Riding horses a stable way to make a living


POSTED: Monday, March 09, 2009

Alicia McCumbers bought her first horse when she was 12, after taking on a Star-Bulletin paper route with her sister to earn money and prove to her father that she was responsible.




Alicia McCumbers

        Title: Stables supervisor

Job: Manages five workers and 23 horses for the horse-riding operation at Turtle Bay Resort




Now McCumbers owns four horses and takes care of eight others for friends, as well as manages the 23 horses at Turtle Bay Resort on Oahu's North Shore, where she is the stable supervisor for the resort's horse-riding operation.

McCumbers started out as a stable hand for the business almost 20 years ago. Now she runs the operation, which employs five other people as stable hands. Their job is to care for the horses and guide them when taking both tourists and locals on two-mile horseback rides through the woods and along the beaches around the resort, up to seven times a day.

When McCumbers isn't riding horses at work, she often is competing in local rodeos, as a member of the Hawaii Women's Rodeo Association.

Raised in Ewa Beach, McCumbers is, perhaps surprisingly, not much of a watersports fan.

“;I ride on the beach every day and I love looking at the ocean, because it's always changing and it's really beautiful,”; she said last week. “;But I always say I'd rather be on the beach than out in the water. I'm really more of a landlubber.”;

McCumbers, 38, is a graduate of Waialua High School, and attended Leeward Community College for about a year. She is a single mother of a son, Treston, 2, with whom she lives in Sunset.

She keeps her horses at an 8-acre ranch in Kahuku, which she leases from Hawaii Reserves Inc., and where separately she offers riding lessons on her days off

Mark Coleman: What's your job title?

Alicia McCumbers: It's, like, a stables supervisor.

Q: What does that mean you do each day?

A: Well, we come in and we catch the horses in the morning that we're going to use for the rides. We bring them in the barn and feed them. And we groom them and saddle them for the day.

Q: And then what goes on?

A: After that, when we're done with them, we bring them out and get them ready for the trail ride, and our first trail ride is at 7:30 in the morning.

Q: How many trail rides a day do you offer?

A: We offer seven.

Q: Are there people that you work with?

A: Yeah, there's about five people that I supervise. But they're not all here on one day. There's, like, two or three of us on any one day.

Q: What kinds of jobs to they do?

A: Well, we all do the same thing, pretty much. We all get the horses ready, and when the riders come, we'll all gather round and explain how the trail ride works and how to ride the horse.

Q: How long have you been doing this job?

A: Actually, 19 years; on Jun e 28, it will make 20 years.

Q: Did you start out as the supervisor?

A: No. That job title was stablehand. That would be my job title now, if I wasn't supervisor.

Q: How many horses are you in charge of?

A: We have 23.

Q: What kinds of horses are they?

A: Most of them are quarter horses. And we have some quarter horse thoroughbreds. We also have quite bit of paint horses—four of them, I think.

Q: Those are the ones that look like pintos?

A: Yeah.

Q: Where did all the horses you manage come from?

A: They come from all over. But most of the horses we buy are from around the island. We like to get them when they're around middle age, when they're around 10 to 12, because by then they've seen everything and they're a lot calmer.

Q: Who mostly goes riding on the horses?

A: We mostly get tourists from the mainland. And we get local people on the weekends. And, like now, spring break is coming up, so we get a lot of local people then, too. Mostly beginners.

Q: How long is the typical ride and where do you go?

A: It's about 45 minutes. There's a bunker out there—an old World War II bunker—and we go out on the beach, and we ride through the woods. It's pretty jungley in some parts of it.

Q: How much distance does it cover?

A: Probably about two miles. Then we ride by another bay, called Kawela Bay.

Q: Do you ever have the horses actually run, or is it usually just a gentle walk?

A: All the rides are walking, except for the 7:30 ride in the morning. That's a private ride, and there are a lot of walk, trot and canter rides.

Q: Ever have a horse get out of hand, either go running off uncontrollably or buck or something like that?

A: No. Sometimes what will happen, though, is a coconut will fall from a tree, or a branch breaks, and they'll get startled, but they're generally pretty good about not getting spooked. They're pretty much “;broke.”; (Laughter)

Q: What's the worst kind of rider you have?

A: Oh, gosh. They're pretty much people who think they know how to ride, but they don't know how to ride. They say they have a lot of experience, and then you put them on and they don't have a clue. The horse is going into the bushes and eating, and walking through the trees.

Q: What kinds of saddles do you use: English or Western?

A: Western.

Q: Why?

A: It's just easier for the guests, because they have the horn to hang onto if they need to, and it's a little bit more stable, because there's a little bit more saddle there.

Q: Do you guys go out for horse rides rain or shine?

A: Yeah, pretty much. Yep. It could be passing showers, and we have a lot of those. If it's pouring rain, we won't go, but if it's hit or miss, we'll just go.

Q: What about at end of the day with the horses?

A: End of the day, kind of the same thing. We untack them, which means unsaddling them, and we usually rinse them down, because they're sweaty and stuff, and then we'll turn them out and feed them.

Q: Do you have any horses of your own?

A: Yeah, I have, like, four that are mine, and then I take care of, like, eight or nine at home.

Q: Who owns those?

A: Some of my friends; we compete in rodeos and stuff.

Q: The rodeos in Waimanalo?

A: They used to have those, at New Town & Country Stables, but they don't have those anymore. Now what we do, is, I don't rope as much, but I still team rope, and there's little jackpots here and there, but mostly I do barrel racing. And then the pole bending races. There's an association that we're a part of, the Hawaii Women's Rodeo Association. They have, like, six shows every year, and they have an all-girls rodeo at the end of the year, and that one consists of many events—goat tying, breakaway roping, double mugging, and they have team roping, barrel racing, pole bending. It lasts all day. The outer islands will come down for that, so it's fun.

Q: When does your workday end?

A: We start at 5:30 in the morning and we work until 3:30 in the afternoon, so we work 10-hour days.

Q: So how long you gonna keep this up?

A: Well, hopefully, there's a manager position that's coming up and I might be able to take over that.

Q: So you're going to stick with it for a few years?

A: Yeah, definitely.