By Timothy Rawles / NewsBreak Pinal County, AZ
(Casa Grande, AZ) An opportunity for kids to meet, or even ride, a pony might light up their faces with big smiles. Beyond that excitement, the connection between humans and animals can be a beneficial one — studies have shown that equine interaction may be therapeutic to both children and adults.
The Pony Ranch featuring Tinytown in Casa Grande is a place where this union can happen. The venue is open on Saturdays and Sundays until May 1 and provides a large space for budding equestrians to explore their interest in riding, or just have fun with tiny horses and other animals.
While not an official horse therapy organization, The Pony Ranch is a casual experience that may have inadvertent calming qualities for everyone.
It’s long been determined that children with attachment disorders can bond with horses during therapy. To that end, it’s also been noted that kids in general benefit from animal interactions. In a 2019 study evaluating the effectiveness of therapeutic horse riding for children with disabilities, doctors found:
· Social participation was the health outcome demonstrating the most consistent change following therapeutic horse riding, regardless of rider impairment.
· Therapeutic horse riding can improve social participation in settings beyond the riding arena.
If petting animals is beneficial to the well-being of children, The Pony Ranch is a therapeutic gem. For $10 kids get a half-mile trail ride and carousel ride. For $20 they get a bag of feed and unlimited trail and carousel rides.
There are some restrictions if you decide to go. Children have to be at least one year old to ride the ponies. There is a 90-pound weight limit. Bigger kids can ride Bud, the resident ranch horse who must be led by a staff member on the trail.
Pony rides can be led by parents on the winding path, but there are ranch hands paid in tips to assist if needed. The ponies are friendly thanks to their 12 years of experience giving rides to kids at the Phoenix Park N Swap.
Riders also need to wear a bike helmet so bring yours from home, although the ranch does offer some in case you forget.
If you get peckish, check out Joseph Garcia’s variety of nibbles and beverages. He is an on-site vendor who offers guests everything from juices to snacks to sandwiches.
Although pony rides are the main draw, there is also a petting zoo with goats, mini donkeys, potbellied pigs, chickens, mini mules, and retired ponies.
Kids can also test their roping skills on a fake steer head in the Jr. roping arena and swing in the sand-filled playground named Gold Mountain.
The owners say that ponies are afraid of strange dogs so leave your fur babies at home. But bring appropriate footwear made for the terrain and ranch setting.
The Pony Ranch is only open for a small window beginning in April and through May 1.
Cash and credit card are accepted. For more information check out their Facebook page.
Admission is $20 per child for unlimited rides and a bag of feed, $10 per child for one trail ride and one carousel ride, and $8 per adult.
The Pony Ranch featuring Tinytown is located at 18536 West Houser Road, Casa Grande.