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KID STUFF

TOTS TO TROT : Where Wee Wranglers Can Get a Ticket to Ride--and Learn That a Horse Is a Horse, of Course, of Course

June 27, 1991|CORINNE FLOCKEN | Corinne Flocken is a free-lance writer who regularly covers Kid Stuff for The Times Orange County Edition.

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.

When in Orange, trot the kids over to Ponyland in Irvine regional Park (21501 E. Chapman Ave.), where, for $12, children ages 1 and up can take five sedate turns in the walk ring and ages 3 and up can find a quicker pace on the trotters. (Ponies can also be hired for birthday parties.) A horseshoe-throw away are the Country Trails Stables, featuring wrangler-led trail rides ($12 an hour on weekdays, $15 on weekends). The stables also host 45-minute group hayrides (reservations required), breakfast rides, and a new twist on the Mommy and Me trend: lessons for children ages 2 to 7 and their mothers. Private and group lessons are available for ages 8 and up, priced at $20 to $25 each. Summer hours for the Country Trails Stables are Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., weekends, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call (714) 536-5660.

If you're looking for a more comprehensive experience, at least two area stables offer weeklong day camps. At the Rocking T Ranch (4351 Lakeview Ave., Yorba Linda), owners Jim and Carol Tice offer half-day sessions for ages 7 to 15, with a lineup that includes tours of the ranch's large animal hospital, veterinarian-led discussions on equine first-aid and health, hands-on experience in grooming and general care, and lots of time in the saddle astride one of the ranch's 20 horses. Day camp tuition is $100. The ranch also offers Western, English and jumping lessons for ages 7 and up for $25 an hour. Call (714) 777-2898.

At the Huntington Beach Riding School (18381 Golden West St.), ages 6 and up can attend summer horse clinics, five full-day sessions of hands-on learning and riding. Tuition for the clinic is $275. The center also hosts private and semiprivate lessons for $30 an hour. Call (714) 847-1008.

Other area stables offering lessons include the Anaheim Hills Saddle Club (6452 E. Nohl Ranch Road. Call (714) 998-2830) and River Trails Riding Stables (4545 Hamner Ave., Corona. Call (714) 736-9000), which also has rental ponies for parties and a petting zoo.

Happy Trails!

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