Summer Riding Camp

by Lauren Allen

Equestrian day camps provide children with opportunities to ride and handle horses. Many campers may not have had much prior experience with this; for others, interactions with horses may have been restricted to structured riding lessons, where the horse is prepared, ridden and then deposited back in the stall within the allotted hour. 

At camp, however, young riders often get to spend time playing with the horses: brushing, decorating them with ribbons and fingerpaint, riding bareback and just enjoying being close to them – even the oldest, most rickety equines get their share of love. 

Margy Peterson, of Tweedberry Farm in Ridgeway, South Carolina, hosts a series of day camps each summer where small groups of kids enjoy swimming, playing in the creek, painting and crafts in addition to riding. 

“I think that camp is a great opportunity for kids to get out in nature. They spend so much time inside, and with technology nowadays, that I think it is really important for them to get to slow down and just enjoy this wonderful earth.” 

Ashley Haffey, who owns Haffey Dresssage in Troutman, North Carolina, runs five horse camps every summer, as well as during other school holidays or on teacher work days. The summer camps run Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

On a typical day, her groups of four to eight children might start out with a riding lesson, followed by a half hour of horse care, an activity such as painting or crafts, a scavenger hunt, and a lesson about veterinary or farrier care, followed by lunch.  

“My kids don’t clean stalls unless they really want to,” she adds with a laugh.

 “I break the kids into groups and do team challenges, so it’s fun,” she continues. “Sometimes I have younger groups that play unicorn bingo and build little shoe box horse stables. Some groups are more advanced and can ride and take care of the horses themselves.”

In addition, Haffey always stresses responsibility, including not just horse care, but finances. “Sometimes they have to earn monopoly money for their rides. Sometimes I give them Breyer horses that they have to keep and care for for the week.”

It does not always go according to plan, however. “Yes, last week, the kids failed to follow directions, and all the Breyer horses died,” she admits. “But the kids also really enjoy the camps because they get to do something real: help put hay out for the horses, or even take a horse to the vet.” 

 

 

Learning to ride horses teaches kids how to be better partners. They learn to cooperate as well as to be assertive, to find balance, to have boundaries but to be kind—these skills are life lessons. Riding camp helps children grow as riders and as individuals, but also sets them among a group of others who already share the same inclination. Equestrians tend to share an uncommon grit and perseverance, in addition to an appreciation for horses. 

Ashley Haffey says that many of her kids become good friends away from the camp as well and that they come back year after year until they become teenagers. “Then they fly away for a bit. But I am pretty sure they will be back when they are in their 20s.”

For children who have only had weekly or monthly riding lessons shoehorned into their schedule, equestrian camp can offer a chance to practice riding in a more concentrated way, sometimes even twice a day, and often on a series of different mounts. Immersion makes any skill stronger, and riders who attend camp have the gratification of seeing their abilities grow right in front of their eyes. Parents might be amazed at their progress and gains in confidence by the end of a week. Kids who may have had a passing interest in horses prior to camp may find afterwards that a lifelong flame has been kindled. 

More than one parent has his or her own fond memories of horseback riding at camp, and by sending their children to summer riding camp they pass down a love that, even if it may ultimately be indulged only intermittently through the generations, is cherished nonetheless.

 

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In Practice: Managing Rider Injuries

By Niki Gay, MS, SCAT, ATC The old adage is you aren’t a “real rider” until you’ve fallen off your horse. It is estimated that around 20 percent of equestrians will experience some type of injury each year: that makes a lot of “real riders!” If you and your horse do part company, it is important to know which injuries are probably minor, and which ones are to be taken more seriously. How do you know if you are okay, or if you need medical attention and are done riding for the day? Aside from falls, are there other injuries riders should look out for? If You Fall Falling off your horse can be scary. It can cause head, neck, back, and limb injuries. The first thing to do when you fall off is take a second and breathe. Take a moment to check yourself and see what hurts and how badly. If you can’t move without severe pain, have blood pouring from a wound, have a contorted limb of some kind, or have any numbness anywhere, then you should stay still and call for medical assistance. Don’t let anyone move you until 911 arrives. There is no shame in being cautious.  Can you feel your limbs, wiggle your toes and fingers, breathe without pain? If you did not lose consciousness, your head isn’t pounding, blood isn’t pouring from anywhere, and no limbs are pointing in the wrong direction, you are probably safe to get yourself up slowly. Continue to monitor what hurts as you rise to your feet, and assess yourself from there. Traditionally riders were encouraged to remount and continue to ride after a fall on the theory that if you don’t get “back on the horse” you will be afraid to ride later. However, if anything hurts, and particularly if you have hit your head, you should be done riding for the day. This will give your body the chance to show you any more serious injuries you may have sustained. Not all injuries have instant symptoms.  Head Injuries Head injuries and concussions are a very real danger for riders. A 2019 study published in the journal Sports Medicine found that 70 percent of all reported equestrian fall accidents resulted in a head injury, 91 percent of which were concussions.  A concussion is caused by a forceful motion of the head or other part of the body that results in the rapid movement of the brain within the skull.  Most concussions do not cause loss of consciousness, abbreviated as LOC. In fact, only 10 percent of concussions result in LOC. Concussion symptoms can be immediate, or may or take up to 48 hours to become obvious. This means that if someone had the “mechanism of injury” for a concussion (abbreviated in medical literature as MOI) they should monitor themselves (or if they are a child, have an adult monitor) for any symptoms for two days.  Most concussions, managed appropriately, resolve in a few weeks, but concussion injuries can be more serious and even cause permanent disabilities. Returning to activity too soon may mean more severe symptoms, and even death. Second Impact Syndrome is a rare but typically fatal injury that can happen if an individual sustains another concussion before the first has healed completely.    Signs and symptoms of a concussion can include a headache, a feeling of pressure in the head, dizziness, nausea, sensitivity to light or noise, feeling slowed down, having difficulty concentrating, feeling anxious, frustrated, and having difficulty sleeping.  If you have had the MOI for a concussion, it is recommended that you remove yourself from any type of physical activity for at least the remainder of the day. If you have even one symptom, you should assume you are suffering from a concussion and need to rest and follow up with your physician for further care.   Some symptoms are considered red flags and require immediate attention and a call to 911.  These are repeated vomiting, convulsions or seizures, loss of consciousness, one pupil larger than the other, an inability to wake up, a headache that gets worse or is unbearable, slurred speech, weakness, decreased coordination, or behavior that is unusual for the injured person. It is always best to err on the side of caution and call 911. After all, you only have one head. Bones and Joints What if your head seems okay but you have a bone or joint that is very sore or swollen? If you don’t have full use of any of your joints, it is recommended that you end your ride and get your injury evaluated by a physician. You do not generally need to go directly to the emergency room unless your pain is severe or the bone or joint is obviously displaced. If it is simply swollen and tender, you can use the “Rest-Ice-Compression-Elevation” (RICE) method for immediate care and get to the local urgent care or call your doctor the next day if you are not better. Ice the injured area for 15-20 minutes every hour, apply a compression bandage to control swelling, and elevate the limb above your heart as much as possible.  Once you’ve seen a medical professional for proper evaluation, follow their guidance for returning to riding. Going back too early can cause further damage and keep you from getting back to what you enjoy.  Too Much Sun Heat injuries are also a risk for riders, especially in the Carolinas in the hotter months. Heat exhaustion symptoms include confusion, dizziness, fatigue, fainting, dark colored urine, headaches, muscle cramping, profuse sweating, nausea, and rapid heartbeat.  If you have any symptoms of heat exhaustion you need to be done riding for the day, go somewhere cool, rehydrate, and get some general nutrition.   Heat stroke is much more severe than heat exhaustion and is a medical emergency.  A person suffering from heat stroke has a core body temperature of over 104 degrees Fahrenheit.  At this point, the body’s temperature control system fails. 

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Your horses spend a lot of time in their stalls. Here are some tips to keep your equine companions comfortable, happy and safe. There are many things to consider when selecting stalls for your horse barn, including animal comfort and safety, functionality and style. Three of the most important factors are stall door styles, the design of the stalls, and what types of waterers and feeders you decide to use.

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