I looked at Bailey. He looked at me. And I thought to myself excitedly, “Climb on and ride.” I was at the Twin Oaks Riding Academy with my fellow fifth grade Girl Scouts in November. The riding academy has a two-hour Saturday afternoon camp, where you learn the basics of horses: how to brush them, how to lead them, how to clean their stalls, wash their saddles, and best of all, how to ride them.
After a 45-minute or so car ride from Arlington, we arrived at the stable. We split into groups and started our rotations. My first rotation was washing the saddle. I used water and sponges to wash only the leather part of the saddle. My counselor, Charlotte, told me it was very important not to wash the padding and undersides of the saddle because it would ruin those parts.
Next we led a horse, Pumpkin, around the field to practice getting used to the horse. Charlotte said to hold the rope tightly so the horse would not run away. Pumpkin was a very grumpy horse that day and kept snorting and trying to pull away when I was leading him. I was annoyed because it made it harder for me to lead him but it was still fun.
Then our group practiced brushing and grooming Pumpkin with a variety of tools. Charlotte told the group never to go behind the horse because it might kick us. We had to stay on the sides of the horses and never brush their hairs backward. Afterwards, we did a small craft project, coloring in pictures of horses, and we also ate a popsicle treat.
Finally, what I had been waiting for all day: my horseback riding lesson. I mounted the horse with help from my instructor, Nikki. She held a rope in front of Bailey while I practiced sitting on the horse and holding the reins. I rode Bailey around a series of cones and Nikki told me that if you pull on one side of the reins, his head would turn that way and his legs would follow.
After a couple laps, Nikki jogged while the horse trotted. I tried to bounce up and down with horse but it was really hard. I had never ridden a horse before and this was a great first experience. Soon it was time to move on. I patted Bailey and went off to – yuck – pick up horse poop with a pitchfork and put it in a wheelbarrow. Luckily Charlotte had to push the wheelbarrow!
After the camp was over, everyone compared horses and their names and most everybody exclaimed, I want to do that again! Except for the poop part that is.
Twin Oaks Riding Academy Camp Saturday Young Rider Camp is open to riders age 5 to 12. The cost is $45 for two hours and anyone can participate, you don’t have to be part of a group. Twin Oaks also offers Summer and Spring Break week-long camps as well as lessons.
Photo by Nicole Lewis