“Montana De Oro is such a treasure for everyone, but I think specially to horse riders,” expresses Lynda Roeller, a Coast Mounted Assistance member at Montana de Oro State Park, as she describes being a part of the recent horse campout there. “I mean truly our trails are magical!” Lynda is also the official photographer of the horse trail obstacle course which is part of one magical weekend.
Looking for places to go horse camping in San Luis Obispo? Get the complete list and descriptions with the SLO County Horse Camping Guide.
Experiencing the magic of Montana de Oro trails was tops on the list of experiences. Yet, there was more! Camping with friends and horses, a horse trail obstacle course and a poker ride plus a delicious BBQ were all activities woven together for one magical Columbus Day weekend at the Horse Camp in Montana de Oro State Park.
Magic and More at Montana de Oro State Park
Natalie Gamara handled registration for the weekend. She summarizes the activities, “We usually reach near maximum numbers for campers (50) and sell close to 100 BBQ dinner tickets. We make additional money dealing poker hands, 50/50 drawing and silent auction sales as well as the horse trail obstacle course.” The extra funds raised from these activities benefited the Coastal Mounted Assistance (CMA) group. Riders and their horse partners came from all over the state of California with the majority coming from the valley and neighboring counties.
Horse Trail Obstacle Course
The obstacle course is designed to provide the campers with a fun, challenging activity to try with their horses. Some riders have even been inspired to compete in obstacle courses and trial trials as a result of being introduced to the activity at the CMA campout. An added bonus is that it does generate a little more income for the CMA group.
Course designer Sheila Ward sees her purpose in designing the horse trail obstacle course as, “Pleasure and gaining an understanding of which areas the horse and rider need to work to improve as well as getting tips to improve navigating the obstacles. This is not a competitive atmosphere.”
Hoof in a Tire
Seventeen of the riders enjoying the campout took part in the horse trail obstacle course. Sheila Ward designed a course that was fun, entertaining and educational for humans and horses. She enjoyed watching the riders navigate the various obstacles but one seemed to provide the most entertainment.
Sheila explains. “One of the more difficult obstacles seemed to be the task of getting a horse to put a single foot inside a tire. (I get a lot of complaints about that one.) A very green Clydesdale probably gets kudos for that obstacle. He put a foot in very quickly and calmly without any dancing around.”
The Labyrinth and Drag a Bag
Some obstacles were easier than others. Sheila tells us about one of the more difficult ones, “The labyrinth is challenging for many people, particularly the more difficult levels which required backing through or making a 180 degree turn while in it. A number of horses had difficulty with the bag of tin cans as well as backing through the cavalletti.
Cowboy Curtain Car Wash
Many horses had different reactions to the colorful pool noodles they had to first poke their noses through, then proceed through. As Sheila watched horses negotiate this obstacle she made these observations, “Horses often balk at going through the cowboy curtain car wash and many rush through it. Many horses will try every which way to avoid poking their heads between the pool noodles.” Lynda enjoyed catching many of the horse trail obstacle course the antics on camera.
Poker Hands and a BBQ on Sunday
Sunday brings all the riders together for more fun and food with Poker hands and a truly yummy BBQ. Natalie Gamara helped deal the poker hands and shares how it works: “We start playing the Poker Hands Sunday morning at the registration table and play until 1:30 when lunch is served. The top 10 winners of Poker hands pick the first prizes, then go from there. We have tons of prizes! It’s fun to watch people jump for joy when they hear their name called to go up and pick a prize! Margie Hedrick is our Auction and Prize manager she does an awesome job and has done it for years.”
“As the registrar, I love the poker hand frenzy right before closing the dealer table. People get so caught up in the gambling, and the laughter in the air is very contagious! I have such a good time just watching people and the excitement of trying to get dealt the best hand!” continued Nancy.
Weekend Reflections from Organizers
Registrar, Nancy Gamara: “It’s an art getting all the rigs parked in just the right spot and satisfying requests of individuals wanting to camp near their friends, yet they arrive at different times! Mike and Karen Larson have been doing this job for many, many years and have it perfected to a T! They are a huge asset to putting on this event!! We could never pull off this successful event without the hard work and dedication from all the people involved! It takes a village to put this on!”
Photographer, Lynda Roeller: “I love seeing returning participants and new participants who are new to the park. MDO is such a treasure for everyone but I think specially to horse riders. I mean truly our trails are magical. I really love meeting all the horses and their humans. I really enjoy photographing all the events.”
Camp Host, Karen Larsen: “I loved how the campers had camp fires going on Thursday and Friday night and everyone when around visiting. The BBQ was Delicious on Sunday!! And Sunday night campers were treated to the Space X Falcon 9 rocket launch. After camping for a few nights with no news no one was expecting the show. Which was spectacular!!
Don’t miss out on the fun next year. Mark your calendars for Columbus Day weekend and watch for info coming about registering for the CMA Poker Ride Horse Campout at Montana de Oro State Park.
All photos (except where noted) courtesy of Lynda Roeller Photography
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