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Mihara Horse Riding Club

By: Kotoko Chinen

Date Posted: 1998-12-11

Horse riding in Okinawa??? That was the typical response among the people when I told them that horse riding could be enjoyed in Okinawa. "Where?" was the typical second question. It seems that many people, even Okinawans, donít know that there is a place in Mihara, Gushikawa City, that welcomes everyone to try horse riding.

Mihara Horse Riding Club is only two kilometers away from Camp Courtney, about 10-minute ride from its main gate. If you drive north from Camp Courtney towards Ishikawa City, you might have run into a sight along the road with horses strolling around in a fenced area - that is the Mihara Horse Riding Club.

There are 14 horses, including three ponies. Only horses which are five years old or older are used for lessons.

Once I read a book, which said that to succeed in horse riding, itís important that the rider not only care about horses but that he also makes the horses to understand that the rider cares about them.

"Itís not like we tuck up the horses and do all the work for you and you just ride them. Every student must learn how to take care of the horses. Thatís a part of the lesson," Elizabeth Waterbury, one of the instructors at Mihara Horse Riding Club, explained. "Before each lesson, the students brush dust and dirt off from the horses, and after the lesson, the horses get a bath if they sweat. They also get a reward in the form of carrots," Waterbury continued.

My partner for the day was a very strong, and very patient, 5-year old male called King. In front of such a huge creature, my heart started beating fast, half from fear and half from excitement. But Waterbury showed me every step that I had to make and that gave me a sense of security.

Waterburyís love for horses goes back to her childhood. Her mother raised horses and, naturally, she gave her daughter lessons in riding. At the age of seven, Waterbury got her first pony, which she still has on the farm in her hometown in Virginia. During her college days she was a member of the riding team for a year, played polo for two years and exercised racehorses for a year. She came to Okinawa a year ago and will stay until the year 2000. She gives lessons from 7:30 to 11 a.m. from Wed. through Sun. and from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. from Wed. through Fri. The fee is •2,500 for a private lesson, which includes the rental fee for everything that is needed. Each lesson is 30 minutes long. The instructorsí skills and friendly personality makes it easy even for first timers to enjoy.

"Now is the best season for horse riding in Okinawa - not too hot and not too cold," Waterbury said.

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