By Marina Pendleton
Before I could walk, I was riding a horse at the A/U Ranches. I held the reins confidently and sat up straight, and even though I couldn’t say the word “giddy-up” yet, I was ready to ride.
Fast-forward to my elementary school years; I’d start packing my bag for camp weeks ahead of time – folding my riding jeans and stowing my cowgirl boots – just to make sure I’d be ready when it was time to pile in the minivan and head to Family Camp at the A/U Ranches.
I watched the A/U Wrangler Training videos, tying knots and practicing my horseback posture on the living room furniture. The crisp Colorado air and the scent of pines beckoned. The dreamy days of trail riding, practicing barrels and poles, and heading over the ridge to camp at Cottonwood could never come soon enough.
In high school, during my years at Youth Camp and as a CIT (2012), Lachlan Kellogg-Clarke and many wonderful staff led the Cattle Working program. It was a true Wild West adventure, complete with rattlesnakes, cactus, meals cooked over a fire, water pumped by hand and 12-hour days in the saddle gathering, sorting and branding cattle on the 90,000-acre Chico Basin Ranch.
It was on horseback at Chico Basin and at the A/U Ranches that I had some of my most formative moments – learning that through hard work, trustworthiness, prayer and reliance on God, I could make a positive difference in the world. I could contribute to my team – whether it was a team of Chico ranch hands, fellow staff members, a group of campers or just me and my horse.
When Adventure Unlimited announced the Adopt-A-Horse program, I knew I wanted to participate. Linda Kellogg-Clarke matched me with Sloan – a beautiful, smart and sassy bay with cattle-working bloodlines, also competitive at gymkhana and polocrosse. Throughout the year, Linda sent me photos and videos of Sloan and Lach, bringing me a little bit of that A/U Ranches magic, even when I couldn’t be at camp in person.
I love giving back to the Ranches in such a fun and personalized way, especially because the Horsemanship program has been so special to me for as long as I can remember! When I finally met Sloan at Mini Camp in 2020, I was delighted by her spirit, her energy, and how beloved and well cared for she is. One week was not nearly enough time to spend with Sloan, but I know that all year long and for years to come, Sloan will be the teacher, teammate and best friend of staff and campers who will get to learn their own life lessons like I did, on horseback at the A/U Ranches.
Want to participate in the Adopt-A-Horse program at the A/U Ranches? Learn more