Horses were once considered man’s best friend, but after the invention of the dog, the horse was rebranded as man’s eccentric, oat-obsessed uncle. Take a journey with the kindest of kinsmen with today's Groupon for riding lessons at Willow Pond Ranch in Soquel. Choose from the following options:
- For $35, you get one horseback-riding lesson (a $70 value)
- For $300, you get a week-long Spring Break Riding Camp (a $600 value)
Founded by certified equine expert Sharon North-Pohl, Willow Pond Ranch schools would-be saddle fillers in the fine art of horsemanship. Sharon, a competitive rider with more than 20 years of teaching and riding experience, has rescued and rehabilitated more than 100 horses, the most upstanding 14 of which now make up her training team. Lessons are available for riders of all ability levels (ages 6 and above), and cover the essentials of riding, horse care, and communication. Younger riders will learn responsibility, teamwork, and compassion for their hoofed partners, and adults can enjoy a day in the countryside and away from the stresses of everyday life and its unreliable commuter cows.
Riders looking for a more in-depth submersion into the world of equine endearment can opt to attend a week-long Spring Break Riding Camp, geared toward riders aged 6–16 of varying abilities. Camps run from 10 a.m.–3 p.m., and kick off with an introductory lecture into the gentle art of grooming and tacking, followed by a group riding lesson. After a practice in tacking and a break for lunch (not included), young horsemen and horsewomen will engage in activities centered around Ranch awareness and identifying local law-enforcement by their spur-tracks, before a provided snack readies the newly roughened riders to be picked up in the parental stagecoach. Check out the company website for upcoming Spring and Summer camp sessions.
Nestled at the scenic foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains, the Ranch’s redwood-lined, landscaped grounds offer a safe and scenic environment to learn in. Located 3.5 miles away from the ranch, the seaside village of Capitola features many shopping, day-spa, and sand-castle real-estate opportunities for parents to enjoy as their bairns engage in sanctioned horseplay. Committed to not only enjoying but also preserving the environment, Willow Pond Ranch sponsors an award-winning program to compost manure, delighting all green-minded visitors, with the exception of one mysophobic azalea.
The Santa Cruz Sentinel featured Willow Pond Ranch:
- At a ranch tucked in a valley north of Soquel, horses rescued from their troubled pasts have the chance to make a difference in the lives of children. "I'll probably be riding for a long time," said Daniel Fitch, who takes lessons through the ranch's riding school. In 2007, the 8-year-old from Aptos also came to summer camp and enjoyed the group atmosphere. "People help each other here," Daniel said. Cooperation at such a young age is just one of the values co-founder Sharon North-Pohl believes riding can foster. – John C. Cannon
Founded by equine enthusiasts Jordan and Valerie Fox, who draw on more than 15 years of experience in training and rescuing horses, Fox Horsemanship's trainers provide rich educational experiences during lessons and day camps. At the redwood-ensconced ranch’s riding school, students are matched with one of 6 gentle horses and ponies after instructors consider skill level, personality, and quality of whinny.