Inner city teen takes up horse riding to stay out of trouble

Inner city teen rides horse to stay out of trouble

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. - A person can see some interesting things driving down Martin Luther King JR Blvd.

But what you may not expect to see in this heavy gang territory is a boy on his horse. 

But for 16-year-old Dawan Whitmore, it's just another day in his neighborhood. 

"Some areas I go in you can get nervous because of the way people look at you. But then again you have to realize you're on a horse, so of course people are going to look at you!," said Whitmore.

As for coming across gang members Whitmore said, "I'm coming through on a horse in raggedy clothes, I don't think I'm much of a threat."

Whitmore said he first fell in love with horses as toddler and asked his father for one when he was just five years old.

"At first my dad was in shock. He didn't know what to say. He always wanted a horse when he was little. But when he was little, they couldn't afford one. So he said he'd get one for me because he never had one," said Whitmore.

And with the help of Pastor Josephate Jordan of Stop the Violence, Whitmore learned to ride.

But that's not all he learned.

"He learned how to feed the horse every day twice a day, rain or shine. Forget football practice, forget all those other things. It teaches him a great deal of responsibility. Not to mention self worth," said Jordan.

Jordan said not only is horse riding a hobby,  "time spent with the horse is not time spent idle," said Jordan.

"When I come out of school, I look forward to coming to the ranch. You could hear the other kids talking about how they're going to go smoke weed but I'd rather be out at the ranch than out there on the streets," said Whitmore.

For Whitmore, horse riding is a deterrent and the stables his sanctuary.

"Out at the stables I feel safe because there's no shootings. In the streets people are selling weed and all kind of things that are not for me and I'd rather be out here where I know its safer than out there," said Whitmore.

But when he does ride, he says its worth it when all the kids come out.

"Some of them have never seen or touched a horse before. Its just amazing to see their little faces. I do this every day but it seems like it's their first time. Their eyes light up," said Whitmore.

And when he puts them on his horse, "I feel amazing that I can give them something they've never done before," said Whitmore.

Proving that for him, riding is rewarding in more ways than one.

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