'Against a Crooked Sky' offers camp for youth

July 16, 2009 

While some people hate going to work every day, there are a fortunate few who actually truly love the job they do. Fewer still are those lucky enough to possess an outright passion for their vocation. When was the last time that you met anyone who willingly stayed at the job all night long to see something through for a customer? Not long ago Jody Torres did just that.

Kris Patlan and Jody Torres have a common passion -- horses. Together they recently opened up "Against The Crooked Sky Horse Stables & Equestrian Center." The well-appointed facility is located just a couple of miles outside of the Los Baños city limits on the southwest corner of Cotton and Ward Roads.

Against The Crooked Sky is a full care equestrian center and boarding stable that also offers riding lessons and a summer horse day camp for children. The center boasts of having forty large stalls, two barns, over a dozen acres of pasture, a round arena, a round pen and a large covered arena.

The passion the owners share for these animals is apparently earned from a lifetime of equine experience.

Torres grew up with horses. She has been on horseback since she was "about eight or nine years old," she said, due in part to the fact that her father raised horses. Torres remains amused as she shares just how wrapped up her life has been with horses. She mentions, "I found out I was pregnant after falling off a horse and ending up at the hospital."

Patlan, whose son is a local police officer currently deployed in Kosovo, has been riding since she was seven years old, spent a lot of her time in the saddle near the Alumn Rock area in San Jose. Patlan is also grateful of her experience, which includes exposure with dressage, polo ponies, as well as many years of work and recreation in and around stables.

These ladies seem to really enjoy what they do. They spoke proudly of some of the services that Against The Crooked Sky offers those who board their horses at the new business. "We treat (our customer's) horses as if they are our own," Patlan said. "In fact we had a problem with a horse one night and Judy stayed out here all night just to make sure things were going to be okay."

Other services include cleaning the stalls out six days per week, turning the horses out daily, and providing quality hay twice per day. Torres also mentions that she regularly brings watermelon or carrots for their long-tailed guests. Additional services are available including clipping, grooming, worming, exercising, and more.

Not only does Against The Crooked Sky offer boarding, but they also offer members of the community the chance to learn about and be exposed to these wonderful animals via riding lessons and a day camp.

Lessons are offered to those who would like to learn to ride or who would like to improve their riding skills. Against The Crooked Sky is not a 'riding stable,' that is to say people cannot pay to rent a horse for an hour or two. Instead, members of the public may take riding lessons at the facility.

This summer, Against The Crooked Sky is also offering another option for boys and girls six years old and over in the form of horsemanship camp. The day camp is a week-long program where the kids with various levels of riding experience can come out from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and learn how to ride and care for the animals.

During the camp many different aspects of the sport are taught and include not only riding lessons but also such things as how to saddle and bridle a horse, basic equine anatomy, grooming, feeding, care and use of tack, and safety rules. The latter seems to be an important aspect for Patlan and Torres who spoke about how each child is required to always wear a helmet and how the center has sometimes even furnished boots for some of the young riders. Safety is taught for both ground handling and riding. Early on, pupils are evaluated and paired up with a horse that will fit the student's capabilities and personality.

Camp activities also include arts, crafts, and other mid-day activities and lunch is provided on Fridays. The horse camp flier mentions that children will get the opportunity to spend at least three hours per day on horseback. At the end of the week, a 'horse show' allows the kids to show off their new skills to parents and friends.

Sometimes generous sponsors have helped out with scholarships. After reading in a local on-line forum about people locally that just could not afford to send their kids to camp, one person (who wishes to remain anonymous) decided to do something about it. As Patlan and Torres tell the story, the anonymous benefactor talked it over with their spouse and they not only anonymously sponsored four kids to go to horse camp, but they also paid for an advertisement in the newspaper letting people know the scholarships were available. In this case students were chosen after they sent in fifty word essays.

The young benefactors were able to ride thanks to the anonymous donation had an experience they would not have otherwise been able to do. Patlan and Torres would love to have that happen more often and they say that they will work with sponsors if anyone else would like to come forward and sponsor even one child for a week.

For more information about Against The Crooked Sky including boarding, horse camp, or the opportunity to sponsor a youngster for a week of horsemanship training, please contact at the facility 209-826-4800 or email againstthecrookedsky@yahoo.com.

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