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Ponying around

Stafford-area barn creates lasting outdoor memories for kids
by: Vern Uyetake, Dugger leads Patches toward The Little Corral's clean, modern facility, where campers will learn to handle and care for ponies and miniature horses this summer.

These days, it often takes special incentive to motivate kids to turn off their computers, video games or televisions.

Liz Dugger, owner of Stafford's, who recently opened The Little Corral with her husband, Rob, said she recalled a statistic published last year in USA Today stating that we are seeing the first generation of kids who don't spend most of their summer outside.

Noticing a shift toward the digital with her own four children, the youngest of whom is now at Wilsonville High School, as well, Dugger decided to provide kids with a reason to go outside and play.

And, she thought, what better reason than ponies?

Dugger, a native of Portland who has lived in the Stafford area for 18 years, said she and her husband both had ponies as children and had great memories as a result.

Dugger and her husband, a dentist in West Linn, began acquiring The Little Corral's five ponies and miniature horses - Patches, Clover, Derby, Bailey and Dublin - last winter and have been preparing them ever since for the camps they will offer this summer.

'Ponies are really fun. Everything they do is mini,' she said, from their gait to their voices.

She said her smallest pony stands at just 32 inches tall at its withers - the tops of its shoulders.

Elementary school students ages 10 and under from throughout the Portland metro area will have the opportunity to attend six, four-day camps at The Little Corral. During each session, they will learn the basics of horse safety, grooming, handling and care; spend time with the ponies and miniature horses; play games; and create crafts.

Dugger said the camps also will teach children about the history of the four varieties of miniature horses and ponies that live at The Little Corral, especially the Celtic roots of its Shetland and Hackney ponies.

According to the North Clackamas Chamber of Commerce, Clackamas County ranks in the top 10 among U.S. counties in terms of horses per capita and has many training facilities.

The Little Corral, however, provides children with something a little different, Dugger said: an opportunity to interact with horses at an introductory level.

No riding experience is required, she said, and during the day camps, high-school-age helpers with riding experience will be on hand to assist the participants.

'The ponies are little, but they are still horses,' Dugger said. 'They like to be No. 1.'

The Little Corral also has two full-size horses, one of which is available for bigger campers to ride.

Dugger said she hopes that, by attending the camp, children will come away with a solid outdoor memory, and a positive one at that.

But, children don't have to attend The Little Corral's day camps to interact with its ponies.

The barn has a craft room, tables and chairs ready and waiting for children's birthday parties, or families can simply set up a time to have a picnic with the ponies.

'It's more experiential than crazy,' Dugger said, rather than a trip to Bulwinkle's Family Fun Center.

'Smelling barn, touching horses; it takes you out of the norm,' she said, offering children and adults a chance to slow down from the pace of their everyday lives and experience something simpler.

Dugger said she started spending more time in the barn after she quit her job four years ago, and she's noticed a change in herself.

'It makes you feel more sane,' she said. 'People leave with a glow, and it's fun to see that happen.'

Dugger said she encourages parents who are interested in the camp to come by the facility and visit. The Little Corral is located two miles south of the I-205 Lake Oswego/Stafford exit on Newland Road.

For more information, to schedule a visit and to register for the summer camps, visit thelittlecorral.com.



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