If you’ve been or are yet to attend your annual summer horse camp, you are more than likely to cross paths with one or more of these familiar characters:
The native owner (who everyone underestimates)
Let’s face it, big-moving, highly-strung Warmbloods are certainly not to everyone’s tastes — or budgets — and while your livery yard neighbours have certainly been captivated by your Welshman’s capabilities and adorable traits, unloading your pint-sized partner and revealing him to the rest of horsey camp can be a daunting and intimidating task. His chunky frame, long flowing mane and mismatched white socks might not ordinarily scream super-star performance horse, but by gosh can this little guy go. His powerful, balanced action and uphill canter mean day one in the dressage ring is his. A jump so bold he becomes the resident nanny across country, giving reliable leads to all the freaked-out Thoroughbreds. His exceptional stamina means he leaves the rest of the ride for dead on the mid-week hack. A few pony nuts and a small hay net and he is set for the night. By the end of the week, fellow campers have fallen for his irresistible pony charm and his smug owner is, well, feeling just that.
The recent divorcee
The quiet, observant one at first, keeps herself to herself and is just the right amount of friendly. You might have even earmarked her for the position as camp bestie. But after a long day in the saddle when the drinks start to flow, it becomes apparent that this serene queen has more bubbling under the surface than the prosecco she’s guzzling down at an impressive rate. When the flood gates open, you wish you’d never asked, but three hours deep and you’re pretty convinced you know her cheating husband as well as she does. Turns out, she hasn’t each touched a horse in 15 years but her imploding need to ‘get away’ meant she used her ex’s credit card to buy a horse and foot her deluxe equestrian camp bill. Good for you, girl.
The long-suffering trainer
Every year he says “never again”, but exactly 365 days later, like clockwork, he finds himself back on the same yard, in the same spot, welcoming a dozen enthusiastic riders who are eager for a week under his expert instruction. The first lesson of the week provokes a few eye rolls, simultaneously accompanied by a couple of falsely sympathetic nods as the over-horsed lady on the seven-year-old German-bred bay that she bought from a top show jumping yard spins him a tale about how he’s just a ‘baby’ and doesn’t mean to plant, spin and rear at the slightest sign of work. However, by the end of the week, as if by magic, he’s found himself in the same position as every year — completely and utterly invested in his students. The work-shy German is now a picture of sports horse perfection, his owner in amazement. He’s some how managed to get the whole group cantering through an 80cm grid with no-one falling off and even got the nappy Arab with anger issues to do leave the group and do a dressage test. There has been blood, sweat, tears and definitely some swearing but nonetheless, the trainer has found himself powering through that ever-growing back pain and making something of the arguably lacklustre bunch he met on Monday.
Next year, once again, he promises himself he’ll be in the Bahamas…
The one with no stuff
Not everyone shares the same passion for the matchy-matchy life but this chaotic equestrian takes un-organisation to the next level. She was off to a flying start before — true to form — she forgot her wagon was going in for its annual service. After screeching into camp three hours late in a borrowed battered trailer, spectators are baffled at how she’s managed to pack weekly supplies for both her and horse into one rucksack and a bin bag. You offer her the floor in your lorry after she has a mini breakdown on realisation she’s forgotten to pack her tent, but you draw a line when she asks if you have a spare sports bra you could lend her, as you look “roughly the same size”. Everyone clubs together to ensure her surprisingly chilled out mount has some feed to see him through the week. Her main vocabulary involves the words ‘sorry’ and ‘thank you’, and while her serious lack of planning could be considered slightly irritating, horsey campers always stick together.
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Buoyed up by Pullein-Thompson stories and with happy memories of Pony Club Camp, you sign up for your first horse
She certainly had the good life with her last horse. Hooves so quality that expensive farrier bills were a thing of the past and a temperament so angelic that bitless bridles soon became the tack of choice. She was living the natural horsemanship dream. But alas, times change and as her old girl enjoys a happy retirement at grass, her similarly-styled cobby youngster does not share the same opinion on head collar hacking. Nevertheless, she is not to be deterred in ensuring her steed’s camp experience is as stress and gadget-free as possible. While watching her depart into the next county might be slightly amusing at first, after she hits the deck for the eighth time this morning, you start to wonder if her presence is potentially eating into your paid-for training time. You can’t knock her perseverance, though.
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