Horses, of Course!

En­thu­si­asm and safety reign at Sad­dle­wood sta­ble

Cape Coral Living - - Cape Departmens - BY DIANE YORK Award-win­ning writer Diane York has au­thored ar­ti­cles on life­style and health, the arts, and travel for nu­mer­ous re­gional mag­a­zines, med­i­cal jour­nals, and trade pub­li­ca­tions.

Christina Sdrenka was only 4 years old when she fell in love with horses, the start of a life­long pas­sion that be­came a ca­reer. She learned horse­back rid­ing in her na­tive Ger­many and later, when she mar­ried and started her fam­ily, Sdrenka wanted to find a place that would pro­vide the per­fect en­vi­ron­ment to raise chil­dren and horses. Also, she and her hus­band wanted a cli­mate that would al­low them to be out­side much of the year. Af­ter mov­ing to the United States in 1998, they ex­plored Florida. Ten years ago they set­tled in Cape Coral. Cape Coral has a long his­tory as cat­tle graz­ing and hunt­ing land. The land boom of the late 1950s cut up much of its land into res­i­den­tial lots and sub­di­vi­sions. De­spite that, Cape Coral still has a great deal of the wide open spa­ces that once char­ac­ter­ized old Florida. In this area, the fam­ily found year­round great weather and the space they needed. Sdrenka says, “It was so nice here, the peo­ple were so friendly and it felt safe.” Sdrenka’s sta­ble, Sad­dle­wood Horse Club, is off Pine Is­land Road in the ru­ral out­skirts of Cape Coral on a road pop­u­lated by other farms and ranches. Her large rid­ing arena is cov­ered and lighted to al­low for rid­ing in most kinds of weather. There is also an oval race­track, jump­ing arena and ex­ten­sive pas­ture ar­eas. Sdrenka runs the sta­ble with the help of her fam­ily. Her sons Ricky, 21, and Henry, 19, and daugh­ter, Jenny, 17, are well­trained eques­tri­ans and as en­thu­si­as­tic about the sport as their mother. Older son Phil, while hav­ing his own life and work, still drops by to help out. Vol­un­teers are also wel­come, but Sdrenka says, “I have to screen them very care­fully. This is a big re­spon­si­bil­ity. Safety is paramount.” An av­er­age day at the sta­ble is a long one, start­ing at 6 a.m. and last­ing well into the evening. Sdrenka and her staff begin their day with feed­ing and wa­ter­ing, turn­ing the horses out to pas­ture and muck­ing out stalls. Then her camps and classes begin—teach­ing stu­dents and train­ing horses—fol­lowed by vet vis­its, groom­ing and more wa­ter­ing and feed­ing. But it’s all a la­bor of love. On the day I vis­ited Sad­dle­wood, Ricky, Henry and Jenny were lend­ing a help­ing hand with sum­mer day camp. About 15 young­sters of vary­ing ages were hav­ing a great time learn­ing new rid­ing tech­niques. Sdrenka uses a va­ri­ety of games and in­cor­po­rates mu­sic to make the ex­pe­ri­ence more fun. In the day

camp, stu­dents learn to groom and tack their horses (sad­dle and bri­dles on), they ride ob­sta­cle cour­ses, and learn gait prac­tice, bare­back rid­ing and vault­ing (which in­volves gym­nas­tics and danc­ing on horse­back). The morn­ing camp is about three hours and the af­ter­noon about one and a half hours of rid­ing. There are cur­rently 23 horses on Sdrenka’s farm. Some are boarded and some are hers. She also, on oc­ca­sion, takes in res­cue horses and re­ha­bil­i­tates them, and then finds them a new home. There are tall thor­ough­breds, quar­ter horses and ponies. Darth Vader, an ex-race­horse, is a gor­geous black thor­ough­bred; Snow White is an all-white minia­ture horse, whose baby, Stitch, was only 22 inches high at birth. Tin­ker Bell is a pony for the lit­tlest rid­ers. When horses have been treated well, it shows. These horses come to you with­out hes­i­ta­tion and are calm and con­fi­dent. Who rides at her horse club? Sdrenka says, “There is a great range in ages. I have stu­dents who are 3 years old and a stu­dent who is 89. One man, who is 70 years old, wants to go on a real trail ride herd­ing cat­tle and needs to learn to ride a horse first!” She has dis­abled stu­dents as well. In ad­di­tion to pri­vate and group lessons in English, Western and jump­ing, she of­fers birth­day par­ties with rid­ing and feed­ing the horses or ponies. For those who want to get to know horses, she of­fers a “horse in­ter­ac­tion day” once a month. Guests can pet, groom, feed and ride horses and ponies. There are also a bounce house and “paint a live horse” ac­tiv­i­ties.

“There is a great range in ages. I have stu­dents who are 3 years old and a stu­dent who is 89.” —Christina Sdrenka, owner of Sad­dle­wood Horse Club

Sdrenka is a cer­ti­fied Horse­man­ship As­so­ci­a­tion rid­ing in­struc­tor in English, Western and jump­ing. For more in­for­ma­tion about the camp or rid­ing lessons, con­tact Sdrenka at 239-738-9300. Sad­dle­wood Horse Club is lo­cated at 16111 Sad­dle­wood Lane be­tween Chiq­uita Boule­vard and Burnt Store Road. Her web­site is cape­

Christina Sdrenka (right) chose to lo­cate Sad­dle­wood Horse Club in the Cape be­cause of the iso­la­tion and the per­fect weather.

Pic­tured clock­wise from left are in­struc­tor Jenny Sdrenka, Hadley Phillips with the pony Tin­ker Bell, stu­dents at Sad­dle­wood Horse Club morn­ing camp, and the club's still open pas­tures off Pine Is­land Road in Cape Coral.

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