Rancho Santa Fe couple’s Rawhide Ranch celebrates 50 years of horse camps for kids


By Kristina Houck

When Maya Tantuwaya’s horse retired from polo riding, the 13-year-old decided to donate him to her “second home.” Now many children, including Tantuway, will get to ride and care for “Goloso” when they visit Rawhide Ranch.

“I love Rawhide,” said Tantuwaya, an active polo player at the San Diego Polo Club in Rancho Santa Fe. “I know everybody else will love riding him.”

The Bonsall-based horse camp, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary, offers summer and winter camps, as well as school and youth group programs throughout the year. Tantuwaya has been a camper for six years.

“It’s very family-friendly,” said Kristen Tantuwaya, Maya’s mother. “The counselors are very hands-on with the kids. They’re involved; they just don’t sit back. They make the kids feel welcome.”

At Rawhide, children ages 7-15 learn about and interact with the roughly 80 horses and 100 livestock. Nationally accredited by the American Camp Association and Certified Horsemanship Association, Rawhide also offers campers riding, vaulting archery and roping lessons, as well as drama, creative writing, arts and crafts, and other activities.

“We show kids the value of being outside, getting dirty and being entertained in nature, not just with electronics,” said Rancho Santa Fe resident Melisse Mossy, a managing partner of Rawhide. “It’s getting outside, making new friends and doing things you’ve never done before. In Southern California, a lot of kids think you have to go far away to have an adventure, an experience, and that’s not true. It really is in our backyard.”

Mossy and her husband, Jason Mossy, recently became co-managing partners of Rawhide, seven years after she visited the ranch for the first time with her daughter’s Girl Scout troop.

“That was the first time I saw Rawhide and I just couldn’t believe it existed,” Mossy said. “It was an amazing oasis in the middle of LA, Orange and San Diego counties. I was really impressed with it. I can’t explain it, but when I went to Rawhide, I just felt it was a part of us, and we were a part of it.”

The Mossy family became co-managing partners with the goal of establishing a board of directors and helping Rawhide become a nonprofit organization, Mossy said. Rawhide currently provides scholarships and payment plans for campers, but Mossy hopes to raise $500,000 in pledges to offer even more financial assistance to underprivileged youth and families.

Melisse, Jason and their two daughters, Ashlyn and Savannah, are longtime children and animals activists who are also committed to making a “difference not only within the walls of our home but in the world.” Melisse, a former teacher, is an accomplished, lifetime equestrian, and Jason is a fourth generation car dealer, who now oversees the operations of Mossy Toyota, Ford, BMW, VW and Honda.

“Our goal is to accommodate as many families as possible at Rawhide,” Mossy said. “We’re looking for people who really have a heart for kids and animals, and who want to see Rawhide exist for future generations. We really are just trying to preserve a place that’s wholesome for kids. It’s a patriotic, all-American, cowboy western experience.”

With camps already in session, Tantuwaya is looking forward to returning to the western-themed ranch in August and reuniting with her friends and 22-year-old horse. Although she has a couple years left to be a camper, Tantuwaya already has plans to apply for Rawhide’s Counselor in Training program.

“Rawhide has become like my second home,” Tantuwaya said. “I’m going to stay there for as long as I can.”

Mossy said that those interested in providing a summer camp opportunity for a child of need can make tax deductible donations through the American Camp Association. No amount of assistance is too small, she said. Contact Melisse Mossy at for more information.

For more information about Rawhide Ranch and upcoming summer camp sessions, school or youth group programs, contact the ranch office at (760)758-0083, or visit