LATHROP – Della Gaar-Todeschini has a lifetime experience working with horses.
So much so that she not only gives ride lessons but also provides care for the equine at A.T. Ranch Equestrian Center.
The 20-acre site at 1360 Frewert Rd. recently opened Animal Rescue of Lathrop, Inc. to go along with the boarding spaces at the facility that can accommodate 30 horses.
“We also grow our own alfalfa,” she said on Friday.
That’s important as A.T. Ranch plans to use 10 percent of the hay for the animal rescue. Donations are always welcome.
But it’s the riding lessons that Gaar-Todeschini and her staff – included is her daughter, Megan – enjoy providing.
“We get all different types out here (to ride),” she said. “Our clients are doctors, lawyers, and working class people.”
Lessons can be booked on an occasional, weekly or bi-weekly basis.
“We get a lot of repeat customers,” said Gaar-Todeschini, who estimated about 80 percent of the returners.
First-time riders are urged to wear long pants and boots. A.T. Ranch provides helmets to those under age 18 as required by law. They’ll hop aboard on one of the seven gentle quarterhorses or the mule.
Lessons are about 45 minutes and A.T. Ranch will go over the basics, from the proper technique of holding a rein to maintaining balance while on a horse.
“We’ll keep them on a lunging line from the start,” Gaar-Todeschini said.
By lunging, the handler can control the horse by using aids that instruct the animal to pick up the pace or slow down, move closer or farther.
The fees are affordable – try $35 per lesson – and the staff works with riders of all ages, from youngsters age 4 and older to those experienced riders owning their horses.
A.T. Ranch’s training extends to young and green horses and those with behavior modifications caused by undesirable habits.
Gaar-Todeschini offers lessons seven days a week via appointment only.
She opened the facility with her late husband, Aldo Todeschini, in 1994. “This place is for anyone who likes animals,” Gaar-Todeschini said.
No matter the weather, A.T. Ranch has a large covered riding arena for people of all skill levels to enjoy the thrill of riding horses.
Gaar-Todeschini has occasional groups stop by to learn about riding or even horses.
“We’ve had groups including autistic children and some from foster homes,” he recalled.
A.T. Ranch, in addition, will be hosting an obstacle event on Aug. 12 to test the skills of horses and riders from the likes of San Joaquin Valley Rangers, the Clements Buckroos, and the San Joaquin County Horsemen, to name a few.
“There’s nothing like being a member of a horse club,” Gaar-Todeschini said. “I’ve been in the SJV Rangers for more than 45 years and I love everything about it.
“This has given me the foundation for growing up and playing all types of events with my horses over the years.”
The course will contain five obstacles for horse and rider to maneuver. They’ll go through a noise-making tunnel, with the horse required to push a contraction made of several plastic barrels known as “Hoot-A-Kite.”
— VINCE REMBULAT