Equestrian Program

At The Painted Turtle campers seem to grow before your eyes as they excitedly ride a horse for the first time and tackle the playful challenges created for them in the riding ring and along the trail. Their accomplishments in the equestrian program foster self-esteem and confidence in campers and forge an emotional connection for them with the horses. Having a serious medical condition makes many children withdrawn and afraid to trust. Horses have an uncanny way of drawing many of these children out and helping them to feel safe and less fearful. Most riding sessions conclude with hugs and kisses for the horses.

Campers are taught riding skills through fun games and activities. “Red Light, Green Light” teaches them how to stop, turn and move a horse forward. “Simon Says” and the “Mailboxes” teach dexterity, balance, and coordination, and strengthen muscle tone. Trained instructors mount and dismount campers and sidewalk all riders. We have two wheelchair mounting ramps and an array of adaptive saddles and supports to provide all children with a safe and memorable experience.

At the Barn, campers have the opportunity for closer, more personal interaction with the horses by bathing, brushing, feeding, and even painting them! Through these activities, campers who are so used to being care-receivers get to be caregivers – a very empowering role-reversal.

Meet the Herd!
Equestrian Staff and Volunteers
Support the Equestrian Program


  • “Thank you for one of the best weeks of my life… I came with my doubts about my first time at a camp, but as I left that night I couldn’t have felt more satisfied or overjoyed by my experience”
  • “I haven’t seen my son this happy since we have come into the hospital…it is awesome to see him smiling and acting like himself again.”
    -Parent, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
  • “My daughter told me tonight that Camp is the only place she feels that she’s ever been able to be herself… It’s the only place she’s been where people just accept her for who she is.  It’s the only place she’s been where all of the activities are designed for her to be able to do.  She doesn’t have to sit anything out. She’s part of it all.”
    -Camper Parent
  • “Can I take a picture with my fish & fishing pole in front of the backdrop? I want to prove to my friends that I went fishing in the hospital…they’ll never believe me.”
    -Child, age 10, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford
  • “Yay, I’m so glad you’re here today. I have The Painted Turtle Outpost on my calendar with gold stars all around it!”
    -Child Life Specialist, UCLA Mattel Children’s Hospital