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Photos: Kara Stewart Story: Carrie Schmeck Recreation HAPPY TRAILS learning the ropes with norcal trail rides Colleen Leavitt always wanted to be a cowgirl. Problem was, her home in Los Angeles was better suited for byways than trails and strip malls over stables. Her dream never died, but her pursuit of it had to wait. Three years ago, Leavitt’s granddaughter wanted riding lessons. The granddaughter lost interest, but at 51, Colleen’s inner cowgirl reared. Now Leavitt is a fixture, along with her horse Smokey, at NorCal Trail Rides in Anderson and counts the center’s owner, Alicia Ryan, as mentor and friend. “When I was ready, Alicia even helped me pick out my horse,” she says. “A lot of people buy horses that aren’t right for them and it’s just sad.” She adds that when Ryan teaches equine lessons, she doesn’t just train the rider, she trains the team. Ryan agrees, noting that horses are “a lot like dogs.” They communicate, have a pecking order and show both fear and joy. Knowing how to read a horse’s body language and understanding how to work with it makes a rider’s experience much more pleasant. For this reason, clients who book trail rides may be interviewed before ever touching an animal. Ryan will ask about previous horsemanship as well as bad experiences or fears. It’s important to know if a rider is nervous because horses sense attitude. A scared rider might be tense, inadvertently asking their horse to speed up through body language. And that, she says, can make a bad situation worse. continued on page 74 April 2012 Enjoy 73

Enjoy Magazine - April 2012

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