Have you been to riding camp and absolutely fallen in love with one of the horses there? If you said “Yes,” you’re not alone. It happens a lot. But, did you know that some riding camps let you take their lesson mounts home for the winter? Leasing a camp horse is a great way to see if you’re ready for full-time horse ownership and its lots of fun.
“If a camper expresses an interest in taking home one of our horses for the winter, I will match her up to a horse or pony that suits her riding ability; one that can do what horsey activities she wants to do, for example jump, show, trail ride, etc.,” says Kat. “When I match up a camper and a horse for the summer session, I think about the chance of them spending the winter together too. I want them to have a fun, happy winter together.
“I also take into consideration what the horse’s schedule will be with the camper. I want to know how much turn out the horse will get. Most of our horses are used to living outside with run in sheds 24/7 and they don’t cope well at barns where there is limited or no turnout.”
Leasing a horse from Forrestel is free, but the leaser is responsible for shipping costs, boarding fees if applicable, spring vaccinations, farrier visits and regular deworming. The horse leaves at the end of August and is returned to the camp before the first session in mid June.
“When campers take home a horse, they usually keep me updated about what they’re doing, usually through email or Facebook,” says Kat. “We have our own Facebook group where the campers talk to each other, and they post pictures of their camp horses.”
We have a lot of horses available for lease,” says Kat. “We have beginner lesson horses, jumpers and trail mounts. Every year we buy a couple of new horses to add to our string, so I’m always looking for good winter homes.”
Elaine and Trixie
Camper Elaine Wehmhoff, Conn., leased Trixie, an 8-year-old strawberry roan pony, from Forrestel for a winter. Trixie is a great camp pony. She’s a great jumper and loves zipping around cross-country courses. She also likes swimming with campers in Forrestel’s pond. We asked 13-year-old Elaine what it was like to take a camp pony home after the camp season was over.
YR: How long have you been going to Forrestel?
EW: This summer will be my fourth year at Forrestel.
YR: How long have you been riding?
EW: I’ve been riding for seven years.
YR: Did you choose to ride Trixie or was she assigned to you?
EW: She was assigned to me for flat lessons. The next year I was allowed to jump her and I fell in love with her. I really progressed as a rider. She was a challenge at times, but that just gave her more personality. I brought her home for the winter and and rode her at camp again the following summer.
YR: What made you like her? What’s her personality like?
EW: She’s tons of fun. She’s quick and she loves what she does. She’s also funny. One day I had her stall guard up and when I turned around for just a second she crawled right under it and was right behind me.
She isn’t a super-easy pony which makes each ride on her interesting. Sometimes she’s a complete angel and sometimes she’s a little naughty.
YR: What’s she like to ride?
EW: She’s smooth at the trot, and canter, and she’s super-fast and fun to gallop. With the right rider, she’ll jump anything.
YR: What sorts of things did you do with Trixie at camp?
EW: We jumped cross-country and did show jumping. We also did some dressage.
YR: What made you take her home last winter?
EW: I couldn’t live without her. She was different than other ponies I had ridden. I would always think about her when I rode other horses. I did some research about where I could keep her near my home, and then I asked my parents if I could lease her. I found out on my birthday that she was coming to Connecticut to be with me.
YR: Was it easy to lease a camp horse?
EW: Yes! My parents and I talked to Kat and then we arranged to ship her home. It’s important to keep your camp pony or horse at a great barn where they can help you care for your pony–especially if you’ve never owned a pony before. I was lucky to find Wilton Riding Club in Wilton, Conn., Conn., and two amazing trainers, Charlotte Nagle and Alicia Coviello.
YR: What kinds of things did you do with her at home?
EW: Everything! We showed in many different classes shows and then we evented. Trixie was great at cross-country jumping and she became a good dressage pony. I think her favorite activity was riding on the beach though.
YR: Is it sad to have to give her back in the summer?
EW: It was really, really sad and there were tears, but I knew that I would be back at camp and see her soon! That made it much better.
YR: So you’re going back to Forrestel next summer?
EW: Of course! I love it so much. By now it feels like my second home!
YR: Would you take another camp horse home next winter?
EW: I would, but last summer I found a horse at home named Baloo to lease. If I didn’t have Baloo I would definitely take another camp horse home. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2012 issue of Young Rider. Click here to subscribe.