Spirit horses

Teri Patane at age 26 with her horse Scooter in 1994.

At 32 years old, Teri Patane died from complications related to
systemic lupus
– a chronic, autoimmune disease – five months after giving birth
to her daughter Jacqueline.
Searching for a suitable way to pay homage to his daughter, who
he raised from the time she was a teenager after he and her mother
divorced, Lon Davis brainstormed with her friends, husband and
brother and founded the Teri Davis Patane Memorial Horse Camp for
Kids.
The annual weeklong event celebrates its 10th anniversary this
week.
– PHOTOS: 2010 Teri Davis Patane Memorial Horse Camp for
Kids
A grinning 4-year-old with white-blonde pigtails sitting high atop a gleaming quarter horse.

A willowy teenager perched dutifully on Santa’s lap next to her little brother.

A daring young woman taking a jet ski off a jump before a crowd of onlookers at an amusement park.

Lon Davis’ photos of his daughter tell the story of a woman whose love for life shone through in everything she did, from the year she tried her hand at the middle school basketball team to her lifelong passion for horses.

Teri Davis Patane entered her first equestrian show at 4 years old, and for the next 28 years, horses were her constant companion. The Live Oak High School graduate went on to earn degrees in science from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo and San Jose State University, and worked in chemical control for the City of Gilroy.

At 32 years old, Teri died from complications related to systemic lupus – a chronic, autoimmune disease – five months after giving birth to her daughter Jacqueline.

Searching for a suitable way to pay homage to his daughter, who he raised from the time she was a teenager after he and her mother divorced, Davis brainstormed with her friends, husband and brother and founded the Teri Davis Patane Memorial Horse Camp for Kids.

The annual weeklong event celebrates its 10th anniversary this week.

“Horses were the thing for her,” said Davis, 67, as strains of a Billie Holiday song filtered from an old radio in his San Martin home. Wearing a denim shirt and jeans, he looked the part of a cowboy even though his job as an architect takes up most of his time.

“She always came back to the horses. That’s what we tried to tie into.”

This week, six foster children between the ages of 8 and 12 – the majority of whom have never touched a horse, let alone ride one – will spend the week at the overnight camp held at the home Teri and her husband, Carmen Patane, bought 14 years ago on Holsclaw Road.

Thursday, the group will ride into Henry Coe State Park and spend three days camping before returning home.

“When we first started, it was a pretty stressful experience. What worse things could you put together – you’ve got kids that don’t know anything about horses, and you’ve got horses,” Davis said with a chuckle. “I look back at the horses we had the first year and wonder how we ever got these kids into Coe Park. But we’ve got some amazing people that make this thing work.”

Carmen Patane, 43 and an accountant by day, and 10-year-old Jacqueline were working to ready their barn for the camp Thursday afternoon,

“We didn’t really know what we were getting into,” Patane said. “We laugh when we look back on that first year. We were flying by the seat of our pants.”

But the program Teri’s friends and family established in that first year turned out to be a good formula, they said.

“We always laugh about how Teri could have done this so much better,” Davis said, his voice swelling with emotion. “This is the kind of thing she could have handled, no sweat.”

While Teri volunteered and gave riding lessons, she didn’t run a camp of her own but would have loved the idea, her family said.

“Teri could do everything. She always amazed me by how much she could handle in terms of multitasking,” her husband said. “She just had a tremendous amount of energy. I couldn’t keep up with her. This would have been right up her alley.”

The couple met over a water trough while riding their respective horses in Mount Madonna County Park, married three years later and had Jacqueline a few years after that.

“We talk about her all the time,” Patane said.

While Jacqueline has no direct memories of her mother, the fifth grader for the upcoming school year at St. Mary Catholic School said she feels like she knows her from the stories her father and grandfather tell and the photos they still keep on display. While Davis keeps stacks of framed photos and a worn scrapbook of his daughter’s accomplishments within easy reach of his cluttered architect’s desk at home, Patane’s Holsclaw home is decorated with photos of his late wife.

With the same shock of flaxen hair as her mother at her age, it’s sometimes hard to tell between Jacqueline and her mother in pictures.

“Sometimes I feel like I have memories, but maybe I’m just remembering the photos,” Jacqueline said. “I know she loved horses.”

Though she’s not as avid of a rider as her mother, Jacqueline still knows her way around horses more than most adults.

“I may not be the best horse rider so I might break the family tree, but I’m up for anything,” said the precocious little girl.

As for the camp, “My favorite part?” Jacqueline pondered. “It’s practically everything. I’ve never had a favorite part because every day it would be fun.”

During the past 10 years, more than 60 campers from South County have experienced the camp. Davis looks forward every year to getting to know camp participants and teaching them to ride, just like he taught his young 4-year-old daughter years ago.

“It’s all about the kids that week,” he said. “Some of them are bounced around like crazy so we try to make a big family for them that week. When the kids are out there, and they’re smiling and having a good time, that makes it all worth while.”

– PHOTOS: 2010 Teri Davis Patane Memorial Horse Camp for Kids

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