Pablo Garcia held on for dear life as his horse trotted twice around the Jennings Indoor Arena just west of Lakin during Lakin High School's lifetime recreation class Wednesday morning.
The 16-year-old junior was exhilarated after his ride, which he said was "practically" the first time he has ridden a horse.
"That's the fastest I've ever went on a horse, that's for sure," Garcia said.
About 20 students are enrolled in the lifetime recreation class, which is intended to give students a chance to experience a wide variety of games and physical activities as part of developing a healthy lifestyle, according to Judy Jennings, physical education teacher.
During the school year, students are exposed to 32 different activities such as bowling, archery, capture the flag, hunter safety, badminton and softball to name a few.
"We don't stay on any one thing very long," Jennings said.
This past week the class was introduced to horseback riding. Students learned how to put on a saddle and bridle, how to get on and off the horse, and took turns riding one of five horses around the arena — normally at a walk.
Garcia's horse had other ideas, breaking into a brisk trot despite Garcia's pleas to slow down, which drew some laughs from his classmates.
"I think I kicked him and he wouldn't stop," Garcia said afterward. "They told me to pull back, and I pulled back and he went faster so I didn't know what was going on."
Garcia said the class teaches kids how to be more active and to not be afraid to try new things.
"It's pretty fun compared to other classes," he said.
Other students agreed.
Juniors Christian Vazquez, 17, and Joe Seeger, 17, both said it is a fairly easy class that is also fun.
Vazquez, who has never been around horses before, said he enjoyed riding. The boys said in addition to learning to ride, some of the things they've learned are how to put on the saddles and bridles.
Senior Alexa Nevarez, 18, said some activities are better than others.
"I sometimes have fun, and sometimes I don't. This activity I love because I love horses," she said. "I took it because I found out we were going to ride horses. And it's okay for the mornings so I don't have to take a math class or something. I'd be falling asleep."
Jennings, who has taught for 35 years, said students will spend five days on horses, and three to four days working with goats, learning to tie and rope. Generally, the goal is to have fun while learning something new. Grades are based on participation, tests, keeping notebooks about each activity and a final each semester.
"They're going to have to know which cinch you tighten first and last, the different parts of the bridle and safety rules," Jennings said of the horse riding portion of the class.
The idea for the class was sparked while Jennings was working on her master's degree. One of her classes was a three-day mini-class in physical education that involved activities at several stations.
"I thought why can't I do that in gym class?" Jennings said.
Jennings said she was looking to offer a class that was a little different from a traditional P.E. class dominated by throwing around a ball during the various sports seasons. She said her basketball unit, for example, is one week long.
"Because they are out for basketball. If they're not out for basketball, they don't like basketball. So we play it, but it's at a minimum," she said.
The class has been offered off and on over the last 15 years. Jennings said the goal is to expose students to a variety of activities with the hope they can find one to enjoy for years to come.
For the horse and goat activities, Bud and Deke Jennings, no relation to Judy Jennings, offer the use of their livestock and indoor arena west of Lakin.
"Judy's the guts of the deal. Anytime a teacher tries to take her own incentive to do something extra, why that's good with me. I'll do whatever I can do to help," Bud Jennings said.
Jennings said he enjoys interacting with the kids, some of whom have never been around a horse or other livestock in their lives.
"They change from the first day they come out. The first day was Monday. You couldn't even get them out there," Jennings said.
Many stood back, visibly nervous about approaching a horse.
"Already, this is Wednesday, they're at a full lope," he said.