Local youngsters enjoy Spring Break Horse Camp
Twelve young horse enthusiasts gathered at Saddlewood Horse Club Cape Coral this week for a Spring Break Horse Camp that taught them all the ropes and reins of riding and taking care of horses.
Christina Sdrenka, a certified Horsemanship Association riding instructor in English, western and jumping, said they teamed up with the city of Cape Coral Parks and Recreation Department weekly camps five years ago to offer the camp to children between the ages of 5-15.
The camp, which is held from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., began on Monday and will run until Friday.
Before the kids begin working with the horses every day, Sdrenka said she does exercises with them to loosen them up. She said they run laps, become familiar with each other and do jumping jacks.
This week, while the students did their jumping jacks, they spoke seven different languages — French, Chinese, Hebrew, Italian, German, English and Spanish, which prolonged how many jumping jacks they had to do.
Sdrenka said she has five people on her permanent staff who help out with the camp, along with volunteers who donate their time. They have eight schooling horses that the kids work with, one of which is a miniature horse for the younger kids.
Cameryn Barker, a veteran around the Saddlewood Horse Club, volunteered her time Wednesday because she likes helping people learn new things. She said she helps the kids put the saddle on the horse and getting their reins together, along with helping them in the arena when they are riding.
Barker, 9, began taking lessons almost two years ago because she enjoys spending her time around the horses. She said she likes to see how horses act when you tell them to do something.
The pure enjoyment comes when she is riding the horse and it canters, trots, walks and jumps.
“It’s really fun,” Barker said.
Before the students were able to ride the horses, they brushed them and put their saddle and reins on. Sdrenka said she wants to make sure the students know what to do when they are around a horse and know where their blind spots are.
“I am very much into safety,” Sdrenka said.
The students also learn how to take the horses out into the pasture and to wash them.
The 12 students, who ranged in age from 6-13, were broken down into two groups Wednesday morning as they took turns riding the schooling horses in the covered arena.
While the students were riding the horses, they participated in games, along with learning the correct way to ride them and instruct them on which way they want the horse to go and how fast.
One of the horseback games that brought out the smiles on many of the students faces was “red light, green light.” The object of the game is listening to the commands of Sdrenka while the students concentrate on getting their horse to start and stop walking. The six students began the game behind a cone on one side of the arena and ended on the opposite side.
The remaining six students participated in a scavenger hunt that sent them looking for answers around the barn, pastures, arena and race track. The hunt had such questions as “What stall number is Boo in?” “How many arena entrances do we have?” “What breed is Tinker Bell?” and name at least five of the horses.
Angela Catalano, who was one of the oldest kids at the camp, decided to give it a try for the first time this spring break.
“I love being around horses,” the 13-year-old said about why she wanted to attend the camp.
Catalano’s favorite part about the camp was the interaction with the horses. She said she also enjoyed making friends along the way while having an awesome time.
Mackenzie Bonsall attended the camp for the second year this year. The 7-year-old said after she attended her first spring camp last year she has been taking lessons ever since. She currently takes lessons every Tuesday.
“I like riding the horses,” she said, smiling.
Bonsall said one of the things she has learned during the camp is where the horses blind spots are. She said they are located right in front of the horse’s face and behind them.
Although she likes all of the horses, Bonsall said her favorite horse is Doc because he is really well-trained.
“I like riding him, but he’s really tall,” she said.
Bonsall’s curiosity of horses strengthened after she visited with her dad’s uncle’s horses. She said he told her if she learned how to ride a horse he might give her one of her own.
Amanda Ellegood, 11, has attended the camp for three years because she has always had a love of horses.
“I wanted to ride horses, so my mom found this camp,” she said.
Ellegood’s love of riding horses has increased throughout the years. She said she enjoys using the English saddle more because when the horse trots she does not fall forward and hurt her stomach like she would on the western saddle.
For more information about the camp or riding lessons, contact Sdrenka at 239-738-9300. Saddlewood Horse Club is located at 16111 Saddlewood Lane between Chiquita Boulevard and Burnt Store Road off of Pine Island Road.
The summer horse camp will be held June 13-17, June 20-24 and June 27-July 1. Those who are interested can sign up at Four Freedoms Park.