Horsing Around in Santa Cruz - A Camp for Every Kid PDF Print E-mail
Written by Suki Wessling   

Horse camps are a natural for Santa Cruz County: They take advantage of our great weather and rural setting, attracting not only kids from Santa Cruz but also visitors from across the country.



Many similar skills are taught at the different horse camps, such as horse care, breeds, riding techniques, and sometimes skills like jumping and roping. Most camps integrate other activities like crafts and games.


But each camp has its own unique take on what makes a horse camp.


Monte Vista Equestrian, offered through Monte Vista Christian School, offers a comprehensive camp experience, with swimming, archery, and crafts outside of riding time. Campers take part in a horse show at the end of the week. Families can choose from half-day, full-day, and residential options.


Located at a horse rescue facility, Willow Pond Ranch’s day camps focus on life skills as well as horsemanship. Instructors tie the care of rescued animals with teamwork, responsibility, service, and ecology.


Horse and Heart combines leadership and community building skills with their horsemanship and ecology approach. Their program also includes aerial dance and theater training.


Monterey Bay Horsemanship and Therapeutic Center (MBHTC) offers day camps and weekly residential camps. Located in La Selva Beach right near the water, their camp offers beach rides and crafts, as well as bonfires and a midnight ride for residential campers.


MBHTC offers another unique feature: located in a therapeutic center, the camp counselors are trained to work with kids who have a range of physical and developmental disabilities.


“We have campers in wheelchairs and they have a great time,” says Gail Wright, camp administrator. “They’re treated like everybody else. They get to ride and see the world from way up there, and it’s a beautiful world!”


MBHTC facilitates integration of typical kids with campers with special needs. “It creates a more understanding for the kids that people with special needs are people just like everybody else,” Wright explains.


Rosy Smiley Equestrian’s new day camp series will include fun instructional time on grooming, nutrition, anatomy, basic horsemanship, and breeds, as well as crafts, snacks and lots of riding for riders of all levels.

Smiley is also planning a special week for another group with special needs: boys who love horses.


“I think sometimes girls are a little intimidating for boys who might want to get into horses,” Smiley explains. “They’re the only boy at camp, or the other boys at school say ‘you’re going to a girls’ camp’.”


Smiley is offering a week for boys only led by Western performance horse trainer Erik Dahlstrom.


The riding instructors who run our local horse camps agree that the value of horseback riding includes not just the physical skills and endurance that it builds in young riders.


“I've seen lots of timid children really blossom through learning to control large

animals,” says Cassie Belmont, who runs Monte Vista Equestrian. “I love to see a new rider who is nervous their first day end the week with a big smile on their face as they ride their horse.”



Some local horse camps:


Horse and Heart Camps, Soquel



Monterey Bay Horsemanship and Therapeutic Center, La Selva Beach



Monte Vista Equestrian at Monte Vista Christian School, Watsonville



Rosy Smiley Equestrian, Aptos



Willow Pond Ranch, Soquel




Suki Wessling is a local writer and the mother of two children. Her book, From School to Homeschool, helps new homeschooling families shift from a school-based to a homeschool-based perspective. www.SukiWessling.com


Photo courtesy of Rosy Smiley Equestrian

Last Updated on Sunday, 02 June 2013 14:22