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A visit from across the globe: Japanese students visit Hastings area ranch

The girls got to meet the horses on the ground before mounting up for a short ride.1 / 7
High school soccer players stopped by Wishbone Ranch west of Hastings Monday afternoon. Each girl got a chance to ride one of the resident horses. (Star Gazette photos by Katrina Styx)2 / 7
Helmets were the first priority for anyone getting on a horse.3 / 7
A volunteer shows one of the riders where to hold onto the saddle. Each horse was led by a volunteer.4 / 7
One of the girls gives the peace sign with both hands for the teammates watching her ride.5 / 7
Most of the short ride was spent at a walk, but the girls got to experience a brief trot as well, which put this girl a little off balance and into a fit of laughter.6 / 7
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Wishbone Ranch is usually a quiet place. Most days, the only sounds to be heard are the shuffling of horses in their stalls, trees whispering in the breeze and the occasional conversation between volunteers going about their work.

On Monday afternoon, the stables were ringing with laughter and Japanese chatter, as a team of teenage girls from Tokiwagi Gakuen High School in Sendai, Japan, took a break from soccer to ride a few of the horses at Wishbone Ranch.

Wishbone Ranch is the home of This Old Horse, a non-profit organization dedicated to horses that wouldn’t have a home if they couldn’t live at Wishbone Ranch. Many of the horses are well past their prime. Others are recovering from abuse or neglect.

The 21 girls are members of an elite high school soccer team who traveled to Minnesota to compete in the Schwan’s USA CUP International Youth Soccer Tournament last weekend and this weekend. But not all their time in the U.S. could be spent on the soccer field.

Seigo Masubuchi was the one responsible for lining up various events for the girls while they were in Minnesota. He’s also a member of the committee that puts together the annual Run for the Roses for This Old Horse and a friend of the non-profit’s founder, Nancy Turner. As he talked with Turner about planning the visit for the Japanese team, the idea sprung up to have them ride at Wishbone Ranch.

On Monday afternoon, the girls got to experience a little bit of American culture with a good old-fashioned barbecue and a chance to ride on a few of the horses. For a handful, it was their first time on a horse.

Only one of the team members spoke any English, but that was no barrier for the volunteers helping the girls ride. When Masubuchi wasn’t available to translate, volunteers were able to demonstrate how to mount, ride and dismount.