Outdoor Recreation as a Motivational Tool for Youth
The many benefits of trail riding and associating with horses.
By Mary D. Midkiff
This summer, while planning for the Boulder County Horseman's Association Annual Public Lands Appreciation Day, I was reminded again of the many ways in which horses touch people. The event was to take place at the gold Lake Mountain Resort and Spa near Ward, CO on September 17. During one of several visits to the site, I met the horse concessionaire, Moe Wilson.
Moe has dedicated her life to her string of horses and helping people. She manages dozens of trail rides daily all during the resort's heavy tourist cycles, and still finds time to invite inner-city and underprivileged children's programs to come up to Gold Lake and meet her horses.
Listening to Moe share her stories is captivating. She talks about children and teens who visit her stables, many of them seeing a horse for the first time. They unload from a Denver bus and display their dissatisfaction with life the minute they set foot in the dusty stable parking lot.
Some act wild like a high-strung colt let out to pasture with uncontrollable urges to get into anything they can. Others are sullen and despondent, wandering around dragging their feet, eyes fixed on the ground, hands jammed into pockets extending well below the knee, making sure it be known that they are unhappy to be there or anywhere else. Three or four stick together in a deeply bonded cluster and one or two other wander off on their own.
Moe sees herself in these kids. She tells me horses saved her life when she was a teen and she wants to give these girls and boys that chance, too. Moe knows her horse like she knows her own children. She knows what horse will give what type of kid a chance to feel something.
She starts with each group by demonstrating safe horse handling and grooming. Then begins by allowing each one to come to her and touch a horse. With some, Moe tells me, all it takes is the initial contact and a spark of life happens. With other teens, it may take several visits before any transformation is noticed.
There was one girl in particular who was shy to the point of not lifting her head or talking to anyone. Her friend told Moe she had tried to commit suicide twice and was at the end of trying to save herself. Her parents too were out of solutions. She went with her friends to visit Gold Lake in hopes she might like being around animals and surrounded by the beauty of nature.
Moe relates that from the time she arrived to the time she left that very first day, she noticed a slight change in the girl. There was a hint of a smile on her face when she was around the horse. Moe told her she needed a helper during the summer and hoped she would come back. The girl came back the next weekend and then on a regular basis and became one of Moe's assistants.
She loves the horses, she loves her time at the stables, she feels needed and wanted, she has a purpose, and she has a life. For several summers now the suicidal teen has been coming to work for Moe as a regular employee. She has turned out to be a beautiful girl with lots of joy exuding from her face. Her life has direction and it all started with touching a horse.
To sit and listen to Moe's stories is to get perspective on life. This summer I got to know Moe and step into her world of giving to and loving people through horses.
I created and organized the BCHA Public Lands Event to bring land use officials together with horse people in a friendly and casual setting. Little did I know what else would result. Moe and her horses had a similar effect on our public official guests. This year the Mayor of Boulder, Will Toor; Boulder City Council Member, Francoise Poinsatte; Boulder County Open Space Parks Rangers, Ann Wichmann and Maria Meyer; to name a few, joined BCHA members in trail and wagon rides around U.S. National Forest Lands.
The weather was beautiful and the smiles aplenty. Several of our guests had not ridden in many years, if ever, and were delighted at the first sighting of the horses. Several breeds were represented along with two giant Percherons pulling a Conestoga wagon. The atmosphere was positive and thoughts were turned to enjoyment and beauty rather than government issues and land use worries.
After the rides we all joined for a barbecue lunch overlooking Gold Lake. Once again looking around the gathering I saw what horses could do for people. Families and strangers were talking and laughing about their newly found experience with a horse. So many of our guests expressed their gratitude for this event because it gave them a chance to relax and see nature through the eyes of a horse.
What you or I may forget on occasion is what these gorgeous, saintly creatures in equine form offer to people. Whether it be as simple as helping a friend through a rough time, or as complex as aiding the mentally or physically disabled, the emotionally unbalanced or the economically challenged, horses give-they don't ask for anything back. They deserve respect, compassion and comfort but they never ask for it. We owe a great deal to horses who take care of people. And we owe a great deal to a person like Moe who has recognized the value of every horse and human she meets. Just over the course of a couple of months, meeting Moe has meant a great deal to me.
Take someone you know or know about to meet your horse or to the Gold Lake Stables. You never know how the experience will benefit their lives.
For more information: Gold Lake Mountain Resort (303) 459-3544 Moe Wilson, Ext.17
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Updated March 16, 2007