When we moved to Texas, Lauren was just a youngster. She had ridden in Florida but was not very accomplished. Ally had taken lessons for several years, been away to horse camp and had her own horses. Lauren hadn’t quite found her place in the world and had struggled with the move, me working so much and just being the new kid. I got the great idea that horse camp, like Ally had attended in North Carolina would be a great thing for her.
The only thing was money was very tight and the type of high dollar overnight sleep away camp that Ally had attended during better times in my marriage was not an option for this new to Texas little girl. We had just gotten our horse, Kid for Ally and I. Lauren was ten that summer. We were at a feed store and saw a flyer for a camp at Whipple Tree Farm. It had great pictures of girls and horses having fun. It was 15 miles from our house (in case things didn’t go well) and it was amazingly inexpensive (at least compared to the NC camp).
That first week at Whipple Tree literally changed Lauren’s life. Mickey came soon after as an extension of what she learned in that first week of overnight camp. The fancy camp that Ally attended in North Carolina had horseback riding. But there were scores of other activities as well. It had horses, but was not a horse camp. WTF (Whipple Tree Farm-what were you thinking?)was first and only a horse camp. The kids rode maybe six or seven hours a day and went back out at night to ride bareback under the stars. Maybe on Wednesdays, there might be a swimming excursion, but it was total immersion horses from start to finish.
I remember Lauren returning to our boarding barn after her week at camp. I had never seen any rider improve so dramatically. While she was barely trotting before, she cantered off with ease on Kid, who has never been a beginner’s horse. She was more confident working around the horses and told me new things about riding English that I had not known.
She went to camp in July, we bought Mickey from the rescue in September and all the two of them did was continue to climb the ranks of the equestrian world.
I think it is also worth noting that every single girl in the picture above, some now wives and mothers, are still in our circle of life (kind of Lion Kingish, but oh, well!) At the very least we are all friends on Facebook and I can tell you pretty accurately what they are doing now. I think that says something about these special girls who were part of the days at Whipple Tree.
I contacted Dianne about accepting Jordyn into the day camp program this summer although she was only five years-old. Seven is the usual starting point. But Dianne knew Jo had grown up with horses, was mature for her age and could handle the rigors of camp-or I convinced her all that was true.
When we told Jo about going to camp at Miss Dianne’s-she told us it would be the best week of her life. Pretty high expectations. Jordyn had taken some of her first horse rides at Dianne’s and was just about six months-old in this picture bareback on pony Dusty.
First day of camp, Jordyn was nervous. Lauren was going to spend the day her but Ally texted me to call her and give her a pep talk. She was assigned to ride Dusty again, who we all remembered but of course, meant nothing to her. When Jo was two she would eagerly trot around on her Snowney pony. She spent a lot of time at the farm then and rode consistently. She has not trotted by herself in years (and she is only five). Dianne did not know about the trotting apprehension and in the moments Lauren walked away from the ring the first morning, Dianne had Jordyn trotting along. She had to tell me she used a crop, too!
The second day Ally got there, Jo told her, just go on mom, my best friend is over there. Ally was excused.
So, in our rewind Whipple Tree Farm (and total deja-vu for me) a week at the WTF riding camp has also changed Jordyn as a rider. She has trotted long and hard each day. She has unsaddled her own pony, washed him down and put away her gear. She just wants more! She told me some the of girls “were CANTERING, granny!!” which is what she aspires to do next.
Tomorrow is the last day. But Jo is already planning lessons and shows. Not sure what we will do with her Snow pony yet, but am so glad she LOVES to ride. I do not know if it was the greatest week of her life or not, but it served as a pretty good one for me. Thank you Dianne for all you relentlessly do for these young riders, day in, day out, year after year, to teach them that a horse is their most special companion and their barn friends truly are forever friends.