Ponies for Parties
Archived Q&A and Reviews
My almost 8 yr old is very into horses and I'd like to organize a horse themed b- day party for her. Not sure where to begin. Is it possible to rent a pony? Can you bring a pony to a Berkeley park / Tilden and do you need a permission for that? Are there any stables around here where we could take the kids do a little riding and have cake afterwards? Do we need insurance? Waiver of liability? Any other recommendations and or considerations? anon
Rancho del Lago in Briones Valley will do birthday parties. The kids get to learn how to groom and saddle a horse as well as ride. E-mail owner, Marie Miller at marie [at] rancho-del-lago.com
I'm considering renting a pony for my daughter's birthday party, but I have mixed feelings because I don't know whether or not it's stressful for the ponies involved in this business. I know that these ponies go to a lot of parties on weekends, and I think being transported is generally stressful for horses...correct? I've never had a horse and don't know much about them, so I'm hoping to hear from horsey people in the network who can give their opinions on this. I would never dream of going to an animal circus, and though I've taken my daughter to the zoo several times, I feel really guilty about it.
I feel fine about the pony ride at Tilden because they seem to get excellent care, and I assume the pony rental people care for their ponies pretty well too. It's all the transporting I'm concerned about because somewhere along the way I picked up the idea that horses hate being driven around and it's really hard on them. Am I correct or mistaken? sidney
Horses are just like any other creature; if they do something often enough, it's just routine. If these ponies are being driven around all the time, I'm sure they don't mind it/are used to it. If you can visit the ponies first, here are a few things to look for to make sure they are being taken care of properly - clear eyes (not cloudy), fullness of the flanks (the hind- quarters just above the rear legs) - if they look a little gaunt there, they may not be fed well or are ill; cleaniless of the lower legs - if they are kept in a cell that is muddy or full of feces, you'll usually be able to see this on the legs the most, check for ''balls of mud'' on the hair that hangs down from just below the back of the hoof; condition of their hoofs - if they are cracked or very long, they may not be taking care of them well. Just one of these may not be cause for alarm, but several of them could be. Happy riding! Horse Lover
My opinion is that most forms of animal entertainment are at best exploitative and at worst cruel. While I also have taken my son reluctantly to the zoo, I will not let him attend parties with pony rides or petting zoos. Aside from the germ issues involved with petting zoos, I don't think these animals, or ponies, would ever, if given the choice, choose to travel all over the place and subject themselves to the grabbing hands and loud voices of strange children. The transportation aspect alone is reason enough--other than dogs, most animals are terrified to ride in cars or trucks. And of course they can't be restrained properly enough to avoid injury or discomfort in case of an accident. Also, on hot days, they are most likely not riding in air-conditioned comfort with water readily available. Then, after a frightening ride, they are unloaded in a strange place where they will be besieged by screaming, rushing children. I can't see how this could possibly be fun for any animal! I've seen the ponies at Tilden and they look totally depressed to me. Perhaps they are well fed and maybe even loved by someone, but how good can it be to be chained up all day walking around in a small circle over and over again--I would think it could drive them insane after a while, or at least bore them to death. At least when you take your kid to the zoo there is some redeeming value. Your child would otherwise not see wild animals up close, and that is one way we can teach them to love and respect animals. It's hard to do that with pictures in a book. When the kid is old enough, you can explain some of the problems inherent in keeping wild animals in captivity. Also, zoos run the gamut from horrible places to decent places (I wouldn't give any zoo higher praise than that), and you can hopefully try not to patronize the ones that are obviously not putting the best interests of the animals first. Petting zoos and pony rides, however, are in it only for profit--if there were any concern for animal welfare they would not be in business. \\ Sorry to come off so strongly, but I just find these things really indefensible. I'm glad you asked the question, because I wish more parents would so carefully consider the message it sends to our children when we allow them to partake in these events. My son has not seen the ponies at Tilden, but if he ever did, and he asked to ride them, I would try to explain to him that they are not meant to be chained up walking around in circles all day. If a pony ride was really important to him, I would promise to try to find a place where the ponies are happy and loved and allowed to move freely, which is how it should be. Thanks for the very thoughtful question. Tracy
As a horse owner and former riding instructor I'd like to recommend a couple of companies that provide pony parties that are reputable and treat their animals well, and also correct some misinformation provided by earlier posters. The following two outfits take good care of their ponies and run a safe program. I have no affiliation with either place and receive no compensation from them. I've met both of the owners and seen the ponies, and the first came to our neighbors property and did a pony party. I share the same vet with them and know they take very good care of their animals, and the ponies show the good care. The second outfit is a little more expensive but I've bought a horse in the past from them and they also run a pony rescue for aged and injured ponies (those ponies do not participate in the pony rides obviously): Big Enough Ranch: (408)398-3052 Pony Parties: (925) 756-7335
With respect to the underlying question, I don't think pony rides are inherently cruel, although it really depends on the owners. At the two places I mention above, the ponies usually only work on the weekends, usually for an hour or two a day, and the rest of the time they spend with their horsey buddies in pasture, although some are occasionally used for lessons. At a well-run operation, the owner will teach the kids how to approach and pet ponies, and the ponies will be led and handled by the owner. The two places I mention above are insured and also teach riding lessons to kids. It's actually a much safer and more controlled situation than the average trail ride place, where the horses often don't get the best care and instruction is pretty non-existent. The ponies usually get lots of carrots and attention. They are not ''terrified,'' since it would obviously be unsafe for everyone to have a terrified pony being mobbed by a bunch of kids. Only one kid is allowed to ride at a time, and only kids who are small enough to fit the weight limit of the particular pony, which varies depending on how old the kids group is.
With respect to transportation of horses and ponies, a well- trained horse or pony should not be afraid to go in a trailer and the newer trailers are actually very comfortable. Perhaps the poster who wrote before is thinking of the older cattle style trailers, but we have a two horse trailer that has padded chest and butt bars that can support the horse if there is a sudden stop, as well as a divider between the horses. They each have screened windows and vents for ventilation, and the trailer is insulated so that it stays quite cool. They even have an electric fan in case we are stopped in traffic. Most horses have hay to eat while they are trailering, and it's common practice to stop and offer them a bucket of water each hour. I actually think it's quite a bit safer than the way most dogs travel loose and unrestrained in a vehicle, and my husband jokes that the horses travel in better style than we do.
Now as far as whether they enjoy travelling or being ridden, it obviously depends on how they are treated and trained, but many horses like going on trips and trot over when the trailer comes out. A well trained horse will load on the trailer on its own (obviously you open the door), but you simply throw the rope over their neck and they load up and start eating. The horses that get upset at our place and at our neighbors are the ones that get left behind, and you do hear some banging and whinnying from them. Wait, what about meeeee! We actually have one horse in our barn now that is 20 years old and is on loan from a friend that used to teach lessons with him. After she switched to breeding horses she retired him but he was grumpy and depressed not being ridden. He's now happy as a clam going out on trail rides, but he hates being left behind if anyone else goes out without him. This probably a bit longer than you wanted, but I think it's important to provide an alternative perspective.
another horse lover
My soon-to-be 4 year old daughter has decided she's having a ''horsey'' party .. she loves horses and ponies. I would like to rent a pony, or go to stables that host kiddie parties not too far from Berkeley. While I've seen passing references to such things, I can't find anything specific. (And the Tilden Park pony rides are closed for the season.) Any leads would be great. Thanks! Now A Horsey Mama
Try calling Patty Millage at Cartright, El Sobrante. They run parties featuring horse rides (my kids also got to groom and saddle the ponies), a play area, rabbits, guinea pigs, sheep and even llamas. Her no is: (510)223-7249. It's fun, inexpensive. It is also very ''rustic''. Check it out. They can come to you too. Good Luck
Consider Deer Hill Ranch in Lafayette. It is not only horses, but could well satisfy the urge with the pony grooming. We had a great birthday party out there last January. See www.deerhillranch.org. Have fun
Rancho del Lago is a boarding and lessons stable near Briones Park that hosts ''horsey'' birthday parties. Its not far from Berkeley, and they have an indoor arena, also, in case of inclement weather. Contact Marie at (925) 370-6439
My soon to be 7 year old wants to have a horseback riding party for her Birthday. I am looking for a place/ranch near by that can take a small group of girls horseback riding and then have a place for a nice picnic and birthday cake...any suggestions? Susan
don't know how far you want to go but Lemos Farm in Half Moon Bay has everything you want elaine
My 12 year old daughter just had a horse party at the Wilderness Pack Station at the Sunol Regional Park. They have a trail ride there, you can sign up for 1/2 hour ride or 1 hr ride or even longer rides. It is a beautiful park, and the guided ride goes through the (beautiful) countryside. She and her friends really enjoyed it. I think the phone number is (925) 862-0175. Have fun! Deborah
Regarding the 8 year old who wants a horseback riding birthday party: we enjoy the Five Brooks Stables in Olema. The ride is under redwood, doug fir trees and guides are not opposed to a few moments of trotting. It's a beautiful area and an enjoyable ride. They are listed in the yellow pages Suzanna
Actually, this is a recommendation not given! My 11 yr.old neighbor just told me about a horseback riding party at a stable in Half Moon Bay. She said the horses seemed depressed, had sores, and were hard to keep going. On the beach, she actually leaped off before the horse laid down and rolled! Stefanie
If you want to do a trail ride, try Sunol Pack Station in Sunol Regional Park. They do several lengths of trail rides, and you can picnic in the park afterwards. They may also have arrangements for parties.
Another option for a trail ride is D Pack Station in Walnut creek. I don't know if they have a party area or arrangements.
Rancho del Lago in Martinez (near Briones Park, behind Orinda, off Bear Creek Road) does parties, but I believe that the kids would be riding in a ring, and it would probably be more like a pony party suitable to younger kids.