Taking the Reins provides a unique hands-on, all-around equestrian experience for underserved and at-risk inner-city girls, ages 11-18. By learning to interact fearlessly and confidently with well-trained horses, TTR girls develop the assurance necessary to successfully navigate the challenges of adolescence and realize their full potential as citizens and future leaders. As a board member I have personally seen how this program can transform the lives of girls who have grown up on the "mean streets" of Los Angeles. Many girls go on to be the first in their family to graduate from high school and in some cases, attend college. As a horse owner and rider myself, I know what kinds of important lessons can be learned by riding and caring for horses.
Taking the Reins has been described as an “urban oasis”—the miracle is that this is really the special sense I get whenever I am there. I love the charmingly funky barn and the new organic garden (enriched by compost from the manure of the horses!) and the always-welcoming classroom space where the girls work on their writing, artwork and digital photography. But most important is the staff and band of supporters (largely but not exclusively female) who are so dedicated to empowering girls—and that dedication really inspires the girls to gain confidence with themselves, to learn discipline in their riding and active care for the horses—in other words to act strong and entertain big dreams for themselves. No wonder that one of the first girls in the startup years of the program a decade ago is the first in her family to not only graduate from high school but now is graduating from UC Berkeley! Moreover, there's a real social advantage to an “urban oasis”: unlike a summer camp program, it is a far more accessible program of enrichment for underserved urban girls (some of whose parents might be reluctant to send them away to camp even if that were affordable). It offers an intensive, stimulating program for their development that, especially with the informal mentoring provided by all the staff, the girls can, and do!, integrate their new-found sense of strong selves into the rest of their everyday experiences in public school classrooms (often too big), on the street (often intimidating), and in their home environments (which too often place more attention on the future of sons rather than daughters).
In the past ten years, as I've become increasingly involved in Taking the Reins, going from taking a friend's daughter to her riding lessons, to volunteering, and now serving on the board, I have had the twin pleasures of watching this unique program for girls grow, and watching the girls themselves grow from shy, tentative middle school girls to young women who have learned that the futures ahead of them are theirs to plan and control. Starting with a program rooted in horseback riding,and expanding to include creative writing, photography, and organic gardening, Taking the Reins can truly be said to cultivate lives.
I have seen the impact that Taking The Reins has on young teenage girls. They learn caring, community, compassion and creativity. With the lack of funding in the LA school system and with parents struggling to make ends meet, Taking The Reins provides a safe and enriching place for the next generation of women.
Taking the Reins is the only program of its kind in LA - committed to turning urban girls into courageous cowgirls capable of handling a horse and life's challenges. It provides a safe, open space where girls can develop physically, mentally, and emotionally. Dedicated staff mentor teen girls to advocate for themselves and be in control of their destinies. I have watched shy and under-served girls gain self-confidence and set higher goals for their life aspirations because of this program. I've been active on the Board of Directors since 2004 and now serve as Board Chair.