We all gathered in the main stable: volunteers, kids, parents, and staff members. Volunteers asked questions. Kids ran about joyfully, carrying colorful coats and lunch bags. The parents toured the grounds with interest. Goats pushed stubbornly through the frenzy searching for snacks.
It was the first day of KTRA Spring Break Kid's Camp. The morning was chilly and dry. Above the grounds, weak sunlight was pushing apart low, grey clouds, promising a warm day ahead. Horses ate hay in the pastures. Little birds chattered noisily in the surrounding leafy trees. The mud around the stable sucked at our boots as we all walked in.
Inside the stable it was dim and smelled of straw and tack. The stalls were slowly filling up with horses of all different breeds and colors. The air was full of excitement.
The staff had been preparing for days, revising plans as more kids signed up for camp at the last minute. We all wanted badly to make camp fun and memorable. We wanted things to run seamlessly for our twelve camp kids. The day had finally arrived!
The volume and energy grew around us.
“Go bring in horses Max, Sandy, and Gracie”, the volunteers were instructed.
“I will grab Max!” one said brightly.
“I love working with Sandy.” said another, heading out toward the bridles.
“I will get Gracie’s tack!” a third one shouted from the tack room.
Little hands tugged at our coats. Wide, sparkling faces looked up.
“Where do I put my lunch box?”
“What horse will I be riding?”
“My dad put pepperoni in my lunch!”
The staff exchanged determined smiles. We would have to flex and communicate; be patient and fun. This camp was going to roll along smoothly, steered by our twelve, spirited little riders. Everyone was looking forward to getting our three day camp underway and it was clear we had an enthusiastic, vibrant group.
As the morning progressed, we staff found our groove, each manning our stations: Riding, Stable Management, and Crafts. Already, there were great things happening!
Craft Leader (Shannon) - “My glue had frozen and thawed. I had tubs of useless, ruined glue so could not do the craft I had planned out. The kids quickly came to my rescue. They excitedly figured out how to get the ruined glue into balloons to make stress squeezers! They continued throughout camp to use their vivid imaginations to make many unique creations.”
Volunteer Coordinator (Crystal) - "As the kids arrived I found myself sizing them up hoping I had the right horses picked out for the size of each rider as we really only had the experience levels offered on their registration forms. And usually that can be a little exaggerated. Haha! One pony ride and a few visits with a relative’s horse and they are experts and “READY TO GO FAST!”
Everyone wanted to ride first! But we had to break the kids up into groups and with a little oohing and ahhing… the first group got fitted for helmets and some put on some borrowed boots and they were off to the arena.
Everyone hopped on confidently. Then the horses started walking and WHOA! Everyone got a little humbled. However, they showed NO FEAR! I started off with some very basics and eased their young minds. Even had them feeling a little empowered as they could control their horses.
My goal for the three short days I had (actually three hours!!!) was to have all riders progress from being led around the arena to trotting around the arena unclipped and on their own!
On day three it was so rewarding to see each rider trot by with a huge smile across their face and squealing with delight!
As the first lesson came to an end all the kids groaned and reluctantly hopped off the horses. I took a deep breath and did it all again with the next group.
Executive Director (Ashley) – “"Camp is always an exciting time here at KTRA. It is neat to see campers with little to no horse experience arrive on day one and see them grow over only three days and leave camp confident with some horse skills under their belts. The key to our camps is our leadership team working so closely together and remaining adjustable and flexible with any situations that may arise. Spring Break Camp 2018 was a success; the campers even asked to do crafts again on the same day and that never happens!"
By the second day, the horses were donning braids and ribbons. Friendships were being made and the campers were choosing their favorite horses. The craft room was covered with drying works of art and the kids were learning riding and stable management skills. Even the smallest campers were lifting up horse hooves to pick them clean! We noticed the older kids were helping the younger ones out with all of their activities. And despite the overnight rain, the day was sunny and warm!
To conclude, Spring Break Camp turned out to be a huge success! Not only due to the planning that went into it, but also to the joyful, creative little riders who led the way with kindness toward their camp buddies and stable mates.
These kids dove into the dirt with exuberance. They embraced riding challenges with interest, created art out of various materials, and cared for their horses with tenderness.
We talked to four kids during the very last station. They were in the art room, gathered around a messy table, all singing in unison to the radio as they crafted. We asked them some questions…
Q So what was your favorite part of camp?
· Art! I had so much fun creating stuff.
· I jumped a horse!
· My favorite thing was making new friends.
· Meeting my horse, Sandy!
Q What were the most challenging parts of camp?
* Getting to know everybody.
* Trying to meet new people.
* Getting used to my horse’s gait.
* Making friends.
Q What did you learn?
· How to hold reigns and go faster and slower.
· How to jump!
· How to lunge a mini horse!
· I learned ‘two point’!
Q What was the funniest thing that happened?
· When one girl tried to steal another girl’s boot!
· We had a lot of funniest moments!
· Pretending to be horses jumping over the jumps!
· When horses trotted to the jump and then stopped and walked over it!
When asked if they wanted to come to camp again, all four campers gave an exuberant ‘YES!’
KTRA would like to thank everyone who came together to make this camp possible. A special thank you to our fantastic campers! We hope to see everyone back together soon!