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Western Pleasure offers more than riding to area horse lovers

The barn at Western Pleasure Guest Ranch smelled like horses and fresh mowed hay. Outside, a soft drizzle announced the end of summer and a kaleidoscope of colors burst from the trees: sienna, crimson, umber, yellow and green. The horses, saddled and ready to ride, stood patient in idle mode, while the riders received last minute directions from Vicky Fuller, equestrian instructor.

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch has a rich history. On February 13, 1939, Riley and Gladys Wood moved into their dream cabin complete with 960 acres on Gold Creek. A bright moon reflected off three feet of snow that stood between them and their new front door.

Jim Wood purchased the ranch from his father, Riley, in 1957, and acquired a second ranch in 1978. In 1990, Jim’s daughter, Janice, and her husband, Roley Schoonover, fresh out of college, wanted to follow the Wood family tradition, living on the ranch and going into business. That summer they started taking people on horseback rides.

“We took 60 people out that first summer,” said Janice Schoonover. “People were amazed. They were all so taken by the beauty.”

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch has evolved into one of Idaho’s premiere guest ranches. They have over 40 horses and astounding trails that cover their property. Best of all, the Schoonover family loves what they do, and it shows.

Danielle Schoonover Otis studies recreational management at NIC. She married her fiancée, Landon, at the ranch August 2008. Danielle plans to bring her knowledge to the ranch to continue in the family legacy. She loves to ride, play fiddle, and hang out with her new husband. Her favorite job at the ranch is wrangler.

Isaac Schoonover, 17, also entertains the guests with a mean fiddle. When he’s not making music, Isaac helps his dad train the young horses. He has a real talent, and trains outside horses as well.

WPGR, actively involved in 4-H, runs kid horse camps in the summer. Vicky Fuller and Janice decided to start an adult horsemanship clinic six years ago, mainly in response to the parents of the children in kids camp.

“A lot of the parents wanted to attend the kids camp,” Janice said, “so Vicky and I put our heads together and started the adult horsemanship clinic.”

This year, the clinic was full with 12 riders from Michigan, Washington, Kentucky, Coeur d’Alene, and Sandpoint.

“We marketed it a little differently this year,” Vicky said. “This year, five locals have brought their own horses to camp. We said no to the mule and the green Tennessee Walker.”

Vicky Fuller has ridden all her life. She works with 4-H and gives individual riding lessons at her ranch in Sagle. Vicky said that safety is always a top concern, and every spring Vicky and WPGR wranglers and horses participate in the Pat Wyss clinic to train and tune up horses.

“The better you ride,” Vicky said with a smile, “the better you can dance.”

Sally Paquin, Coeur d’Alene, said that three years ago, she had never ridden a horse.

“I was scared to death of horses,” Sally said. “Someone challenged me to do equine massage, so I decided to conquer my fears.”

Sally brought her Icelandic pony, Miss Blue, to the adult horse clinic. She said she gets more training every year, and was exhilarated to take Miss Blue on their first trail ride.

“I’ve already signed up for next year,” Sally said, “and I’m bringing my husband.”

Eventually, Sally plans on running a horse clinic to help battered women gain confidence and heal.

“Horses are so therapeutic,” Sally said.

Christine Kendell, Bellingham Wash., said she rode horses when she was 12 to 14 years old.

“I started riding again a couple years ago,” Christine said, “and when I found Western Pleasure on the Internet, I thought it would be a great way to become a better rider. And I hit the jackpot. This is a fantastic place and my husband and I hope to come back again next year.”

The riders at the camp ranged from around 40 to around 60. When they weren’t on their horses, they cheered the other riders on, clapping and encouraging. The rain stopped, and they smiled, eager for their afternoon trail ride.

Vicky said that at this time, almost all the riders have signed up for the clinic next fall and that WPGR hopes to conduct two separate adult camps next year.

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Desire Aguirre Desire Aguirre lives in Sandpoint with her daughter, DaNae, and numerous pets. An LCSC student, she plans on graduating May, 2009, with a bachelors in communication. Her favorite sport is riding her horse, Splash-of-Paint, into the wilderness with Cholo, her son's faithful dog.

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