santa cruz horseback riding
August 2019

Gymnastics on a Horse

This Aptos 13-year-old has been riding, jumping and competing since he was 4

Extreme Adventures August 2019

By Kevin Painchaud

santa cruz horseback riding

Growing up, many kids fantasize about riding a horse through the dusty streets in the old west, jumping over fences and aiming their six-shooter at bad guys. Cole Giraldo, 13, may not be wearing a cowboy hat and spurs, but he is sure living the dream of riding horses and competing at a high level.

It was a hot sunny day at White Rock Ranch in Watsonville when I sat down and spent some time talking and taking photos of Cole and his horse that he gets to train with,

KP: Where do you go to school?

CG: I’m in 8th grade at Aptos Junior High.

KP: When was the first time that you rode a horse?

CG: The first time I rode a horse was when I was 4 years old. I did a horse camp with a pony named Mickey Blue Eyes at my preschool. I actually ended up riding Mickey for a few years and even showed him in my first show. He is now retired and stabled in Soquel and I visited him recently. He belongs to my first trainer, Brittany.

KP:  What inspired you to ride?

CG:  I don’t know.  It’s just something that I’ve always wanted to do.

KP: What’s your favorite thing about riding?

CG: I get to go spend time at my barn and hang out with the horses. I get to work on my jumping and my flat skills.

KP:  When did you start riding competitively?

CG: I did my first show when I was 9. I was nervous but I ended up winning lots of first places and I was the grand champion of the show.

KP:  Many people are not familiar with the different styles of riding, can you explain them to us?

CG:  Some styles of riding are English, Western and Vaulting. I do English riding, which involves jumping.  English is different from Western because in English riding the saddle is smaller. In Western riding there is a horn on the saddle. In Western riding you do barrel racing and other events in the cowboy style of riding. Vaulting is like gymnastics on a horse and it takes a lot of balance and strength. I do vaulting too. Vaulting is really fun because you are standing on a horse and you’re really high up.

santa cruz horseback riding

KP:  What style do you compete in?

CG:  I compete in English riding.


KP: What’s your favorite event that you compete in?

CG: Jumping. I practice jumping a lot at my home stable so it’s fun to jump at shows. I just did a two-day clinic at my barn that was all about jumping. 

santa cruz horseback riding

KP: Is your family supportive of you riding and competing?

CG:  Yes, my family has been really supportive. They watch my lessons, come to all my horse shows and drive me to the barn constantly. They also come with me to the barn to watch me do free rides, which is when we can ride without our trainer present as long as we don’t jump.

KP: If you could create your future, what would it be?

CG:  My ideal future would be living on a nice ranch with a stable, having my own horses, and a nice arena that I can jump in. I’d also like to compete in bigger shows and train horses.

KP:  If there are other kids in the Santa Cruz area that are interested in riding, where can they learn?

CG:  If kids are interested in riding, they can start by taking lessons once or twice a week. They will need to find a trainer or a program with the kind of style they want to learn. My trainer Laurie teaches kids of all ages and levels. The older kids at a barn also help the younger kids learn how to do everything. That’s how I learned.

KP:  Have you had any scary moments when riding?

CG:  Yes, I’ve fallen off, usually when horses stop before a jump. Horses have also galloped and bucked, but I managed to stay on. Sometimes horses get spooked by things that happen around the arena, like if they see something that startles them.

KP:  Have any final words or thoughts for our readers?

CG:  I guess just do what you love to do.  For me, it’s riding horses.  It’s really fun and such a huge part of my life.

santa cruz horseback riding

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