Tack n' Talk

Online Equestrian Resource

Sunhall Girl Guide Camp 2009

Happy Campers :)

Happy Campers 🙂

  Every summer about this time my world is turned upside down for a week. A group of bubbly , excited , nervous , thrilled girl guides come to the farm for a week’s worth of horsemanship , riding , stable management and fun.

   The helpers begin arriving about 7.30 to make sure all the horses have had a good run and will be on their best behaviour. I’m not sure it’s necessary since they all love camp. There is nothing my horses like more than a pack of girls  who arrive complete with apples and sugar.Still , knowing they’ve been free longed gives me the confidence to take these girls in 5 days, in most cases from never having touched a live horse to riding off the lead at posting trot , performing a walk/ trot test , picking out feet , tacking up, doing a stall and generally feeling their self esteem soar.

    Many of these girls are from the inner city. Horses are a magical concept from movies and books. Some are so terrified on being up close to a real one that they are visibly shaking or crying when mounting for the first time. When I adjust their stirrups , their legs are so tense I can not even flex their ankles.

 I remain in awe of their courage , fighting past the terror and persisting. I also admire the knowing kindness of the horses , most of whom are show horses , boarders , loaned to me for the camp and many can be a handful for even advanced riders but year after year they gently cart these girls around as though there were a carton of eggs on the saddle instead of a completely ineffective youngster who would be no match at all for seasoned equines.

  Day one is spent matching girls to horses based on body type , personality and a sort of alchemy that is amazingly clear within a few minutes of their arrival.Groups of three  ( and a leader, usually one of my regular students )groom each horse , sometimes standing on milk cartons to reach their backs.

  Once the horses are groomed , the groups split off into rotating rounds , of theory , stable management and riding.

 One of the leaders asked a tiny oriental girl who perhaps weighed 70 pounds to bring over the mounting block ( a heavy wooden  2 step box my son built for me some years ago. I did not expect her to be able to move it since it was almost as big as she was. I looked over and here she came half carrying, half dragging it to the middle of the ring.Her anticipation of riding gave her strength far beyond her size.

  By Tuesday the girls had all relaxed considerably and were sitting up quite straight. Most had some sort of contact and when reminded were putting their heels back down. We started posting at the walk and ending trotting on the lead. Up downdown Up downdown downdowndown:).

 Wednesday saw them steering independantly through a line of pylons and by today everyone was trotting off lead and some on the right diagonal.

  Tomorrow we wind up with the performance of their walk / trot tests, the awards ceremony, rosettes and certificates of achievement for all and a big cookout. To me it is another camp done but to these girls like every group before them it has been a life changing week. They are all a little taller , stronger, braver than they ever imagined. Every one reached way outside her comfort zone and found she had abilities she had never imagined.Every one goes home knowing she has managed a thousand pounds of beauty and power all by herself. It never fails to amaze me how blessed we who have horses are. This group of youngsters has reminded  me anew that life is so very much bigger , brighter and  exciting with horses in it.

                                                                                                 Libby Keenan



  Anne Shealy wrote @

What an amazing opportunity you are giving these girls. I completely agree with you about the fact that riding builds self-esteem. I fully believe that the experiences I had with horses as a young girl made me the woman I am today. Though you only have them for a week, what you have done for them will last a lifetime! They will return to classrooms like mine in the fall and rave to their teachers about their favorite horses and what they were able to do. Rest assured that you have provided an invaluable experience for these girls!

  Libby wrote @

Hi Anne, Thanks so much for your positive words. I believe coaching and teaching are two of the most important jobs in our society. Libby

  Christine Sawyer wrote @

I bet they loved it! Can I spend a week with you too Libby? 🙂

  Christine Sawyer wrote @

Hmmm… you could have an ‘old girl guide’ camp. Haha

  Libby wrote @

Hi Christine , That’s an awesome idea! Let’s work on it for next summer , it would be a blast. Libby

  Christine Sawyer wrote @

I can’t remember the last time I got a badge!

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