Biggest difference between Boys Camp and Girls Camp? Experienced campers. This is both my favorite and most challenging part of Girls Camp.
Why, you ask?
Surely having campers who have horse experience outside of camp is a blessing and makes your job easier. I mean, they know what they’re doing and can handle those little misbehaviors that make for daily drama in Boys Camp…
Sure they can! But they also can get easily bored with the slow pace on a trail ride or with not being able to ride at faster paces when the rest of the campers may have never been on a horse before. Figuring out how to keep experienced kids from being bored while not making the newcomers uncomfortable or feel left behind is always a challenge.
The other key thing about Girls Camp is that girls love horses.
No, really. I know this comes as a huge surprise to everyone, but there’s some crazy connection between girls and horses that can’t be explained.
Example: in the first two weeks, we had over 200 girls in camp and nearly every cabin was represented at the horse program by at least 3 campers. When we feed at 6:30 am, we allow campers to come and help and there have been over 20 girls at the barn, just to feed!
They also stay into their free time in the morning and afternoon to help feed and clean the barn. (Watching 6 girls figure out how to lift a 40-lb bale of hay into a hay rack is fascinating in terms of how they work with each other, and the way they talk about it proudly warms the heart.) They are all about just hanging out and being around the horses; whether they get to ride or not become almost extraneous, though of course, they’re also thrilled when they do get to ride.
Which brings us back to the conundrum: how to cater to every camper’s experience level so that they all have the time of their lives.
This is more difficult with 200+ campers, but I think we’ve got something figured out with this second, smaller group. The other day, we kept some horses tacked up after the morning lessons were over and gave a few girls a chance to just ride at will and show us what they’ve got. Two of them stood out, being able to walk, trot, and canter at will in the arena and maintain their positions and pleasant horses. The other girls successfully trotted and performed figures, so now we have a few girls who can hopefully do the same type of thing Dan and Ryan did during Boys Camp: trade help for the chance to ride during free periods.
Now several of them are out enjoying their “trail” experience amongst the lakes and rivers of northern Wisconsin and I get a chance to work on my end-of-season report. In the couple of lessons we’ve had this week—it’s also been deathly hot—we have bathed horses and ridden bareback. The girls love bath day and take it as an opportunity to braid the horses’ manes and otherwise beautify them. Bareback is a foreign concept to many and a challenge in their ability to stay on and be comfortable without a saddle – which they succeed at! They have even trotted bareback (with us alongside).
(And did I mention that we’re building a baby beginner cross country course?!)
Cheers from the North Woods, where the staff are intense, the campers are rockstars, and the horses behave (more often than not).