GILROY - Teri Davis Patane loved horses and children. So, when the Gilroy resident passed away last October at the age of 32 from systemic lupus, her family wanted to find a fitting tribute.
They decided to start a week-long camp in her name where disadvantaged kids in the area could learn to ride horses and have a summer adventure they'd remember for the rest of their lives.
Last week, six children from Morgan Hill, Gilroy and Hollister were the first participants in the Teri Davis Patane Memorial Horse Camp for Kids. The kids are in foster care programs and the organizers of the camp asked the Dispatch not to reveal the children's identities for their protection.
"This really is about something we want to do in Teri's name," said Carmen Patane, Teri's husband. "Teri really was the inspiration for the camp. She loved working with horses. She loved working with kids."
The seven-day camp is designed to teach kids various life skills such as team work, cooperation, responsibility, self-esteem and planning and organization, he said. Kids also learned how to enjoy and care for animals and gained an awareness of the environment, he said.
The six children ranged in ages from 7 to 10 years. They arrived at a form near Pacheco Pass on Aug. 13 uncertain what the week of learning equestrian skills would bring, he said. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, they learned basic riding skills such as how to hold the reins, how to balance on the saddle, how to start and how to stop the horses, said, Lon Davis, Teri's father.
We taught them how to get on, get off -the basic riding skills," he said.
The entire day wasn't spent learning saddle skills, however, Patane said. The children were entertained by professional rodeo cowboys teaching them how to team rope with lariats. And one evening, the kids also put on their own talent show- one 10 year-old boy's talent was burping the entire alphabet. At night, the children slept in sleeping bags on padding in a large white barn on the farm, he said.
On Thursday, the big adventure started with the children riding with adult supervision for a seven-mile trail ride starting at Gilroy Hot Springs and ending at Pacheco Camp in Henry Coe State Park, he said.
Trucks followed behind carrying camping supplies and hay for the horses.
One vivacious 9-year old girl from Hollister said she enjoyed the camping trip because it was the first time she had ever slept outdoors in the wilderness.
"We saw a shooting star," she said with a wide grin. "It goes over your head." She arced her arm over her head.
A 9-year old boy from Hollister said he enjoyed learning to ride his horse and felt like a cowboy while sitting on the saddle.
"I got scared because the first horse I was on was big," he said. The camp organizers put him on a "nicer and smaller" horse and he soon got on friendly terms with the animal, he said.
However, riding the trail for four strenuous hours to the camp did cause some physical annoyance for him, he said.
"My butt was sore," he said. "It felt uncomfortable."
All the wildlife on the trail amazed on 10-year old boy from. Morgan Hill.
"We saw lizards, bobcats, tarantulas, wild pigs," he said. "There were a couple of snakes- rattlers and gopher snakes. Late in the day, we saw some deer. There were a lot of crickets singing. We couldn't sleep because of the sound."
One of the best memories of the camp, said a 9-year old Gilroy girl, was playing in the water trough just outside the barn. "We played in the water and splashed each other, " she said.
"One of the horses tried to nip at my feet," said a 7-year old girl who said she didn't know what city she was from. She said the organizers told her to slap the horse if the animal tried that trick again.
Jean Forbes, who was in charge of supervising the children, said that all the children were a little intimidated by the horses at first because of the animals' size. But they got used to the horses after being around them for a while, she said.
For example, the 7-year old girl camper started crying when they tried to put her on a horse, Forbes said. She watched the other kids riding and finally got on. At the end of the day, she wanted to have the horse trot fast.
"Their confidence level just grew," she said."It was amazing to see."
Several members of the Santa Clara Sheriff's Office Mounted Search and Rescue team participated in the Henry Coe ride. They were there to provide medical assistance if someone in the group was hurt. No one was injured, said Angela Brown, the leader of the team, but some children did get hot and tired so were provided with drinks to keep them from getting dehydrated.
Some of the children were shy of the horses at first but changed after riding for several hours, she said.
"It was quite a metamorphosis," Brown said. "They went from being shy kids into vocal, outgoing kids. By the time they back in the evening, it was like they were born in the saddle."
The camp is run by donations given by individuals, Patane said. The organizers plan to make the camp an annual event.