This week marks the beginning of the third of four sessions of camp – I’m half way through my time here, hence being over the hump and, theoretically, all downhill from here. Head counts increased across the board for second session: we went from eight to 13 staff, gained 12 horses to bring the total in our herd to 25, and had a huge jump in uptake for both horse riding and horse care classes.
During the first session, I taught only beginner classes – I was scheduled for an advanced class, but no campers were placed in it – and spent three hours per day teaching and the remainder assisting with other classes, leading trails or working at the barn. This session, I’ve mostly taught five hours per day, which felt like a big increase. I’ve also had a mixture of ability levels this time: two beginner classes, two intermediate and one advanced.
One of my beginner classes was taught in collaboration with two other staff: we started with 20 campers in our class, which was hectic, as we weren’t given 20 horses, so the children didn’t get much time in the saddle each day. A few campers switched to different periods during the day in order to cut our numbers down, but we still taught 16 within an hour on a regular basis. As a result, progress has been frustratingly slow for those campers, however during the final week, many of them seemed to finally click with the basics and were able to demonstrate a greater degree of skill.
My favourite moment of the session was an eight-year old girl finally managing to pick up her reins correctly: for over two weeks, I showed her at least three times per 10 minute ride how to hold them properly, only for her to adjust her grip unbidden. I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the girl’s apparent inability to retain this piece of information – as was she – and running out of ideas of how to explain it differently so that she might remember. One day, she took a deep breath when I helped her into the saddle and – a little shakily – picked up her reins correctly. I gave her a round of applause and congratulated her, and she proceeded to ride better than she had all session. Watching her pick up her reins and ride in front of her family on visiting day was a satisfying moment.
It’s been gratifying to be described by some campers as “a good teacher” and for riders to dismount and thank me for taking them on an enjoyable trail, or to feel pleased that I’ve taught them something new and helped them to accomplish something (I also had a student tell me that I am “just the right amount of sassy”).
My hope for session three is that I can continue working with the campers I’ve taught already who are staying, so that we can build on what we’ve done in session two: my intermediate class got as far as learning about contact and – in a basic way – impulsion, but haven’t yet progressed to bend and flexion, which would be my next target for them; my advanced riders would benefit from more work on balance and application of subtler aids. My confidence has grown during this session: I didn’t expect my first jumping lesson to frighten me as much as it did, and I was pleased when it ended without incident; it was also the first time I made it out of a walk on any of the trails I led (assisted by finding a horse which I am confident in as a leader), and although it’s still nothing like riding with friends, or when I don’t shoulder the responsibility of other riders, it’s becoming easier.
Overall, session two passed quickly due to being busier, and I am already anticipating session three progressing similarly. Perhaps it’s time to start firming up post-camp travel plans!