Yeah, the chin isn’t up — that grinning little face is looking down at that pony’s neck, overjoyed to be finally riding. And the reins are too long– well, those fists are holding that mane so they can stay on for that bumpy trot. And the heels are up, as there are other things that young horse lover is concentrating on at the moment, like staying in the saddle!
It’s easy for those of us who ride daily and have horses in our backyards to miss out on the special joy of horses for those who only get a chance to see them or be near them during vacation times. How many hours have those horse lovers spend in the car, staring out the window as the family traveled, hoping to catch a glimpse of a horse grazing in a pasture?
And finally there’s a vacation for the family that includes a couple of pony rides. Soon, they have booked a summer horse camp for a week, and the little horse lover is thoroughly and completely addicted.
For many event barns, summer might wind down for the big events and there might be a break here and there for competition, but those barns that operate summer camps are now gearing up for their big season.
While summer camps don’t have the special attraction of competition, they often bring in the bulk of a year’s income for many smaller stables, as well as provide a meaningful way to encourage kids to ride and maybe get interested in eventing and, eventually, become eventers.
Many eventers began at summer camp; many top level eventers earned a summer’s wages teaching summer camp as counselors, and even some top level event horses have begun their careers at summer camp (four-star horse Crackerjack being one of these!)
Many event barns offer summer camps for kids and even adults. Farms such as Full Moon Farm, in Finksburg, MD., annually hold a “Quarter Star” week-long eventing camp that takes eventing at the lower, smaller levels and turns it into a fun and educational experience just like the bigger, tougher, higher level three-day events.
Summer camp is a way for those who don’t have a horse to see if horses can fit within their life. Being new to a big animal who has a mind of its own, and sometimes goes where it wants to go, can be eye-opening. But most die-hard horse lovers overcome their fears and enjoy the barn and riding opportunities. It’s hard for those of us who are in the barn all the time to put ourselves in their shoes and remember what it was like to be excited to pet a soft nose for the first time.
Be patient and kind to those horse loving kids if you are teaching summer camp this year. Don’t sweat the small stuff. It’s OK to break a little rule or two once in awhile if it puts a big smile on their face and gives them a memory they will never forget.
If you are a parent of a camper, let them enjoy horses and do what you can to help them get as many opportunities as possible to be around horses.
We all like this sport and would like to see it stick around. These kids are the ones who will make that possible. It sure doesn’t look it when you see them bouncing around the ring on the plodding school pony, but soon they will be competing, owning horses, getting on a team…