We’re in our third session at camp and, incredibly, there’s still time for me to teach three horsemanship classes per day. I’ve also still got an advanced class, and I’m back to teaching one set of beginners – English-style, first up in the mornings. I enjoy finishing the day with the advanced class: it’s almost a chance to relax and switch off – there isn’t the stress and concern that the kids won’t know what to do if anything unexpected happens; I don’t have to remind them to check diagonals, keep their heels down or shorten their reins, so I’m freer to work on more complex ideas (complex in this context being seat contact or bend, still nothing overly fancy!).
There are still a lot of things I find completely alien about the way riding is taught over here: I’m glad I’ve yet to meet someone who rides saddle seat, because I don’t think that conversation would go well, given that my level of frustration at how the so-called hunter/jumper barns teach is high enough. Most of the campers who ride year-round or learned to ride somewhere other than camp ride in an arched back with a light seat, and none of those who ride outside of camp know what a flatwork lesson is – there’s an expectation that half of every lesson will involve jumping. So with intermediate and advanced classes, I often find myself explaining the concept of a serpentine to 15-year olds who’ve been riding since before they started school, as well as teaching them how to find their seatbones and use them.
Staff and horses alike are fatigued at this point: my boss explained this time last year that what’s routine for us now is still new for many of the kids (as they’ve only just arrived), so it’s important to still keep the fun element and ensure that they enjoy themselves. It’s the biggest challenge right now, because our lives have become very repetitive and institutionalised.
Some things are quite different to last year: during the beginning of the third session, it was oppressively hot – to the point where riding was cancelled on several occasions – whereas this year has been dominated by some horrendous storms and a lot of rain. I’m told it’s because the tail end of a hurricane travelled up the eastern seaboard, which led to some impressive amounts of rain, the likes of which I left the UK to avoid! Similarly to last year, gastro is doing the rounds, but it’s reached epic proportions this year, leading to 72-hour quarantine periods for those presenting at the infirmary with vomiting, doors being propped open to avoid contamination via handles and the self-service salad bar being closed (which has led to obscene queues at mealtimes). In an example of “things which shouldn’t happen to non-bunk staff”, I was hit by the mystery bug too (something which didn’t happen last year), and was knocked out for 24 hours (there was no way I was submitting to quarantine).
The end and the holiday glimmer at a distance on the horizon, but they aren’t yet in focus, warped by the distance still to go and the uncertainty of some conditions. Some things remain the same, some things change – one of the changes appears to be that my ability to remember names has improved, which is brilliant when the kids can’t remember the name of the horse they’re sat on and I need to get a child’s attention.