Every year for almost a decade, my sister and I powered through two terrible, horse-less early summer days filled with shots, eye exams, physicals, and dentist/orthodontist appointments, with the understanding we were exchanging this misery for four weeks of extreme joy in the most wonderful place on earth: camp.
But don’t send your kid to horse camp. Here are nine good reasons why:
1. Your child will be exposed to horses she’d never otherwise ride.
Your child will ride Tennessee Walking Horses, retired hunter schoolmasters, idiot greenies, ponies, draft horses, albino mustangs, and grade horses of indiscriminate background. She will write you thorough, illustrated letters exclusively about them. The rest of her camp life will be a complete mystery to you.
2. Your child will be exposed to many different styles of riding.
On a rainy day, your child might learn about dressage and run around the barn aisle practicing her first Whinny Widgets test on foot. Maybe she’ll learn to cinch a western saddle, about eventing from her Kiwi riding trainer, or about trail etiquette from the barn manager. Her tiny hunter world will be blown to pieces, which would be unfortunate.
3. Your child will lose her fear of ick.
Your child will encounter new and unusual types of barn dust, ooze, mildew, and other, uh, material. She’ll recalibrate her understanding of gross. She’ll come home with chaps you can crack in half and unusable creek-soggy paddock boots. She’ll learn to shrug about riding in unspeakably filthy socks, because she forgot about laundry day. A good lesson in consequences, but does your child really need to learn about dirt and consequences at such a tender age?
4. Three words: Camping. With. Horses.
You know how your kid is always trying to go to/stay at/sleep in the barn? If she goes to camp, she just might spend the day trail riding, and then spend the night in the forest with the horses, and then eat breakfast with the horses, and then trail ride again, and then stop for lunch with the horses, and then… You can just forget about ever convincing her to leave the barn again.
5. Your child will come back fearless.
Your child will probably take—in retrospect!—questionable risks, set up questionable jumps, build questionable courses, and ride questionable steeds. You may field calls about sprained ankles, possible concussions, or chance meetings with barbed wire. And, unfortunately, she’ll learn how to hop right back up and climb right back on. She’ll completely lose her healthy sense of dread and turn into a fearless little thing in a helmet.
6. Your child will try to convince you to purchase a camp horse.
Your kid will absolutely fall in love with a camp horse. She might insist a sale video be prepared, FedEx it to you and her trainer, and host several serious telephone conferences. You will be forced to gently redirect her efforts toward a horse with a barrel that extends beyond her heels.
7. Your child will make lifelong horse friends.
They will be bad influences: they will never suggest she shower or switch to tennis.
8. Your child will come back with better social skills than you could ever teach her.
But who needs life and leadership skills forged in the nearly-adult-free social crucible of camp, that will last through infinite rough patches, awkward phases, boyfriends, ex-boyfriends, friends, ex-friends, and college degrees, and let’s face it, basically change her life forever? Surely we can agree your child doesn’t.
9. Your child will become more obsessed with horses.
If anything is going to get your kid to kick her expensive horse habit, it’s definitely not going to be thirty straight days of riding, living, and breathing horses with other equally-obsessed young people. She will come back mired in horse craziness. You’ll never get her back. Wave goodbye now.
Never mind. You should definitely send your kid to horse camp.
Emily Bogenschutz lives in Texas and is a freelance writer,
recent hunter-turned-jumper, and professional sneaker of saddle pads
into the washing machine. Follow her on Twitter: @EJBog.