Le Fer Hall

Equestrian campers saddle up for week of fun

News | 06.23.2020
Schultz and Meehan following a camper on a horse
Student helper Kaylie Meehan, middle, and Sara Schulz, assistant professor of equine studies, watch as camper Betsy Curl rides her horse around the arena.

Abby Curl remembers when she came to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College (SMWC) for equestrian summer camp. They stayed in Le Fer Hall so they could be up early in the mornings to care for the horses.

She still remembers her horse’s name – Papi.

Curl shared her fond memories of the camp, but they’re even fonder now.

Because “now my daughter gets to do it,” she said of her camper, Betsy, who was riding her horse, Izzy, around the arena in her pink boots.

It was Betsy’s first year of camp, but she said she wants to come back. “I like to ride the horse – I like her personality,” she said.

Eighteen campers were able to join SMWC equine instructors June 15-19 for the beginner’s session of the summer camp. Immediate and advanced campers will be at SMWC this week.

On the last day of the camp, the children showed off the skills they learned throughout the week to family and friends. With their horses’ tails and manes braided, complete with bows and ties, they trotted around the arena.

They learned to canter, bathe and properly handle the horses while participating in the day camp.

Sara Schulz, assistant professor of equine studies and Western coach, was glad that COVID-19 did not affect the camp.

In the 25 years that Schulz has been doing the camp, back when it was just the old barn, she said she’s never experienced such a polite group of children. When one was struggling, another would jump in to help. They said please and thank you.

“Among themselves there was no bickering or fighting,” Schulz said. “They would be riding along the fence and we would correct something, and they would say thank you. It was really one of the easiest camps we’ve ever had.”

Schulz helping a camper onto a horse
Sara Schulz, assistant professor of equine studies, helps a camper onto her horse.

Kaylie Meehan, a junior nursing major who has volunteered for the summer camp previously, agreed that the group of children were a breeze to work with.

“I’ve done it for three years and we’ve never had a group of kids where we don’t worry about them. If you’ve never sat on a horse before, it’s definitely a little worrisome putting them on there for the first time,” Meehan said.

She also said the campers worked through the challenges of the camp well. Due to the pandemic, they had to wear masks while in close quarters. However, she said the campers went right along with the changes.

While perched on their horses at the end of the show, the campers shared their favorite traits of their new friends.

Nine-year-old Zepply Bakke, while tiny on the ground, towered over the crowd on top of her horse. “The best thing I love about my horse Ozzy is that he lets me hug him all the time. And he’s just so kind,” she said.

Lucia Tanoos quickly learned how to take care of her horse, Kermit. “My favorite thing about him is that he didn’t roll in his poop today, just for the show!” she proudly told the audience.

Meehan said her favorite part of the camp is watching the little ones make their improvements.

“They start out the week, some of them never riding a horse before, and by the end of the week they all look like pros,” she said.

Also helping with the camp through the week was equine facilities manager Angie McMillin and SMWC students Natalie Owens, Sarah Mann, Mackenzie Schermann and Mattie Hoard.

“Thank you for allowing your kids to join us,” McMillin said to the families on Friday.

The intermediate and advanced campers work at a faster pace, with the advanced campers bringing their own horses. They will show their skills Friday at the equine arena, where it will be streamed live on SMWC’s Facebook page. To view photos of the beginner’s camp session, check out our gallery.