Life is not always easy. For some COC students, being around horses can be just what the doctor ordered when life becomes too much to handle.

Head instructor and co-owner Jenna Roper smiling

Copper Horse Riding Ranch is a place located in Agua Dulce that primarily offers horseback riding lessons, as well as a venue for birthday parties, photography, filming, weddings and other events.

Jenna Roper is the head instructor and co-owner. She and her mother-in-law, Tammy Lucas, started the business back in 2007.

“Our purpose here is to service and provide people with the most excellent service we can possibly give them, whether we are doing birthday parties, horseback riding lessons, or whatever they want to come here for,” said Roper.

The name they came up with combined the ambiance of the place with the purpose of the business.

“My father-in-law was a metal worker and he loves copper, and so when you walk around the ranch you’ll see a lot of copper tones to it,” said Roper. “Somebody else said, ‘Well you have to tell people what you do,’ so that’s how riding came into it, and ranch, since this is a nine-acre ranch. And I agreed.”

Running your own business can have perks.

“My favorite part is doing something that I love, and having a passion for it and doing it with family,” said Roper.

Having a small business can also come with some challenges.

“The most challenging part is doing it with just us, not having outside help,” Roper said. There is no such thing as sick days.”

Copper Horse is unique in its horseback riding lessons in that it teaches customers not just how to ride, but how to take care of a horse as well.

Roper believes that learning to tack a horse up yourself gives you the opportunity to get to know the horse you are going to ride. Having one-on-one interaction can establish a bond of trust between horse and rider.

Customer brushing the horse Traveler

“Tacking a horse up is saddling, brushing, doing that stuff,” said Roper. “It’s having one-on-one interaction with the horse. When you get on them, and you just plop on them without having that interaction you don’t learn the horse. Every horse is different, just like every human is different.”

At Copper Horse, you get the horse out yourself, and learn how to brush and saddle the animal before you ride. After the lesson, you then have to take care of the horse as well. The horse worked for you, so now you must work for the horse. This includes unsaddling and brushing the animal again to prevent injury.

As Roper described it, “for that hour and 15 minutes, it’s like you’re owning that horse.”

Katherine Kern with horse Scooter

For some college students, having this personal, one-on-one interaction with the horse helps them face challenges life can bring. Katherine Kern, a ranch instructor and COC student, has been taking advantage of this kind of experience for many years.

“Especially during finals week and midterms, having tests and stuff, you know, studying is great, but you also need like I call them ‘brain breaks,’” said Kern. “You need to take a break and relax your brain and I like to come out here to ride and decompress and de-stress, and horses are great for that.”


Having the unique experience of “owning a horse” for your lesson results in learning more than just about horses. You also learn life lessons as well.

“It teaches you responsibility first and foremost,” said Roper. “You are not only responsible for yourself for the horses and the well-being of others around you.”

Working with horses also teaches you persistence and encourages you to use creativity to find a solution to a problem.

“Don’t give up,” Roper explained. “No matter what, keep trying. Whether you have to do it a different way, don’t give up. You will figure it out.”

In a way, the horses are just as much the teachers as the humans.

“There’s so many things that horses teach you not only how to deal with animals but how to deal with other people,” said Kern.

“Going out into the real world, and dealing with different scenarios, different situations, people, is going to be nothing compared with dealing with a 1200 pound animal,” described Roper. “It gives you the good communication skills and to go out into the real world and to communicate with others and to have that self-confidence in yourself like I can do this.”

Roper has taught people with disabilities, such high-functioning autistic people, and those with ADHD and ADD.

It is with these patrons especially that the horses are valued teachers. Jenna said a connection on a deeper level happens between horse and human.

“You see this connection between the person and the horse, and it has an almost calming effect with them,” described Jenna.

At Copper Horse, you find community, both with the animals and the people.

The horses give you the kind of love that only animals can provide.

“There’s something about them that they just give you all your trust. It’s really amazing,” said Roper.

With the people, you find extended family.

“Once you are here, you are our family, and no matter if you move, you leave us, you grow up, you are always our family,” Roper with a smile.

Three Copper Horse Riding Ranch volunteers sitting on the porch of the tack room
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