Most teenagers can’t wait to spend the summer months at the pool, or binge-watching Netflix in air-conditioned comfort. Then there are the “horse” people. They wake up early, spend hours outdoors regardless of temperature and learn to care for 1,000 lb. animals. The reward is that indescribable feeling that happens when your horse executes a flawless jump or perfect reining pattern.
During June and July the University of Findlay Equestrian Program is hosting more than 70 middle and high school students in English and western disciplines. Many travel long distances to take advantage of UF’s experienced instructors, well-trained horses and spacious facilities.
High school junior Amy Sager came from Los Angeles to attend the English Equestrian Program’s eventing camp. Eventing is like an equine triathlon, combining dressage, cross-country and arena jumping. Sager rides hunters and jumpers back in California, but was eager to try eventing. She heard about the camp from Jill Paxton, director of UF’s equestrian programs.
Mykala Lewis, Monroe, Mich., brought her horse, Nova, along with her. (Campers have the option of transporting their own horses, or riding a UF horse).
“I can’t believe how much better he’s behaving after just a couple of days of riding here,” she beamed.
Lewis was joined in her enthusiasm for the camp by Marley Simpson, a high school sophomore from New York and Adrianna Fetterman, Boston, a recent high school graduate. The young women were preparing for a lesson in braiding, a crucial part of the horse’s appearance when riding in competitions.
Eventing Instructor Sue King and helpers spent the week of June 19-24 putting 14 campers through their paces in the arena and on the cross-country course. Campers also got instruction in barn management practices and horse care. Evenings were “down time,” with movies, crafts and pizza.
Different Discipline, Same Passion
Down St. Rt. 68 a few miles, instructors Clark Bradley and Spencer Zimmerman were working with a group of 25 students at the advanced western horsemanship camp. Most of them had come accompanied by their horses, in hopes of refining their show ring skills and getting riding and training advice from the experts. While hosting this group, the UF instructors, barn and residential staffs were gearing up for another group of 32 novice riders the following week, when veteran coach and instructor Cindy Morehead would join Bradley and Zimmerman.
Western campers and their English counterparts receive breakfast and dinner in Henderson Dining Hall and spend the nights in dorms on the UF main campus. Transportation to and from the farms is included. Eventing is a relatively new and growing program at UF, with the camp in its third year. The western horsemanship camps have been going on for several years, with many repeat campers.
Dozens of young riders have turned the “dog days” of summer into “horse days” at the University of Findlay. They work hard, tolerate heat and even some flies, but have a blast. Most importantly, they learn skills that can make them stronger, safer and smarter riders and trainers. It probably beats Netflix and maybe even the beach!