their riding lesson it’s time to get ponies ready for Howarth Park. The girls hustle for before we go to Howarth Park these PG’s have a horse sized hunger to feed. Today it’s McDonalds, breakfast of champions, or at least for these champions, as girls pile out of the truck and head for the home fries and Egg McMuffins. Next is the Dollars for Donuts store. Now and only when improperly fueled can we head for Howarth Park, our home away from home.
Once at the park we were joined by two more PG’s, Jacquelyn and Adriana. Having more pony girls in the corral than horses or customers I was able to engage the girls in their favorite topic, horse sense. At the top of the topics is our upcoming 4th Annual Horse Show/BBQ/Fundraiser Sunday, Nov. 13. The girls are in charge of creating the classes and the schedule of classes that they will compete in. This is their once a year opportunity to showcase their horsemanship skills for family, friends and all other spectators to see. It is a very special day in the life of all of our PG’s.
As the day progresses in-between talking about all things equine, the girls spend time assisting the myriad of other young aspiring equestrians as they come in and out of the Howarth Park pony corral. For the life of a PG is not just about riding horses. Before a PG can actually get on a pony, or a horse, they must first develop a relationship with their equine partner based on trust, respect, communication and team work. In addition they must also learn how to work with each other as well as the public who help support many but not all of the horses and ponies that keep our program trotting down the road.
By the end of the day the PG’s are winding down but there is still work left to do. Once home from Howarth Park there is a small herd (15), of rescued horses and ponies to feed and water. Pens must be cleaned and grains made for the following day. Only when all is fed and done do the PG’s head for home and usually home work. Though tired there is still a sense that all things horse sense make for good sense later on in life. For no matter what age we are, our horses keep us grounded in what is real, and really important. Yet another lesson in life learned both on and off the backs of our horses.
So how does one go about being a PG? To qualify one must be between the ages of 12-18 years of age and possess a passion for horses. And if you do, you too can experience the experience of becoming an integral part of life on a working horse ranch. The Pony Express Equine Assisted Skills for Youth, a life skill/leadership program that utilizes horses as both guide and teacher. Also an equine rescue, please explore our website and see how you can help support both our kids and our horses. Thank you!
Linda Aldrich is the Director of The Pony Express Equine Assisted Skills for Youth, an equine rescue that provides a life skill/leadership program for youth ages 12-18 years of age utilizing horses as both guide and teacher.