FVSU’s beginners riding class helps conquer fears

awoolen@macon.comFebruary 13, 2013 

FORT VALLEY -- Brian Mullen’s courage failed him.

The former lineman at Southwest High School probably has stared down hundreds of football opponents but getting close to a large 1,000-pound creature was something else.

“I’m so scared,” he said, retreating back to the center of the covered arena where several students were gathered at Fort Valley State University’s stables last month.

Horses of various sizes and colors were tied to the arena’s walls waiting to be groomed and ridden.

Mullen’s friend -- sophomore Courtney Amos, who rode at the farm last semester -- persuaded him to come out to the beginning rider day, held every Tuesday afternoon.

After stepping into the dirt-floored arena, Mullen saw how large the animals were, and he regretted saying yes.

“He gave me a look,” he said of a horse, who turned around to check out the newcomer.

Mullen, a sophomore, grew up in south Macon and was never around horses. Decked out in a red T-shirt, basketball shorts and red Nike sneakers, he looked the part of a city slicker.

As the largest rider in a group of beginners, Mullen was directed to a stout horse. After walking over with someone else, he was coaxed to approach and touch the horse.

Hesitantly, he brushed the white and chestnut colored Appaloosa’s body with a hard brush.

Most of the students had a fear of getting kicked by the animals and gave them a wide berth when walking around the back.

Interim instructor Sara Dzimianski told them to put their hands on the horses’ rumps and talk softly to avoid startling them.

Fifteen minutes, laterm Mullen was picking up the horse’s feet and putting the large Western saddle on his back like a seasoned professional.

Standing on a two-step mounting block to assist with getting on the horse, Mullen swung his leg over and plopped on the horse’s back.

As riding student Eboni Showers walked the horse around by a lead rope, Mullen clung uncomfortably onto the saddle horn.

Dzimianski had some of the other students stretch their arms out and touch their toes while on horseback.

Mullen had none of that, though he did seem to enjoy himself.

“When it is someone’s first time on a horse, we have them do all this crazy stuff, so they laugh and relax,” Dzimianski said.

Mullen finally let go of the horn long enough to put his arms straight out for a few seconds and was back to holding on.

Getting off the horse proved a little difficult as Mullen worried, rightly so, about hurting himself. But he felt confident once his feet touched the ground.

By the end of the hour, most of the students, including Mullen, said they would return for more instruction.

“My momma’s gonna be so proud,” he said, slightly beaming.

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