Horse Focus Camp

"Just get out and ride!"

Grades 5-11



Riding... This is the horse lover's dream... Riders spend a double-long activity time on horseback every day. More of the day fills with other horse experiences and learning more about horses, building relationships with the animals, caring for them and working with them from the ground up. Days round out with ropes course challenges and choices from all the other activities.

Animal Care... Horse Focus campers also experience hands-on grooming, tacking, health care, daily maintenance of horses, goats, and minis.

Western Art... specifically drawing and painting horses - and Roping "cattle" with names like Bertha and Tofu, add to the agenda offered by the wranglers.

Horse Focus

The Horses... The Colorado Mountain Ranch horses are well-trained and are treated with kindness. Therefore, they generally have good dispositions and a liking for people. They are strong and steady, come in all colors and sizes, and are kept shod for our rocky terrain. Our horses belong to us, so each horse is like family - old friends with us and the campers year after year. The local mountain country is wide open for exploring the pine and aspen forests and wildflower meadows in "Old West" style. At The Colorado Mountain Ranch, folks can still just "get out and ride."

Gentle Approach and Mike Walker... Mike has directed the Western Riding programs at The Colorado Mountain Ranch for over 35 years. His gentle, natural approach emphasizes communication, respect, trust, balance, and enjoyment - for both horse and human. Mike has developed his own eclectic "horse-whisperer" approach to training and riding through practice and study with famous trainers beginning with originals Tom Dorrance and Ray Hunt. He builds a partnership rather than dominates, works with horses rather than breaks them, and builds a unity of mind, body, and spirit with the horse. His ways with horses are similar to those popularized by the "natural horsemanship" approach of Pat Parelli and Buck Branaman. Many horse people today refer to Mike as "the best horseman" they know. One of Mike's special gifts is sharing his horsemanship knowledge and abilities with others, especially children.

The Round Pen... Each week of Horse focus begins with Mike working in the round pen with a horse who's just starting out or could use a "tune-up." Mike's often humorous ongoing commentary introduces the Horse Focus campers to Mike's and CMR's way of respectfully communicating with horses and people of all ages, children included, of course!

The Wranglers and Horse Focus Instructors... 2019 boasts a high returnee rate among our riding staff who are familiar and practiced in Mike's way with horses. Sherise and Brandon are 4th year wranglers after having grown up as CMR day campers from Boulder, Horse Focus riders, CITs, and wrangler mentorees. Ben, Athena, and Robi, each with the same history at CMR, will be 1st and 2nd-year wranglers. Emma from Texas is returning as Head Wrangler for her 4th year. Mike’s daughter Rosie, who grew up as Mike’s apprentice, will again work with horses-in-training along with Mike and lead Horse Focus groups this summer. Veteran Head Wrangler Lauren Massey returns for at least part of her 7th season at the end of the summer after a teaching experience in Italy! (Point of Interest: Lauren’s parents actually met at the Ranch when they were counselors here years ago!)

Mike and Campers

Western Riding... Riding is casual and comfortable in the saddle for riders who find that treating the horses gently readies them for partnership. Ride time includes some group and mostly individualized instruction and usually an "open-range free ride" through the meadows and forests of the Ranch premises, with loping later in the week. Expect coaching on individual skill development, games on horses, obstacle courses, trail rides, practice riding at various gates and speeds, and supervised "open-range free-riding" off trails.

Ground work... includes relating with the horses, routine health care, grooming and daily maintenance of riding horses, draft horses, mules, our mini horse Tina, and goats. Become competent in catching, leading, bridling, and saddling horses.

"Equus"... (Means "Horse" in Latin) Sit around at the barn and share interesting facts about horses. Learn about breeds, colors, conformation, and history of horses, as well as various riding styles and events.

Ride Like the Wind!... Riders gain confidence with riding each gate progressively, starting with the walk, then the trot, then the lope. Each rider canters his or her horse on a designated stretch of trail or road one at a time to maximize safety and to receive individualized pointers.


Longer Rides... For Horse Focus campers, horseback ride times are generally two hours every day. When rides are scheduled for a ride group, those campers do not participate in the daily morning or afternoon gatherings for flag-raising and flag-lowering, songs and sharing. Instead, they just head on over to the Barn in the morning and stay out longer for their afternoon ride.

Progression... All Horse Focus Campers are assessed on Mondays to determine the best fit for ride groups. When friends wish to be together, they are usually both placed in the slower-paced ride group, unless both are already very comfortable in the saddle and skilled in loose-rein partnering.

Unique Program...Horse! Focus Camp is the only program of its kind in the Boulder area. Take advantage of this fantastic opportunity.

Important Prerequisites ...


  • Previous experience with some independent riding is necessary to participate in the Horse! Focus Program.
  • Campers must feel ready to walk, trot and canter.
  • Safety of the children and the horses is the highest priority!

Desire. Choosing the best program for a particular child can sometimes be a challenge. Horse Focus is an intensive program for riders who already have experience as well as a desire to "really get out and ride."

Comfort. As in all our programs for children, our goal is for each child to succeed and to have a positive camp experience which is safe and enjoyable for the participant. Participants need to be at ease and open with the animals. Horses can sense when a rider is tense or fearful. The development of a safe partnership between horse and rider is only successful when the child feels comfortable. Only sign up a child who wants to participate in this program, who meets the grade requirement, and who understands and commits independently to all the prerequisites.

Open-Range Riding. What we do is "open-range riding." Not usually in a line, the group walks and trots on trails and through forests and meadows. Each rider turns and moves the horse independently. Our horses are trained to be responsive to the rider, and each rider must learn to partner with a horse that is alert to the rider’s signals. Every rider needs to be able to focus on the horse’s signals in various situations. Safety is paramount for your child, his/her horse, the other children, and the other horses. Many other children's riding programs may be in a riding ring where the fence defines the outside boundary of the horse's space to move within. Riding at The Colorado Mountain Ranch does not include this containment. Riding at CMR is NOT riding horses that have learned specific habits such as going around and around the ring or doing mainly just one or two specific moves. The attention, focus, and determination of the rider is of greatest importance in order to just "get out and ride" in the spirit of riding the open range in the old West.

Good Listener and Learner. The rider MUST listen well, pay close attention, and respond to the teaching, suggestions and coaching of the instructor. Each child must be able to learn to manage him or herself, the horse, and their personal horse-rider combination without compromising the safety of self, horse, or others.

Partnering with the Horse. In our style of Western riding, the rider must partner with the horse to support the horse's own natural alertness, while also staying confident. Learning to communicate with the horse through a variety of cues simultaneously - using thoughts, eyes, voice, legs, balance, pressure, and reins. Reining needs to be lighter and less controlling, especially when compared to English style. There needs to be conscious rein management in order to use minimal pressure on the bit or bosal. These techniques require constant attention and effort.


Questions to ask before registering for Horse Focus

  1. Is your child ready for a mental partnering with the horse?
  2. Is he/she able and determined to be alert to "listening" and communicating closely with the horse?
  3. Is he/she interested and willing to put learning to ride as first priority, above social and other distractions?

General Criteria for Horse Focus

  1. Some independent horse experience riding on his/her own
  2. Focus - Must attend to the communications from the horse, as well as directions and pointers from the instructors
  3. Tenacity and strength – especially in the arms for turning and pulling up a horse with a strong head
  4. Comfort around big, strong animals
  5. Confidence in riding ability – no hesitation to trot during open range riding

Please note: If there is a safety concern or if it is in your child's and/or the group’s best interest, we might ask your child to do trail rides with the Mountain Adventure groups so he/she can gain riding experience and become more comfortable while riding.