By JR Valrey
Now that we are fast approaching the one year anniversary to the Covid shelter in place mandate, which is on March 12, we must start to analyze our successes, during such a tumultuous year. Most of us have had to form deeper relationships with the people that we live with and around, considering that life as we commonly knew it, has been closed. We have been forced to look at the world we live in, and take into account how fragile our norm is. We have had to learn new things and discover resources in the community that we may not have ever needed before. The silver-lining in the situation, is the fact that at least for now, the mundane everyday reality has been re-molded and reshaped. Most of our lives today have been revamped, in some way to deal with the societal calamity known as the Covid pandemic. As it is said, “you can look at the glass as half empty, or half full” and the way that Black children are falling behind academically is the empty part of the equation while the community surrounding our children looking for new ways to engage them, peak their curiosity, and encourage them to expand their knowledge base, is the full part.
Patricia Jackson, is a grandmother, who started a non-profit called “We Ride Too”, teaching young people how to ride and care for horses, right here in Oakland. Many of our people don’t know that Black people were some of the first, and most celebrated cowboys in the Wild West; Black cowboys like Nat Love and Bill Picket were legends.
The Covid pandemic’s shelter in place does not have to be a year lost, it can be a year of discovery for Black students. It should be a time when Black parents, teachers, administrators, tutors, and mentors are looking for new ways to teach because the old ways, pre-covid, had too many youth falling through the cracks.
Salute to Patricia and her team for taking it upon themselves to teach our babies about horses and the natural world. Let’s enroll and donate to support this. Check out We Ride Too’s Patricia Jackson, as she talks about her journey and quest.
JR Valrey: How did you get introduced to horses and horse-back riding?
Patricia Jackson: It began with a casual encounter, weekly visits with my granddaughters to a local public horse facility, seven years ago. The public was allowed general access, and we did our frequent walk through, identifying color and breed of each stalled equine beauty. Each with its own willingness to engage a small person at the paddock gate. There was one horse in which a relationship/bond was founded. With the coming of spring, she expressed a desire to ride. It was then that it became evident to me that barriers existed. They were racial, cultural, and economic barriers. We were denied access. I was told “Black people don’t ride “. Historically this is clearly, not the case. This comment demonstrated social incompetence, with racist undertone. I was shocked by the comment being made in the 21st century at a horse facility in Oakland, California It was and continues to be non-reflective of our city’s unique diversity.The solution for me was to learn to ride, and find or build a horse community where my granddaughters and others would feel welcomed. I currently have a mare who is boarded in Oakland, adjacent to the Chabot Regional Park. And Yes! We Ride Too, horses are the best thing that has happened to me. In the saddle or on the ground, I am committed to making sure others have the same experience.
JR Valrey: What made you want to share this activity with young Black people?
Patricia Jackson: I feel all young people are deserving of the equine experience, particularly youth of color. It opens the door to self-awareness, and builds high self-esteem, which is crucial in developing life skills. Horses are nonjudgmental, allowing an ideal setting in which to make mistakes/and examine one’s feelings. There are studies supporting the fact that engaging horses can reduce stress and anxiety, as well as aid in positive decision making. The youth are our future, they can build strong communities through the equine experience.
JR Valrey: How and why did you start your equestrian program? Who is the program for?
Patricia Jackson: We Ride Too / Oakland Youth Equestrians – non-profit was launched January 1, 2020. With the intention of building diversity and inclusion in our Oakland equine community. We are bringing young future equestrians from ground to saddle. We are offering this experience to those who are unable to access the horses because of geography or income. Our core values are education, citizenship, leadership, and community building as we ride too. The youth of Oakland are our future, we are building lasting relationships through the equine experience. Horses Heal. We have made a great impact on the community. 100 horse encounters, 127 horseback rides, two young adults have advanced in work to ride projects. This has been made possible by our private and foundation donors, and loyal allies. Blessings upon blessings.
JR Valrey: How has the leadership of the city of Oakland responded to you? When
Patricia Jackson: Our city officials have been mindful and supportive of our efforts to bring these experiences to all our Oakland youth. We strive to keep them informed of our ongoing ground to saddle projects. They are aware of the need to find an equine facility to house our projects. We are actively scouting land, so that our programs have longevity. Loren Taylor (District 7 councilman) has been supportive, and has come onsite to participate in horse encounters at the Oakland Sequoia Arena. The use of that space was made possible by the Metropolitan Horsemen’s Association. Other city officials have also reached out to lend positive encouragement and support.
JR Valrey: What do you want the youth that join your program, to get out of it?
Patricia Jackson: We want our youth to be skilled horsemen, and have respect for the relationships that we form with our equine partners. We want them to form new friendships and have respect for the difference that we share. Most importantly, we want them to have a sense of belonging, taking responsibility collectively for our communities. We are grooming mentors and future leaders; our future is bright. We are building strong communities, through the equine experience.
JR Valrey: So that people understand the day-to-day finances needed, what does it take to run a program like this? What are some of your biggest expenses?
Patricia Jackson: The largest expense is boarding, feeding, and medical care for the horses, and also, the care of the facility grounds. “We Ride Too” currently contracts with a group of equine specialists who provide the saddle time for our advancing equestrians. groundwork is done onsite at our encounter horse facility on Skyline Blvd, in Oakland. We gravitate to the best in the industry: Zenerosity – The therapeutic herd, in Danville; Haystack Horses in Castro Valley; Castle Rock Arabians in Walnut Creek. We owe them a special thanks for discounting their professional fees. This allows increased saddle time for our riders.
JR Valrey: How can youth become a part of the program?
Patricia Jackson: We are currently welcoming new participants to our herd/ join us on our journey. Please like and follow us on our non-profit social media Facebook platform. Message us with your interest. We Ride Too www.facebook.com/groundtosaddle we will be looking forward to hearing from you.
JR Valrey: How can people support your youth program?
Patricia Jackson: Please like and share our mission with friends and community. We are currently seeking mentors for our young equestrians, in saddle and also, facilities who can discount their rate for saddle time. We have advancing young equestrians who have completed groundwork training, and are ready to ride. You can help make a difference. We humbly ask for any amount of financial donation @ PayPal.Me/@groundtosaddle We Ride Too / non-profit 501c3 all donations are tax deductible.