Roy Rogers had Trigger; Wilbur his Mr. Ed. Now, your little buckaroo is hankerin' for the horsy life, too. What's a city-slickin' parent to do?
Surprisingly, tucked between the mini-malls and the look-alike housing tracts, there are still a few places in this county where children can enjoy a romp on a horse or pony, or roll among the hay bales on a horse-drawn wagon. Depending on your wee wrangler's age, ability and inclination, these equine excursions can cost anywhere from $1.75 for a few spins in the ring to $25 or more for a private lesson.
For tiny tots, consider the pony sweep at the Jones Family Mini-Farm (31791 Los Rios St.) in San Juan Capistrano's historic district. (For the record, a sweep is a slow-moving, rotating contraption to which a handful of ponies are tethered; an ideal setup for cowpokes in diapers). For $1.75, children ages 1 and up can enjoy about 12 leisurely turns. Pony rides are offered Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
According to Gil Jones, who operates the farm with wife Millie and daughter Jenny, the facility is based on a "typical, turn-of-the-century San Juan barnyard." The menagerie includes 10 horses, two donkeys, four goats, a gaggle of turkeys and chickens, and the newest addition, Daisy May, a month-old pony foal, all available for a friendly pat and a handout seven days a week. The farm is also home to Duke, a Belgian draft horse that Jones claims is the largest in the county. Weighing in at a hearty 2,300 pounds and standing 17.2 hands (about 70 inches) at the withers, Duke and his pal, Spud, provide the horsepower for the farm's hayride, which rolls for parties of 30 or more. Birthday party packages are also available. Call (714) 831-6550.