Disciplines Horse People Lifestyle Riding and Training Young Rider

Lessons from Horse Summer Camp

Camp Honey Acres Equestrian Camp

Madison smiled as she passed the big red sign outside of the beautiful stables, inhaling the sweet smell of hay and leather as she walked inside. She had just arrived last night, and although it was her first time at sleepaway camp, she was excited to spend two weeks learning and having great horses experiences at summer camp, taking riding lessons, trail riding, and making friends with other horse-crazy kids.

horse experience at summer camp
Illustration by Jean Abernathy

This is amazing, Madison thought with a grin as horses and ponies of every color nickered their greetings.

Claire, Madison’s bunk mate, waved her over.

“Hey Madison, the riding list is up!”

Madison: Belle

Riley: Trixie

Claire: Wyatt

Caroline: Casey

Josie: Buster

As Madison read the list, she felt a wave of nerves hit her stomach.

It’ll be just like riding at home, she thought to herself, pushing her worry aside as she walked to the tack room. She tried to keep herself calm and focused as she brushed and tacked the pretty bay pony before following her new friends to the riding arena.

Summer Camp Tack Check

“Hello everyone,” called Trina, the camp riding instructor, as everyone led their horses into the ring. “I’m looking forward to teaching you during your stay. Before we mount up and begin, I’m going to check everyone’s tack to make sure everything is secure.” Madison smiled, but again felt her stomach flip as Trina approached her and Belle.

“Hey Madison, how was Belle for grooming and tacking?” Trina asked as she rubbed the pony’s neck. “She was great!” Madison exclaimed.

“Excellent,” said Trina. “Please remember though, if you’re not on your pony, your stirrups must be run up at all times. This will help prevent them from getting caught on anything, which could cause a serious accident.” Trina’s tone was gentle, but Madison felt a sudden hot flush in her cheeks.

I can’t believe I forgot to run up my stirrups! Like this is my first ever riding lesson! Madison blinked back the tears as Trina told everyone to mount up.

Everyone probably thinks I have no idea what I’m doing, she thought. Madison’s nerves and embarrassment had officially overtaken her as the lesson began.

Ashamed at Horse Camp

“Great warm-up, everyone,” called Trina. “It looks like you all came here with a solid foundation. Please line up on the rail, and we will trot the cross-rail one at a time.”

horse experience at summer camp
Illustration by Jean Abernathy

Madison took a deep breath as she entered the lineup, trying to reassure herself that she’d done a good warm-up. She reached down to pat Belle and watched as Claire started to make her way over the cross-rail.

“Claire, that was very good, just remember to stay in your jumping position a little longer so you don’t accidentally land too soon on Wyatt’s back,” Trina instructed.

Next it was Madison’s turn. She gathered up her reins and tried to take one more deep breath. All the calmness and confidence from the positive reviews during warm-up were slowly slipping away. She nudged Belle into a trot and set her eyes on the striped cross-rail as she came around the turn.

Three, two … I don’t think I can do this! Madison abruptly pulled on her left rein, steering Belle around the cross-rail at the last minute. Belle followed Madison’s panicked command, darting quickly to the left, and Madison nearly became unseated.

She pulled herself back into the saddle and brought Belle to a walk, hanging her head in shame, tears once again welling up in her eyes, which she focused squarely on the ground.
“Take a deep breath,” Trina called out, interrupting Madison’s wave of emotions. She tried her best to follow the instruction as she slowly turned Belle around to approach the group.

“What do you think happened there?” Trina asked gently.

“I don’t know … I have never, ever done that before at home, but I just felt so nervous that I panicked and pulled her out at the last second!” Madison blurted out, surprising herself with her honesty.

Trina nodded and then turned back to the rest of the girls in the lineup.

In Good Company

“Can anyone relate to how Madison is feeling?” Much to Madison’s shock, every one of them raised their hands.

But they all seemed so calm, Madison thought as she squeaked out, “Really?”

“Feeling unsure and nervous on a new pony and in a new situation is very normal and is part of being a rider,” Trina said. “However, in order to become the best rider you can be, you have to learn to be confident enough that you don’t let your nerves overtake you. From what I saw in your flat work, you’re very good rider, so can we take one more deep breath, give your pony a pat, and try that again with confidence?”

“You can do it, Madison!” The other girls called from the lineup.

I can do this! She pushed her shoulders back confidently and reached down to pat Belle. Gathering her reins, she picked up a trot and began to make her way back to the cross-rail.

She stayed confident in her rhythm as she approached the small obstacle. Three, two, one! Madison squeezed her legs against Belle’s sides as the pony soared over the jump easily. Madison brought Belle down to a walk while grinning from ear to ear.

“Excellent! Great riding, and great job controlling your nerves!” Trina called out.

Madison reached down and gave Belle a big hug.

“I knew you could do it!” Claire gave Madison a big smile as she lined back up.

With two weeks at Camp Honey Acres ahead of her, brand new friends, and newfound confidence in herself from a horse experience at summer camp, Madison knew there was nothing she couldn’t do.

This article about one young rider’s experience at a horse summer camp appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Young Rider magazine. Click here to subscribe!

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