Oh the joys of dealing with loud, eager children and hot, grumpy horses. I don't know how many times I said to walk in a wide circle around the horses back legs. At some point I put an orange cone behind Cruiser and said very loud, 'Caution! Horses will kick, walk in a wide circle around their legs!'. That worked for a little while, but eventually kids went back to hugging their hind quarters, while Brie and Taylor and I snatched kids away before being kicked. When we weren't keeping kids away from back legs we were keeping them off the fence to avoid being pressed against by the horses. Like a ballerina we were kept on our toes. The Beekman Therapeutic Riding Center had YMCA camps all last week and again all this week, yesterday being the last day for July. The first camp brought us a total of 39 kids and the second camp gave us 10. We used five horses and two ponies for both camps, with only three horses and two ponies used to being used for lessons and such. All the horses suffered from diarrhea and for the first camp barely drank their water at all. I was very concerned they'd be severely dehydrated and made it a point to offer them cold water frequently throughout the day. The horses drank occasionally and the ponies hardly ever and the diarrhea continued. Not only that but I noticed one of the horses coughing. During the second camp I inquired about ways to encourage them to drink and was given a solution that worked perfectly, and the horses continued to drink all throughout the camp. Cruiser, a palomino Halflinger cross, had a terrible cough that I noticed on Monday and continued to Friday. He drank a whole bucket by himself but after that very infrequently. I'm curious to see on Tuesday whether he still has the cough or not and what may be causing it as none of the others are coughing. Not only did the horses have a disagreeable amount of diarrhea but their attitudes were poor, but I don't blame them. Normally calm and friendly horses became a biting kicking hazard. One horse in particular seemed to be especially violent when saddled and ridden but I think he has back issues that need to be addressed. Even the ponies were biting at children. There is one horse, the one pictured above, named Rufie, who loves picking on Halflinger pony named Flash. Yesterday during lunch break, Rufie decided Flash was annoying and proceeded to bite his shoulder, strike at him and chase him across the arena. Taylor and I jumped up, and ran into the arena where I grabbed Rufie and Flash just to tie them in separate areas.
The children were surprisingly organized and did very well riding. I had Cruiser to lead and very happy,talkative riders. A little girl named Cierra learned my name and called to me every chance she got, then informed me she would see me again next year. I also rotated between a set of twins, Dylan and Heather, a nervous but opinionated boy named Aiden,and two other very cheerful girls. Taylor and I taught the kids how to trot,ride,steer,back up, trail ride and other patterns while Brie taught bareback outside. Even though we were all very disorganized the kids all requested to come back and the aids gave a very tearful good-bye. Next month is our last set of camps for the summer until next year. I can't say I'm not tired, I'm exhausted but it was well worth it all. The last day of camp we had two new students, a couple of special ed teenage girls, both very Sweet, and their mother, sister and brother who came to watch. I took the older sister(eventually I'll remember their names) and brother outside to go meet the rest of the herd, Oulav, a 'wild' Norwegian Fjord with no training, social skills, and no manners, decided to be a gentleman and allow the girls to meet him. After that it was time for another lesson so Bella, another volunteer who's from Columbia,and I decided to bring the horses in. It was Bella's first time so I guided her on what to do as I brought them in. Surprise surprise the horses came in on their own.... except Oulav and Cruiser who took off at a gallop to the next pasture. We locked the other horses in their paddocks and went to go get Oulav and Cruiser. Oulav was standing on a hill watching us come while Cruiser called to Rufie who was in a separate pasture, also calling to Cruiser and panicking. Bella opened a gate to a paddock and Oulav shocked us both by cantering on in. Cruiser also followd but doubled back and made a run for it, Bella slammed the gate shut and Oulav was trapped by himself. Cruiser was beginning to really get agitated and Rufie was too. The arena has a large set of sliding doors that open to the back pasture, where Cruiser and I were. We keep the doors open but put a wooden board across to keep horses out, however if a horse decided to jump it they could do it easily. Cruiser realized this and ran to back of the pasture and came up at a full run, all I could do was watch as he collected himself(if you've ever watched a horse before jumping, you can see them beginning to collect themselves before ascending) and approached the gate. He stopped at the last minute and again ran down and back up, except faster this time. I had moved up towards the doors and was waiting for him, when he came up I waved a carrot stick at him, spooking him enough run away. Brie shut the doors and Cruiser, truly ticked off, ran to a different pasture. Rufie was having a full panic attack, so I let him out. He left at a full run, jumped over branches and met up with Cruiser. Both boys groomed each other then followed me into their paddocks. Oulav was in Cruiser, Rufie and Colby's paddock and needed to come out, but if we turned him in with the others we'd never get anywhere, so I let him back out. He tore across the pasture to a smaller one and watched me. Then, like a tenative dog, he followed me into his paddock. We sorted out the herd, cleaned up the arena after lessons and went home. I'll be back in Tuesday to see what other adventures I'll have.
On a totally different note, next month it looks like I'll be able to shadow a female equine veterinarian, which would be awesome since I want to hear a woman's perspective on the intensity of the field.
Until then, have a happy ride and cool summer.