Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Day 2 of Horse Camp

This was Day 2 of horse camp, a five day summer camp based on horse riding and knowledge of care.

One of the sea of horses, 32 in all

Our daughter was glowing when I picked her up today, dirty smudges across her face, dirty clothing, muddy boots, but so thrilled with another day at the camp. Amazing to see such high spirits knowing what this particular camp entails though, because the instructor had given me a run down of the day’s expectations before signing up. This was no "fun" time per se, rather a very physical time at best.

The early mornings at 8am begin with a riding lesson, each girl with her own capabilities, handling a new horse per day to get used to other temperaments amongst the established horse population. Next on the morning roster is the duty of cleaning stalls with pitch fork and wheelbarrow (wink), feeding and general grooming care of the horses taught, each horse brushed up to a shine with various bristled brushes. Horse tack instructions continue to be detailed, with each girl having to learn the saddling up her own horse each day before riding can even attempt to begin. Yesterday the girls were given the tedious task of taking apart all the bridles, cleaning them up with sponges and small toothbrushes to get into the nooks and crannies, polishing of the leather until it shined, then they were informed they had to attempt to reassemble them all again, once the cleaning had been completed. Not an easy assignment though, as all seven or eight parts look the same when unassembled, so this is a tricky one, taking some time to accomplish correctly.

Her favorite horse "Snuggles",
though it will not allow a saddle upon it's back

Duties throughout the day continue with raking out the indoor riding ring, or watering it down when it’s too dusty, taking written quizzes, eating a well deserved packed lunch with a rest time attached, then back to watering the animals after a second afternoon riding lesson, and much more. This afternoon the girls rode bareback and braided the horse's manes after the grooming. I guess that's just a girl thing though right, colorful elastics and all.

Tomorrow each student will make their very own lead to keep from rope with steel hooks on the end, to use on their horses when ushering them from their stalls for either grooming, or saddling up. I teased my daughter, telling her she could use it at home for her pup. wink...

Each day, new tasks are assigned and supposedly tomorrow, the girls all learn about horse shoeing and cleaning hooves. Lucky them! Actually, I love this lady’s philosophy, that of teaching her students of the huge responsibility attached to owning and boarding horses. They aren’t just a pleasure thing; they are a lot of work and carry a huge time committment each day, and a rather large financial expense just to maintain them! Observing each gal’s face at the end of the day near pickup time around 4pm., with huge smiles all aglow, it would appear her philosophy is a smashing success. Knowledge is valuable, and patience is a virtue. This summer horse camp is certainly teaching them well, for their own benefit and creating mature and responsible future horse lovers . There’s absolutely no fluffy stuff happening during the camp for sure, and the days seem to whiz by for the students, leaving them fulfilled and looking forward to the next camp day. Using horses for a summer camp theme is surely ingenious however, as I would concur those strategic virtue builders being practised, and the daily rigorous routines in the schedules posted, could spring forward, with the very same skills being incorporated into other areas of their lives someday. Perhaps as in "The Karate Kid" films (wax on, wax off) this is just a jumping point (forgive the pun) for continous overflow down the road.

Next week, all the university students are going back to school. Here in the east, very few students seem to continue with their day jobs while back attending classes. The instructor will no longer have her hired help each day, so if horse camp gives courage to our daughter, she wants to request to work one afternoon a week in exchange for her continued lessons in the winter time. If she takes the lead on something such as this, taking time with the horses for more familiarity, I’ll be a great cheerleader! This is good!

Too wet to ride in the outdoor paddock the past two days

However, though this all sounds terrific, last night both girls had their second official riding lesson, after the horse camp students were excused. Since it was too wet in the outdoor paddock, the indoor riding area was used for the lesson.

Both girls did their usual routine, beginning with fetching their own horse for the lesson, grooming it, tacking it up, placing the saddle on (little one needs assistance still for these), eventually once mounted on the animals, the lessons began. The older daughter had become very confident with her first day at horse camp and no longer needed to be hooked to the instructor's lead for guidance. The younger daughter, still hooked to the lead was progressing well, trotting along with correct body posture and movements, but something suddenly spooked her horse, sending it on a quick lunge with a few great steps rushing forward. Try as she might, our young gal was hurled forward abrutply on the horse, losing her reigns with her instictive grabbing onto the horse's mane, but still couldn't adjust to stay there, thereby tilting too far to the right, sending her tumbling to the ground with quite a good thud.

I think my heart was in my throat and my voice was lost as it all happened in a split second, but my own body movements were thrust into high gear. I was not so concerned she had taken a fall as I was being ensured she was out of the horse's clearance. It was still attached to the lead, the instructor having pulled it to the side, but too close for my comfort with a possible kicking to my baby. Stunned as she was though, my gal stood up and wasn't sure she wanted to continue the lesson of course, but the instructor and I were on the same page with this situation, convincing her she had to get back on straight away.

The indoor riding ring

Walking along rather than trotting, not long after, the horse was once again spooked. The same thing happened again, though this time, our gal sat up straight and tall, leaning backwards on the horse and yanked the reigns - hard. All was well, good girl, brave girl! If anything, both girls were much more attentive to their horse's movements, posture so much better, and no more ho hum riding look on their face was present for the rest of the lesson.

By next lesson, this horse she was supposed to
have originally, should be ready again once it's hoove is mended

Last night she was nursing a sore hip and backside, yet today she escorted me to the barn to see the horses and acted like nothing had happened. Eager to have her next lesson, I sometimes wonder how these little ones can be so very brave. Big sister though got the jitters after the fall scene, but after another day at horse camp, she too has become much more attentive, oozes contentment and seems just fine. The instructor forewarned them when she was just a student herself, she was told that unless you fell off one hundred times, you would never be a good rider. Imagine!

Back loving the horses today