Howarth Park: A Place to Learn Real Life Skills Outside the Classroom

Jacque wants to work in a therapeutic riding program when she grows up; Isabelle aspires to be a veterinary technician and Laitaita has intentions to study equine massage. And if she can ever get over her fear of both giving and receiving shots, Jamie has great aspirations of pursuing a career as an equine veterinarian. What do these four engaging young people have in common besides raging teenage hormones; cell phones attached to the ear and the need to text anyone and everyone about everything or nothing at all? They have a passion for horses and there is no greater place to satisfy that need than at the Howarth Park pony corral in Santa Rosa.

Nestled between the train station and animal barn, the Howarth Park pony corral provides a mecca of opportunity for aspiring equestrians ages 12-18. The pony corral, a longtime local stomping ground dating back over half a century, has for the last 28 years been under the directorship of Linda Aldrich and The Pony Express Equine Assisted Skills for Youth. The EASE  Intern program offers equine and educational learning opportunities for youth designed to not only enhance horsemanship and riding skills, but also provide valuable life-skill experiences in an authentic engaging outdoor classroom. Interns participate in a real-world learning environment designed to prepare them for future personal and professional goals and challenges. Trust, respect, communication and teamwork are just a few of the life skills that are emphasized and encouraged. 

As Linda shared with us, “all of my aspiring equine enthusiasts come into the pony corral with a passion for horses but not necessarily a passion for learning effective communication or the ability to work as a team with humans as well as horses.” However, all are required elements should those interested wish to participate. In exchange for their efforts interns receive guidance and instruction in topics ranging from identifying and defining career goals to mastering the basics in both English and Western horsemanship and riding skill application; all free of charge under Linda’s patient tutelage. 

It is as they say, what goes around comes around for at the tender age of eight, Linda too was a volunteer at the Howarth Park pony corral for the then proprietor, Mrs. Delores Bible. Although her parents eventually bought Linda her own horse, she never forgot the experience and subsequently started her own mentoring program soon after creating The Pony Express. Linda recently designed and created The Pony Express Equine Assisted Skills for Youth, otherwise known as The EASE Program, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that also rescues and rehabilitates homeless horses and ponies. 

The EASE Program develops life and leadership skills in youth through the use of horses as both guide and teacher. As Linda says, “each and every young person that participates in either our Howarth Park intern program or The EASE Program reminds me of myself when I was their age.” A self-described rebel with too many causes Linda continues to search for more opportunities to pass on the life changing experience that working with horses afforded her nearly half a century ago.

However with rising feed costs in addition to the high cost of every and all things relating to horses, affording horses has become extremely challenging. The EASE Program is currently home to a herd of 17 horses and at least that many aspiring young equestrians, all of which are always in need of financial assistance to keep up to the beat of all of their feet. But to make a difference one has to learn to do things differently and The Pony Express EASE Program is committed to doing just that. 

Linda’s popular equine educational youth programs reinforce the fact that there is a great need to provide and guide youth in their pursuit for authentic life skill learning opportunities. With a Master’s in Education and a lifetime of equine experience Linda, The Pony Express & Equine Assisted Skills for Youth are attempting to fill that need.  For applications, more information or to make a donation log onto their website @www.theponyexpressrocks.org, or email Linda @ pxpress1@gmail.com or contact her by phone @ (707) 538-9323.