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#TBT – Summer Camp Memories

The summer before my sophomore year of college is one I’ll never forget. My last “hurrah” summer before stepping away from the barn rat life, and entering the wonderful world of internships and offices to begin my designer career. I got the best “job” I could have ever wished for, reliving my childhood dreams of going to overnight horse camp, only this time I was going as a counselor (and getting paid!!!). Camp Marshall is a non-profit 4H camp located in central Massachusetts, where I grew up. I had dreamed of going as a child but my parents were just not living the same dream as me. So, when the job opportunity popped up, I thought why not?!

I moved into Camp Marshall for over eight weeks of my summer – seven weeks of camp sessions and one for staff training. I got to spend those eight weeks living in the very rustic cabins that the campers would then come and stay in. We had anywhere from 8-12 beds, no electricity, and just screens for windows! This was heaven to me because we were surrounded by nature and they were a short walk from both the lake and the barns! This was my home for the summer and everything for the next eight weeks was “Camp”.

As a counselor, I got to have my own cabin, with anywhere from 8-12 campers each week. As soon as parents dropped their kids off and said their goodbyes we got to go right down to the barn and introduce the kids to their horses for the week! We had almost 40 camp horses, some were owned by the camp year-round, but most were graciously donated for the summer. The week of staff training also mean schooling the horses so we got to know every horse inside and out. I got ride everything from a huge Belgian draft to a Thoroughbred to a 14-hand pony. We had to asses each horse and camper so we could make the perfect pairs!

The magical part of camp was watching the campers’ eyes light up when they were given the opportunity to do all of the daily care for “their” horse. Some campers trailered in their personal horses, but for those who have never had the pleasure of owning a horse, they got to live that dream for a week. I could remember how it felt when I got to spend my summer days at horse camp when I was little and watching these kids do the same was even better. Helping them learn and grow in the barn, riding, and around camp, without any contact with their parents was an amazing experience. All of the horse camp counselors were horse crazy girls with the same passion all of our campers had.

We woke up bright and early every morning to go right down to the barns to bring in the horses and feed them breakfast before we got to go eat breakfast ourselves. They got to take two lessons a day in between barn chores, and of course participating in other fun camp activities. There was lots of swimming, tie-dye, singing, campfires and s’mores, and just hanging out in the cabins! One week my campers were a mischievous group of girls and we had a week-long prank war. To their surprise they came back from riding one day to find their mattresses in the rafters of the cabin!

We had nutrition, first aid, and other educational lectures, but we also had a lot of fun down at the barns! We had grooming contests that involved a lot of sparkly horse bums and lots of braids. We had western riders, English riders, jumping and cross-country. We even had gymkhana days were the group lessons turned into fun relay races. At the end of the week the exhausted campers got to put on a show for their parents when they came to pick them up. The sendoff was a sad but rewarding moment. I loved getting to know each camper and spending the week watching them live their dreams. This may have been the closest some of the kids will ever get to owning their own horse and I am so glad I got to be a part of it. If I’m ever given the chance to “go back” to horse camp, I’ll be there in a heartbeat.

Posted in Blogs, Stories & Adventures

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