Blog post 2. “The Days of the Disposable Horse”, Camp Horses, Part 2.
The view from the “Other side of the fence”:
“Like it or not, most camp suppliers are ‘dealers’ to one extent or another, so when we are selecting camp prospects we must consider, besides suitability (temperament, training, soundness, etc), age and price, as well as the horse’s potential future after the season. Camp horses need to be tolerant and have a forgiving disposition.
I try to be fussy about the camps we lease our horses to. We try to charge enough to eliminate camps that may be price shopping because if the camps are going for price they are very likely to skimp on feed and care. It is my investment going on that trailer for the summer and I want it, the horses, treated accordingly. Get better people is what I like to think I subscribe to. And so far it’s worked. It’s much better for the horses and just good business. Even though they are paying for use of the horses, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be treated in a satisfactory manner. At the end of the season, these horses are going to come back to me and I prefer to have sound, useful horses for someone else to go on and enjoy.
Camps vary, some camps have “real”riding programs some “less so, as in the camps with less advanced riders”, and those horses can have a little more miles or age to them because they won’t be worked as hard. But they all, each horse, has to be safe because they are carrying children and all of our children are precious, especially to us.
In today’s world the horses are not so easily replaceable, as they were in the past, so poor seasonal treatment cannot be tolerated. Camp staff has to be more of a horse person and less of an ‘equestrian’. The girls where we send our horses too can be real hit or miss, but as a rule, most can be pretty handy and learn how the horses want to work. We do everything we can to set the whole program up for success and give them, the camp, as much information as we can on each individual horse.
The day of the ‘disposable horse’ is gone for good. Contrary to popular belief, a good camp prospect is a very sought after item, therefore a proven one at seasons end should be desired. It is not always so.“
A few words from Tomten Farm and Sanctuary:
“Not always so.” Many of us are aware that camp horses have a reputation of having a short lease on life but most of us are not aware how ‘we’, as parents, camp staff and horse lovers, impact the future of each animal. During college, I worked for two great summers at an equine camp. One year as a Barn Manager/Instructor and another year as an Assistant Director/Instructor. My days were spent teaching lessons and I spent hour after hour standing in the sunshine with beautiful horses and passionate, equine loving children. Most of the campers brought their own horses but we had several leased animals for the horse-crazy kids not lucky enough to own their own. Horse-crazy kids like I had been years ago, eager to simply be near the horses they dreamed about. These children never asked what happened to the horses at the end of the season and interestingly enough, this time, even as a young adult, neither did I. I cringe to admit, I never even asked where they came from. How is that possible? Ten years after Shannon (see previous post), I had subconsciously accepted this is how it worked and it hadn’t occurred to me change was possible. Acceptance, avoidance and denial were certainly easier paths to take than facing the grim reality that may have happened at seasons end. Now twenty five plus years later, I am ready to own the knowledge and the responsibility I wish I had accepted in the past.
I like to think that at that camp we provided quality care-bedded stalls, nightly turnout, good food and fair use but I’m sure we could have done better. I’m sure each of us can. This season and for the seasons to come, perhaps we can be more aware of what we support and how our dollars shape the lives of the animals we entrust our children too. Safety should flow both ways, don’t you think?
(Please remember these are merely informational posts designed to educate and promote thought. They are the result of an open dialogue between two people sharing their experiences in hopes of finding common ground and making a difference. They are of course, only two people’s experiences and not meant, in any way, to speak for every person or every horse. There is no every.
While I understand that this is a potentially controversial series, I ask that all comments be courteous even if you disagree. I welcome everyone’s opinions on our page but as always, remind all to please be respectful to us as individuals and the path we are attempting to take.)