Montana de Oro State Park is certainly one of the gems of the Central Coast. The park’s name translates to “Mountain of Gold”, in reference to the 1347 foot Valencia Peak, which is covered with wildflowers in the springtime. With sweeping views of the sea, steep cliffs, rolling terrain and nearly 8500 acres of land with 50 miles of trails system, this is truly a place for exploration and adventure. There is, perhaps, no better way to enjoy the splendor of Montana de Oro than from the back of a horse. Numerous trails wind through the park, and except for only a few “hikers only” trails, most of them are open for multi-use, which includes equestrians. In fact, much of the park is truly only accessible by our four-legged friends, including the deep sand trails of Cable, Dune, Rim, Back Bay and Bloody Nose.
Coast Mounted Assistance Benefit Montana de Oro State Park Trails
Established in 1973, the Coast Mounted Assistance (CMA) is a group of local San Luis Obispo County equestrians who have a long history with Montana de Oro State Park. Originally, they assisted State Park employees in mapping and constructing the trails system within the park, and today, the volunteer organization helps to patrol, maintain and assist, when necessary, riders, hikers, cyclists and whoever else chooses to enjoy this Central Coast gem. With their gold shirts and jackets, the CMA volunteers are easy to spot along the trails. Currently, there are approximately 55 county horse owners and volunteers who give their valuable time and knowledge.
Annual Equestrian Poker Ride Fundraiser
Being a volunteer organization, the CMA is always looking for ways to bring together the equestrian community to share their love the horses and the park system. For nearly 30 years, the CMA has hosted an Annual Equestrian Poker Ride at Montana de Oro State Park. The event, held over Columbus Day weekend, invites equestrians from throughout the state to join the CMA for a relaxing weekend of camping and fun. Camping begins at noon on Thursday October 6th through Monday October 10th. The Poker Ride is held on Sunday, October 9th.
A rider and horse (or mule) can camp for the entire weekend for only $60. In addition to access to the incredible horse campground, the rider has the option to explore the park on his/her own, follow a ribboned course, or join a guided group. All rides offer access to one of the few remaining California ocean beaches still accessible by horses. On the Saturday before the Poker Ride, a Trail Trial is offered for riders and their horses – successful completion of all obstacles gives the rider an advantage at the poker table the following day!
Playing Poker on Horseback
The real fun begins on Sunday… Poker hands are dealt throughout the day of the ride, and participants can purchase as many chances to win as they would like for only $5 per hand. There is an incredible array of prizes, all donated from local businesses. In fact, for the last few years, the community has been so generous in their support that no one has left the Poker Ride without at least a small prize.
Funds raised from the annual CMA Poker Ride are funneled back into Montana de Oro State Park to aid the organization in their work. From simply being good docents who answer questions and offer assistance, to keeping a sharp eye out for any unlawful or destructive behavior within the park, the CMA is truly an organization that offers a valuable community resource. To register for 2016’s Poker Ride, please call 805-548-0389 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.