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Our daughter is 2, almost 3, and obsessed with horses. We would love any ideas on pony rides available now and lessons for her if this is more than a passing phase. We are in Oakland/Berkeley. Thank you!
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As a horse-obsessed mom of adult children, I can tell you that the lack of opportunities for pony rides for little ones is a huge peeve of mine.
Less than 10 years ago, the East Bay Regional Park District shut down the beloved Tilden Park pony rides on bogus grounds. They are ostensibly concerned about pony manure polluting Wildcat Creek. But they wrote the rules so strictly that no concessionaire would bid on their RFP, since it was obvious no one could operate a business that would turn even a modest profit.
Where does that leave us? In the exurbs, there are likely private barns where you could lead a small child around on a small horse or pony. Please let us know where these are!
There are a number of stables in the Oakland hills that are concessions of the Regional Park District. Try a visit. You can leave a phone message or email the website saying that you will be stopping by. Stable managers are generally not good at returning phone calls.
Your best bet is probably Anthony Chabot Equestrian Center on Skyline Boulevard near Keller, or Piedmont Stables or Skyline Ranch on Redwood Road.
Once you arrive at the barn, keep your child close at hand. Do not bring a dog with you; outside dogs can be problematic and are usually not allowed.
Ask trainers or horse owners if it is OK before you pet any horses. People are very concerned about liability issues.
If you become acquainted with horse owners, someone with a very mellow horse may give you permission to put your child on for a brief ride.
The Metropolitan Horsemen's Association has regular events at the Sequoia Horse Arena in Joaquin Miller Park. Check the website at www.mhaoakland.org . This would be a chance to be around horses, though it is unlikely your child would get to ride.
When my kids were little I had my own mare at Skyline, and pony rides were always possible. It sucks that every horse-crazy kid can't enjoy this.
Skyline Ranch is the home of the Redwood Hills Pony Club, which teaches English horsemanship. The youngest participants are about eight years old.
It would be a public service if you were to write a letter to your elected park district director demanding that pony rides be made available again.
Hi, Kismet Farms is great, I took lessons with Laura in the past and she also gives lessons for kids on ponies. I can highly recommend her!
Sadly I am not aware of anyplace that offers pony rides on a regular basis, but when they are happening again you may want to check out local city fairs and festivals, like the Rockridge Festival in September, some pumpkin patches may offer pony rides, too.
Pre-COVID my daughter’s classmate had a birthday party at Washington Park in Alameda and her parents hired someone who trailered two ponies to the park to give pony rides. Maybe an option for you if there is a birthday coming up?
I have not visited in a few years, but Fairyland had ponies and donkeys last time I was there (not for riding though). There is also a great carousel there for young kids to ride independently... although it’s not the real deal, your daughter might enjoy that.
When your daughter is older, Roughing It day camp in Lafayette (they bus from Oakland and Berkeley) has horseback riding as an activity for campers as well as a dedicated horse camp option.
Thank you all so much for these wonderful answers! It’s a bummer there isn’t more opportunity, but I’m on the hunt and this information was so helpful.
We had a really great birthday party with Figaro and Julie Duff. Julie was extremely warm, great with kiddos, and led with a ton of love and empathy for the horse. Highly recommend.