Helping kids build a connection with horses was the aim of a recent summer horse camp held at the Old Spanish Trail Arena. The camp was held in two separate sessions, one for those being introduced to horsemanship and one for children with intermediate equestrian skills. Each session lasted a week. Marcy Till, one of the camp trainers said, “The goal for the camp is to help kids create a partnership with an equine and begin to understand equine behavior, communication and care… and have big-time fun.”
The camp was sponsored by Canyonlands Back Country Horsemen. “Part of their mission is to engage youth,” said Till, adding that is essentially “the mission of every equestrian organization in the country.” Belinda McKinney, who helped organize and advertise the camp, wrote in an email that the camp “had several kids that would never have had the opportunity to be around or ride a horse.” Each camp participant was able to “create a relationship with a horse,” noted McKinney. Kids who otherwise may not ever have the chance to interact with horses were given a very memorable experience.
While attendees did learn important horsemanship skills, that was not the sole focus of the event. “It’s more a camp than it would be like lessons,” Till said. “The first skill is how to be safe around horses… safety for the human and how to keep your horse safe in a group of horses.” She continued, “Most of this camp is walking, trotting with your horses, steering, backing up, negotiating obstacles, gaining confidence for the rider and the horse.” She also said the kids learned how to “manage a horse that’s unsure about something.” Such training was only one portion of the camp. Till described other activities like art projects. “It’s a camp format where the kids just have fun here [in the indoor arena], then they come and do some art with me, then we go out to the wash rack and we wash the horses and play in the water.”
Mel Hare, another trainer for the camp, said, “We want to have fun and learn a good foundation of horsemanship. It’s way more than riding.”
Till explained that it “involves quite a bit of education and trying to put into practice what you’ve learned.” She and Hare hoped participants would walk away from the camps saying how much fun they had and how they fell in love with the horse they rode. “I remember my horse from camp when I was ten years old… like it was yesterday, so we want to provide that experience,” said Till.
The events were created with the help and cooperation of several individuals and groups. Some people donated horses and hay to the cause. “The challenge is finding eight horses that are pretty solid, well-behaved and can tolerate kids that don’t know a lot messing around with them,” Till said, noting that several horses were borrowed from people in Park City. Till thanked the management of the Old Spanish Trail Arena. “We’re so fortunate in Grand County to have this facility that is available to equestrians,” she said. McKinney, in her email, thanked the local horse show association and Pizza Hut, which sponsored a lunch to conclude each camp. “It’s really neat to see the community helping put on events,” McKinney added.