Equestrian camps train youth to take reins, ride for life
Before hosting Saturday’s Virginia Commonwealth Games equestrian show, Liberty Mountain Equestrian Center staff members hosted a beginner and advanced camps in June.
“It was fun to have the younger kids here after we had the older kids for advanced camp,” Assistant Director of Operations Kimi Counts said. “It was neat to show them everything from learning how to pat a horse, feed a treat, how to ride. It was all new and exciting for them, so it was nice to be that person in that group of people that show them what horses are all about and share our love for the animals with the kids.”
Counts and Flaig have directed camps and shows at the Equestrian Center for five years now, and they love to see the young riders take the reins for the first time, and progress through the various levels of riding.
“A lot of people don’t really know what we do when we say we ride horses competitively, so giving them that first look into what riding horses is like in the collegiate setting and regular horse-show settings and allowing them to look into what we do every day and what we’ve been doing for all of our lives as adults and kids growing up riding, it’s neat to be that person to show them what horses are all about,” Counts said. “We have a lot or repeaters coming back, so it’s neat to see them take that initial step into riding horses and then to see their love grow and continue on over the years. Being up here at Liberty at this amazing facility, it’s nice to be a part of one of their fun summer plans.”
Liberty Director of Equestrian Programs Suzanne Flaig said most of the 8-12-year-old riders arrived with very little experience and left with beginning horsemanship skills.
“Most of them had not been on a horse before, and they learned not only how to ride, but they also learned how to groom their horses, how to put their equipment on,” Flaig said. “It was so much fun for our staff to see what we do every day but see it through a fresh set of eyes. We definitely sparked some interest in some kids who are already talking about returning to camp next year and hopefully being able to pursue their horsemanship and being around horses and riding and other mounted-horse activities in their future.”
Flaig emphasized the importance of grooming riders, as well as their horses, at a young age.
“It’s great to start kids with horses,” she said. “If they have any fear, they tend to get over it, and the horses tend to be very comfortable around young kids. They’re very non-threatening to them. It’s nice to have that initial introduction, especially if they do go on to pursue it later on. It’s a very foundational-type camp, so we teach them about basic skills that would transfer into any discipline.”
Video by Kylee Lilge and Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media