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Stay in my room? Neigh.

Before coming to Caltech, I was trying to find out what kind of athletic facilities they had, so I followed some links and ended up at the Caltech Y. I was a bit confused when I couldn’t find anything about Les Mills workouts on the Y website — just service projects and outings. As it turns out, the Caltech Y isn’t quite the same as my local YMCA. The Y’s goal is to “enrich student lives” and worldviews through community engagement, activism, teamwork, and leadership.

In my time here, I’ve interacted with the Y a bit. Last term, I volunteered to help out with “Decompression,” which the Y holds on the weekends before finals week. I stood at the grill flipping burgers while my eyes burned from the smoke, but it was fun! The day before second term started, several of us went to the Union Station family center to cook dinner for homeless parents and children through the Y. I helped make countless buttermilk chicken tenders, my roommate made an amazing (I can’t even express how amazing) carrot cake, and others made mashed potatoes and vegetables. I knew that many of the people in my team in cooking class were involved with the Y, but I didn’t realize that there were Y meetings every week until someone in my team invited me.

My roommate and I finally made it to one of the meetings several weeks ago, where we were surprised to see a group of twenty-some students gathering to discuss various Y events. I didn’t know that everything was mainly powered by students! They talked about Make A Difference Day, where students lead teams to do community service for a day; ideas for the Explore LA series, where students can do something fun in LA like watch a musical, visit Little Tokyo, or go to a sports game, and have part of the cost subsidized by the Y; and alternative spring break trips, where students go anywhere from Malibu to Peru to have a vacation while contributing to the community.

Fellow blogger Jenny, who’s a member of the Y excomm, brought up the possibility of doing a horseback riding Explore LA event, since it was a success last year. I signed up to help her, and we ended up scheduling the event for President’s Day. We originally set the cap at 20 people, but within the day the announcement was sent out, we had 25 people, and by the next day, 30, so we extended the reservation. Grad students and undergrads alike congregated early in the morning at the Y (included in the group was my Chem TA from last term, my current Chem head TA and head grader, and my SURF mentor), and people with cars took the carless to the ranch.

Once we sorted out all the waivers and helmet sizes, and seated all 25+ people on horses (I think we almost emptied out the ranch), we trotted away on the Griffith Park trail. Since we had so many people in our group, we had to stay at a pretty slow pace. For much of the hour-long ride, I was in the very back of the queue. Look at all the people in front of me!

I was determined not to stay in the back, however, so I pretended I knew how to control my horse, and somehow got further up. Look at all the people behind me!

Eventually, we found ourselves quite high up (horse butt for scale):

It was soon time to go back and dismount, but not before my roommate and I squeezed in a selfie (pre-horse on left):