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December 8th, 2017





           


 
            
 
 
  
 

How an email changed my life

Ellsworth Airmen ride horses through Custer State Park, S.D., July 12, 2014, as part of an activity organized by the 28th Force Support Squadron outdoor recreation staff. The event, free for single Airmen, was designed to encourage participation in outdoor activities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anania Tekurio/Released)

Ellsworth Airmen ride horses through Custer State Park, S.D., July 12, 2014, as part of an activity organized by the 28th Force Support Squadron outdoor recreation staff. The event, free for single Airmen, was designed to encourage participation in outdoor activities. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anania Tekurio/Released)

Ellsworth Airmen pose for a group photo after participating in a trail ride through Custer State Park, S.D. The 28th Force Support Squadron outdoor recreation staff sponsored the event to provide Airmen the opportunity to experience South Dakota’s outdoors.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anania Tekurio/Released)

Ellsworth Airmen pose for a group photo after participating in a trail ride through Custer State Park, S.D. The 28th Force Support Squadron outdoor recreation staff sponsored the event to provide Airmen the opportunity to experience South Dakota’s outdoors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Anania Tekurio/Released)

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- I have a confession to make - I automatically delete a large amount of the flurry of e-mails I receive daily, sometimes even the ones shared from the 28th Force Support Squadron outlining the upcoming activities made available by Outdoor Recreation.

As soon as I see an email from them pop up in my inbox, muscle memory takes over and, unless I absolutely need it, in less than a second the email is gone.

However, two weeks ago, an email appeared talking about a free horseback riding trip that caught my attention. Having ridden a horse once before, last year while I was visiting Hawaii, I was immediately interested in getting back in the saddle.

Right away I called the 28th FSS outdoor recreation facility phone number to sign up for the trail ride through Custer State Park - a quick and simple process - and began looking forward to the trip.

I admit I am known for sleeping in on weekends, so waking up early on a Saturday was a struggle, but well worth it. From the start of the trip, I was already meeting and getting to know new people.

All attendees met at the outdoor recreation facility at 8:30 a.m. to load onto the bus and travel to Custer State Park. Eugene Strong, 28th FSS outdoor recreation assistant, was our host and driver.

For the most part, the bus ride up there was quite enjoyable as I talked with other Airmen of several different ranks and career fields about their hobbies and interests. But as the winding roads and long trip played havoc with my stomach, I began to wonder if maybe this wasn't the best idea after all. Then, we arrived at the Park's Blue Bell Stables and those doubts faded.

After we unloaded from the bus and recovered from the lengthy journey, the Blue Bell Stables staff paired each of us with a horse. My horse was named Crimson, she was a lovely and kind animal. The staff thought I was an avid rider - seems I got on the horse like a pro.

The journey along the trail was absolutely gorgeous and I could hear participants peacefully exclaim from time to time, wow, this is amazing and It's so beautiful here. I could not help but smile the whole day - it was the first time in a while that I felt truly calm and happy.

The trail consisted of two creek crossings with water just below my heels, along with a few hill climbs and decents - allowing me to feel Crimson's leg strength while she mustered through the mud and rocky terrain.

After the hour-long ride, we all gathered to eat lunch outside the stables. We joked and laughed as if we had known each other for a long time. The drive back was much smoother too, partially because I remembered to take medication for motion sickness.

When we got back to base I thanked Strong for driving, said goodbye to the new friends I had made, and got in my car. I had an amazing day filled with horseback riding, meeting new people, and seeing parts of South Dakota I had not yet explored.
It was a memorable experience. Not only were my eyes opened to the beauty of the region I've lived in for the past three years, but also to the many opportunities to get out, make new friends and discover new things.

That day changed how I approach opportunities - in whatever form they take. I am grateful I took a chance, opened an email and experienced something new.