Horses, of Course!
Enthusiasm and safety reign at Saddlewood stable
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 capehorses.com.
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.