13 Years of Making Children Smile
Brittney Bertel has always been a lover of horses for over 20 years, ever since growing up across the street from her best friend who lived on a ranch. That passion then translated into her now career. In her late teens and early 20s, Brittney began working in the Oakley Union Elementary School district. As an attempt to find a common interest with the students, she would talk about horses. However, Brittney quickly discovered that the majority of the children had never been anywhere near horses. “I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have had that experience growing up,” said Brittney. “I thought it was such a missed opportunity for these kids who seemed to be spending way too much time inside.”
Brittney originally offered lessons at a different property, launching her business Prancing Princess Pony in 2010. After a few years she moved to Rafter D Ranch and has proudly been a boarder there for the last 10 years. “I moved to Rafter D Ranch because I had been competing there since I was eight years old, and there is no ranch in the area like it,” said Brittney. been there the last 10 years. Then in 2021 Brittney decided to add more to what she was offering at Rafter D Ranch, and so the Prancing Princess Pony that we know and love today was born. The first natural progression for Brittney was to offer Mommy and Me classes, a perfect pairing of her background in education and equestrian knowledge. Children ages one to five are welcome to the Mommy & Me classes. “The class for one year old children focuses on things like sensory play, child interaction, social skills, and becoming familiar and comfortable with animals,” said Brittney. “Then once the children are two, they are able to start riding where I’ll walk them on a trail ride.” In class they practice scissors, glue, painting, motor skills, letters, numbers, sign language, shapes, colors, movement, and more. Brittney incorporates different themes each month and different activities each week so that it’s not repetitive. “Kids also get to brush the horses, finger paint them, decorate their hair with bows, have doctor days where they practice taking care of the horses, and have horse care days where they practice cleaning the stalls and more.”
Occasionally Prancing Princess Pony will offer cooking classes where kids are able to make treats for the horses. For Halloween they made witches brew with green applesauce and cool whip in a witch bowl. For Thanksgiving they will make pumpkin pies, and for Christmas the kids make and decorate Christmas cookies. “The horses love it,” said Brittney. Periodically Brittney will also host a Daddy and Me class where she’ll do things like fill a horse stall with shavings and send the dads and kids out on a dino hunt to find the buried dinosaurs. Then the little ones get to take one home. She also hosts character events where kids can visit the ranch and have a meet and greet with someone like Spiderman or Maribel, make a craft and ride a horse. “The kids really get to spend time with the character without being rushed or having to wait in a long line.” These events are private and ticketed so that the number of attendees remains small in an effort to not be too crowded or overwhelming. “Dan Galvin, the owner of Rafter D Ranch, allows me to put on all of these fun activities here. He loves seeing the kids enjoy themselves while they’re here. Without him, these activities wouldn’t be possible,” said Brittney. “For Easter we have an event with the Easter bunny and an egg hunt where each child is guaranteed a certain number of eggs. For Halloween we have different characters like Jack and Sally come visit, and the kids are able to trick or treat at the various vendors. Then, my favorite is Christmas when we have Santa
Of course, none of the fun would be possible without Rafter D Ranch and its generous owner. “Dan is the nicest man. I have great respect for how hard he works to make Rafter D Ranch what it is for all of us,” said Brittney. “I’m so thankful for him. I could never have done any of what I do without him.” Dan Galvin purchased Rafter D Ranch in 1995 after spending his life on a cattle farm. “Dan and his family grew up raising cattle. He still raises cattle here at his ranch and sells his steers to local kids in 4H and FFA for their projects, all while providing an immaculate full service boarding facility, currently home to roughly 70 horses.” Rafter D Ranch also has a full feed store on site that has been open since 1995 and has recently incorporated children’s toys like books, farm themed toys, stuffed animals, tea sets, stable sets and more. “Everything for children in the store is under $35 so kids who visit can leave with a souvenir without breaking the bank.” The feed store is open 10:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. on Sundays, and closed on Mondays. Customers are welcome to visit the store and walk around to see the horses, even if they aren’t attending an event.
Some day in the future, Brittney and her husband would love to own property of their own to allow Prancing Princess Pony to expand even further. Until that time comes, Brittney will gladly stay where her heart is the happiest. “When I moved to Rafter D Ranch, I didn’t think I’d be able to continue doing lessons, but Dan never questioned it. He’s trusted me and has allowed me to pursue my ideas. I would not have turned into what I am today if it wasn’t for Dan and Rafter D Ranch. I will forever be grateful.”
by Michelle Lassle
photos by Sara Jean Photography