Nature & Animals
Horseback riding is one of the more unique trips that Elevate Youth has to offer the kids we serve, because it not only involves getting outside and spending time in nature, it also provides an important lesson: respect for animals. Our community partner for horseback riding outings is Blazing Saddles Equestrian Center in Randolph, MA. They have around 40 horses on their property; labor horses, retired race horses, young and old horses, miniature horses and even ponies. Aside from their size, age, or breed, each horse has a look of its own with a distinctive personality and gaze.
The kids’ initial reactions to the majestic animals are always the same. They are astounded at their size, a little nervous to get too close, but at the same time eager to reach out their hand to brush a horse’s mane or neck. When given the opportunity to feed the horses a carrot or apple, most of the kids giddily jump at the chance, while a few are apprehensive about getting their fingers too close to the massive chomping teeth. But, however reserved some kids seem at the start, we have never had a kid too nervous to ride.
After allowing some time for everyone to warm up to the animals, they are each paired with a horse to ride. The barn’s backyard happens to be the Blue Hills Reservation, with dozens of wooded trails to hike, mountain bike, or in this case, ride a horse through. When the time comes to mount the horse, with the help of the experienced riders and instructors, the kids nerves are usually masked by excited anticipation. By the time the group is all ready to go, you can never tell that it is anyone’s first time. What follows is a pleasant and peaceful trail ride through a natural, green, freshly scented trail, shockingly only 20 minutes from the city.
As an animal lover and a coordinator for these trips, this might be one of the most rewarding outings I’ve had the privilege of planning and attending. It is the one trip we do that allows me to share both of my passions - animals and the outdoors - with the kids we serve, and it never fails to disappoint. While on some trips we need to constantly be asking kids to lower their voices and respect nature, we have never had to ask someone to settle down on a trail ride. Something about the soothing vibe that the horses give off keeps the kids calm throughout the day.
At the end of the ride, I am able to see how attached some of the kids get to their particular horse, as if they have a sense of pride in the animal that allowed a person to climb on it’s back without issue and carry them through the woods for almost an hour. It is easy to see that the kids are reluctant to climb down off their horses, not knowing when they might have this opportunity again. A few of the kids in each group always ask if they can go through the trail again, to which the owner of the barn jumps in to tell the kids that they are always welcome to come back and work with the horses at Blazing Saddles.
By: Annie Hayes, EY Program Coordinator