As the Director of The Pony Express Equine Assisted Skills for Youth, an equine rescue that includes a life skill/leadership program for youth utilizing horses as both guide and teacher, you always go in search of happy endings. It is the ultimate gift and reward to be rewarded not necessarily in dollars and cents, but in the sense that you have made a difference in the quality of the lives of both the horses and riders that come your way. Such was the case this sunny Saturday in July.
The story is a common one. If you have spent any time in the saddle it has probably happened to you or someone you know. You were on a horse and somehow, someway they knew that you were a little, maybe even a lot afraid to be on their back. Sensing this, at some point during the course of the ride your horse decided to do something about it. Perhaps he spooked at something, drug you through some low hanging branches, decided to run back to the barn, or all of the above. Your horse’s attempt to dislodge you may or may not have been successful. Either way you’re even more afraid to ride and convinced that every horse you get on knows this about you. It’s true, they do so let’s take a minute to look at our equine angst and how we can go about getting to the other side of the equine fear factor.
According to Webster’s the word ‘whisper’ is defined as “to speak or utter softly, using the breath, but not the vocal cords.” We whisper to one another when we want our words to remain hushed and in the confidence and confinement of closely guarded quarters. We whisper to convey secrets, deliver intoxicating revelations, or special utterances of the heart that are meant for only certain ears. So how and when did the whisper come to be associated with horses?
I feel like I am writing the letter of my life today, and in many ways it is. For it is about my life’s work. We are at a cross road and when I say we I mean The Pony Express Equine Assisted Skills for Youth. On one hand I feel like it’s nothing short of a miracle that this year we celebrate 32 years of service to Sonoma County youth and horses in need. On the other hand, I know it is going to take nothing short of a miracle for us to make it another year, much less another 32 years. But our story is worthy of just that: a miracle; for it is the kids and the horses that make miracles happen at this safe place they all call home.
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.
Midnight was inducted into the Equus Awards Hall of Fame for his commitment to making the days, and the dreams of young aspiring equestrians everywhere come true. Though small in stature, Midnight is mighty big in his ability to bring a smile to any and all of the children that know him by name at the Howarth Park pony corral.
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.
I remember as a second grader walking the two blocks necessary to get to my school, Village Elementary, in Santa Rosa. Of course this was back in the day when it was perfectly ok for kids to walk alone to school, but I was not alone. As soon as I left my house my youthful imagination and wishful thinking transplanted me off of my well traveled main street and onto the dusty trail that I called home. Here I would become one with my gallant steed as we effortlessly galloped our way to school. I could actually feel the wind in my hair and the gentle sway of my horse as he carried me, oh so proudly to my destination. Upon arriving I would gracefully dismount as all of my fellow classmates looked on in awe and amazement. At the tender age of seven I already had the heart and soul for my equine soul mates. In reality, Annie Oakley I wasn’t, skinny Linney, I was. An appropriate nickname as I was always hungry, hungry for horses that is.