Vol I. No. 1 (April 2003)

Feature Article: Susan Wyle Takes Students Horseback Riding in February, 2003.

One mild February day this Spring, Susan Wyle took her PWR class, "Writing the West: the Rhetoric of Race, Culture and Conflict," to Marvista, along the coast south of Fort Funston. She saddled them up and set out across the coast for an hour's ride in which the students literally engaged in "(w)riding the west."

"No Helmet, No Ride"
photo from Marvista fieldtrip

Her trip has become legend in PWR, and many students cite it as the best thing they have heard about PWR... so we wanted to learn more.

Qu: What kind of preparation did the students do for this trip?

Susan: They had to read two essays about Cowboy mythology and the role of cowboy myths in in US history, and they had to read cowboy poetry. But it was the physical reality of sitting on the horse for one hour that was the truly transformative experience for these students.

Qu: What do you mean?

Susan: Well, it was hilly and many of them had never ridden before. I think they got a real sense of how hard that life was.

Qu: That's interesting. How did they respond to the whole experience?

Susan: My favorite reflection comes from a male gymnast. He wrote, "Until I actually rode the horses, I had no idea how incredible it was that both cowboys and Indians could ride and carry weapons at the same time. All I could think was, 'Stay on the horse, stay on the horse.'"

Qu: That's hilarious! Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Any advice for other instructors who might want to take their classes on such a trip?

Susan: The trip was very bonding for the class, and I was really surprised at how many of them showed up. Given the university funds that we do have for this kind of trip (people can go to museums, the city, and many other places), it was worth its weight in gold because the moral was raised tremendously and they did learn a lot about the reality of the physical requirements of what it was like to endure the material conditions of the west that we were reading and writing about all quarter.