When I decided to leave my “real” job and teach horse riding at a summer camp, it was with the intention of deciding whether or not this was the job for me. My main concern prior to my arrival was that I wouldn’t be of a high enough standard – that the kids I should supposedly be teaching would know more than I did. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case: the camp is theatre-focused, and the majority of riders are beginners, with a high enough number of intermediate and advanced riders to keep things interesting. The horses also aren’t of a standard where I’d have been able to teach truly advanced work, even if I’d wanted to.
The main challenge was one I should have predicted: the attitude of the campers. Many genuinely wanted to learn to ride, which is a great starting point. Some were coerced into the activity by family members, which isn’t such a good thing. Others were just ticking a box and filling an hour of their day, which can be downright obstructive to the rest of the class. But this is all just the tip of the iceberg. My colleagues and I have largely grown up riding, and were all taught with the mentality that falling off is part of learning to ride and that, when you do, you get straight back on with minimum fuss. Not so here. A minor fall is cause for major alarm, and even being stepped on by a horse warrants a visit to the doctor (I don’t think I’ve ever even taken my boot off when that’s happened to me). This was all a big culture shock and involved making a lot of adjustments to my approach.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know a varied herd of horses, as well as being entertained by the personalities of the campers I’ve worked with (my favourite question to ask them is how old they think I am – the answers have ranged everywhere from 19 to 52). I was pleasantly surprised that the other staff members in my department were people that I became friends with, bonded with and worked well with, given our spread of ages, backgrounds and experience – proof perhaps for once and for all that horses bring people together? I’ve made some fantastic friends outside of my department whom I’d probably never have met otherwise, and will stay in touch with beyond camp.
The big question I’ve been asked almost since I arrived is, “Will you return next year?” My stock answers have been, “I don’t know” and “It depends what happens when I go home”. And they’re the truth. Next May is a long way off, and anything could happen in that time. Would I return? Yes. Will I? Possibly. Why? I’ve enjoyed the experience, plus the opportunity to work abroad and take advantage of the trappings of my situation.
The big question I’ve answered that I set myself is, “Do I want to teach riding full time?” The answer is yes. There are obvious differences between teaching during the summer in the US and teaching year-round in the UK (but who says that’s where I need to be?), but there are also obvious differences to how I’ve felt working with horses compared to how I felt when working in a more traditional office setting. I’m healthier and happier – two things which were crucial when I decided to make a drastic change within my life. So yes, rather than being warm in the winter and cool in the summer in a climate-controlled office, I’ll likely be soaked to the bone all year round, plus freezing in the winter and roasting for two or three days of the British summer (or three weeks if I return to America), the benefit outweighs the cost.
My first question has an answer. Unfortunately, it’s created a whole host of others.