| Horse camp is a summer dream come true
A week at horse camp can be a memorable experience for a child.
A beautiful setting and horses galore … it's the summer camp dream for many young people.
It is the dream that David Jeffery is living in the Oakland hills, where he used to ride horses at Skyline Ranch as a child. Thirty-five years later, Jeffery and Garry Pregler own Redwood Ranch Equestrian Center.
"We are truly blessed to provide some enjoyment," Jeffery said.
They are the second owners of the property, which dates back to 1935. Established by the Lorimer family, and operated as the Oakland Riding Academy, generations of East Bay youngsters learned to ride here.
It is the last private riding facility in Oakland, Jeffery said. Others operate on land owned by the East Bay Regional Park District.
Jeffery owned boarding stables in Illinois for 22 years before moving back to California. With land less expensive in Illinois, he was able to buy land and build a riding center there. A desire to move closer to his family brought him "full circle." Jeffery and Pregler bought their hilltop ranch in 2008.
English hunter-jumper is the style at Redwood Ranch, with riders participating in 11 horse shows a year. In addition to lessons, boarding, parties and horse sales, Jeffery and Garry offer one-week camps for riders, ages 6 to 16, of various skill levels.
The summer camps, which begin the week of June 10, are designed to give the young riders individual attention.
"We keep each small," Jeffery said. Maximum number of campers is 25.
The camp begins by dividing campers by age and experience, Jeffery said.
The camp will select a horse for the rider, and that's the horse the rider will spend the week with, riding twice a day and grooming. Beginners will learn the basic skills. More experienced riders will be able to engage in more intensive training during their time on horseback.
Redwood Ranch has 22 lesson horses, "everything from ponies to large horses," Jeffery said. "We use all breeds," he said, adding that it takes a special horse for lessons.
Classroom work includes studying the breeds of horses and equine anatomy.
When they're not riding or working directly with their horses, the campers play horse games and engage in horse-themed arts and crafts. There's some classroom instruction on horse anatomy.
There's time to be spent on nature hikes in the adjacent Redwood Regional Park.
At this camp, even the crafts are horse-related. One favorite is to embellish a horseshoe to take home as a keepsake.
Redwood Ranch provides helmets for its campers; riders need boots with at least a half-inch heel, and pants that do not have a thick inseam.
Among the items on the bring-to-camp list are notebook, colored pencils, lunch, water and cut-up apples or carrots to feed your horse.
The camp fee is $525 a week. Hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays and 9:30 to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Friday.
There's a special treat at the end of the week. "On Friday we invite family and friends for a horse show," Jeffery said. The campers decorate their horses, and demonstrate the skills they learned during the week.
While saying goodbye to the horse is hard, campers can return for private lessons — or just drop by to say hello to Halo, Taz, Snowy, Mac N Cheese, Wishful or Nova —whichever of the four-legged friends they made during their memorable week.
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