By Susan Miller, Director of Marketing/Communications
When I was a young girl, my friends and I used to love to go horseback riding as often as possible during the summer months. Throughout Camden County, where I grew up, there were places you could go for an afternoon – or even an hour or two – for lessons and trail riding. We didn’t have a lot of formal training, but we loved every minute spent with those beautiful animals.
So I was delighted when I came to camp and realized that we offer horseback riding as an option for our summer campers. And it’s all right here – on our camp property! The program is tailored to all level of riders, from beginners to those with more experience, and can accommodate all campers who attend a full-week session of main camp at Ockanickon and Matollionequay (ages 8 and up) and Lake Stockwell campers (ages 5 and up).
Campers who participate in our horseback riding program receive one hour of instruction a day for 5 days over the course of a summer camp session. Lessons include instructions on riding safety, grooming, tacking and all aspects of riding for beginners, intermediate and advanced riders. Trail and ring-rides are also included.
You can sign up for our equestrian programs on line (www.ycamp.org) now! (It’s an additional option when you sign up for camp.) The price is $225 for a week/$425 for two weeks – in addition to the camp registration.
We partner with Suffolk Stables, and Deborah Greer facilitates the program throughout the summer, teaching both English and Western riding styles. Deborah and her staff (and stable friends!) run a wonderful program – and in December, she was named “Instructor of the Month” by the American Riding Instructors Association.
We so hope you take advantage of this wonderful opportunity for horseback riding during your campers’ session! In the meantime, check out this article by Deborah.
Hi, my name is Deborah Lyons-Greer, and I am
from Mildenhall, in Suffolk, England. I started
riding when I was very young and it was probably
the only thing that I couldn’t get to fast enough
as a child. My parents put me in ballet classes
when I was very little, (I couldn’t stay focused)
Brownies and Girl Guides, which I liked until they
made us create just ONE MORE Macramé plant holder I couldn’t take it anymore. My dad enrolled me in Army Cadets which I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the obstacle courses and camping and shooting rifles, and became a pretty good shot. Then there were horses……..
I used to bike after school from my house through our town and the town of Barton Mills all the way through to a village called Worlington. It was quite the hike on a bike for a young kid but worth every bead of sweat and frost- bitten fingers or rain soaked clothes. All the while I’m thinking,
“I wonder who I am riding today, I hope they let me ride the big grey horse, I wonder if I can clean stalls faster today and get more done then they’d really see I work hard and they might let me fetch horses in from the paddocks. I wonder if we are riding inside today, it looks like rain so we may stay in instead of going out on a hack for my lesson, I wonder if we JUMP today , Oh my goodness that jump I did last week was so BIG!!!” (It was a high ended cross rail but felt like flying over four feet to me). My whole bike ride was full of wonder and excitement and I just could NOT bike fast enough.
On my arrival at the stables, “The Reeders of Worlington”, I remembered that my first task was to secure the only pair of tall boots that were available for borrowing to students that didn’t have their own equipment. Well I had none. My first stop was the tack room to grab the boots and promptly stuff them with plastic bags I had already packed in my pockets just for this reason. Why would I do that, you ask? Well, the boots were about three sizes too big for me, but I wanted to look like all the other kids that came from well-to-do families and even owned their own horses…..oh, to dream of owning a horse, it could have been dead lame, blind, stood and never moved a muscle, be unrideable and bald, and I would have loved that horse with all my heart!
Now to find a helmet to borrow that would fit and not look like I was dragged through a hedge backwards and be all scuffed up. Once I found that, it would not leave my head until I was ready to bike home! The kids at the barn were pretty mean and bratty – they made fun of me often as I didn’t come from money and could only afford to ride once a week and I biked in and was not driven in. I was mocked for my boots, my helmet, the fact I was cleaning stalls and grooming and tacking horses for other people who would just be able to get on and go ride and hand off their horse when they were done. I never let that break my spirit and it never interfered with my love for horses and riding. All it did was solidify in my mind the following true statement that I uphold to this day!
STATEMENT….. WHEN, not IF but WHEN – I get my own stable, I will not allow bullies, snobs or trouble makers! In today’s terms they’re called Bullies, Divas and Drama Queens. Let me tell you, those standards are upheld at my farm to this day! Riding, and horses, and just being on my farm, are privileges and not rights.
To continue with my story, in the beginning lets visit a lesson I had that I will never forget! I tell my students this story to this day. It was lesson day and we were all tacked up and ready to go. Normally on good weather days we would be outside “hacking out” (going off property into the surrounding area). Today seemed different, special somehow, and then I realized what was happening. Oh….My ……Goodness….. we are galloping up “THE HILL!” In my mind, this hill was humungous, a massive hill that looked like a monster that if I did not go fast enough I would topple over backwards and my horse and I would tumble head over hooves downhill. I was TERRIFIED!!!!!! We were all lined up, ten of us in this lesson, one after the other, butt to nose, each horse nibbling the horse’s rump in front. I felt like I was riding a bucking bronco as they all had to be steadied to take their turn to face the hill and GOOOOOOO. My heart was pounding, my hands were so tight on the mane that I pulled the first handful completely out. I was weak with fear but the adrenalin kicked in and it’s MY TURN TO GO. Inside my head I am screaming, I turn my horses’ head to the hill and try to get a better feel of my feet and knees. I am not breathing, and my heart is coming out of my chest and then……… full gallop up the hill! All I could hear was the horse breathing every gallop stride and reaching with his front feet, pushing with his back feet until finally, we made it to the top of the hill. I exhale and see silver dots in front of my eyes, and with my whole body weak, I try to gain strength in my fingers, but I still can’t tell if they are attached to my hands. My trainer asked if everyone made it and my throat and mouth was so dry I couldn’t even squeak out a response. That day I learned that “heels down and grab mane” really was a life saver. At the end of the ride I was exhausted. My instructor came to me and told me that she had never seen
a person “giggle” like I did the entire run up the hill, and that I must have really had fun. Let me tell you, I was weak at the knees, I couldn’t feel my hands, my feet and ankles were pushed down so hard I should have snapped a tendon but I still to this day love, love, LOVE running up hills and doing hunter paces and cross country rides.
The values this stable gave to me in regards to doing everything myself, from grooming, tacking, bathing, tack cleaning and even hand grazing, I have passed on to all my students. It is actually required at my farm that you groom and tack your own horse. We of course will be there to supervise and help fit everything and give the education you need. Students must untack, dry out and re-groom the horses once their lesson is finished. Bits must be cleaned and everything put away once done. I truly believe in working for what you get in life. This value I feel has been overlooked a lot in the newer generations. But at my farm, well, I am old school.
Which brings me to the way that I now teach:
I hear these questions and scenarios often.
Question: “Miss Deborah, how high do I post on this horse? I have never ridden him before and I hear he is bouncier than my usual horse?”
My response: “Just sit your trot with a light
contact my lovely, and see how high he pops
you out of the saddle. Then use your lower leg
which means your calf and ankle, and lightly wrap around him. Keep your chin up for balance of your upper body and travel forward with the horse.”
Question: “I am nervous to canter outside in the large arena, I am not familiar with this horse and I am scared he will take off with me and I won’t be able to control him, what can I do to feel more secure?”
My response: “First ask yourself what is this horse’s riding history and what type of a ride is he known for? With that in mind, sit your trot on a circle and ask the horse to transition a few times from the trot to the walk and back up to the slow sitting trot. Once you are comfortable with how your horse is listening to you then sit your trot and cue your horse into a canter on the same circle. Do five or six strides and come down into a steady posting trot and back to a sitting trot to slow the canter down again, then back from the sitting trot right in a canter on a circle again. Once you are comfortable on the circle, enlarge the area you are riding by riding half the arena and
eventually the whole arena. Transition up and down, always coming to a slow sitting trot before going back into a canter, remember – Slow trot equals slow canter.”
Question: “How do I know that my horse won’t drag or run me through fences if I have never done anything other than flat work with him before?”
My response: “Ask yourself, has this horse ever had his feet over a pole on the ground or taken a fence before? If you are not sure or the answer is no, then ask yourself what kind of horse you are riding – is he responsive, does he listen to the aids, are you working on him or are you working on yourself? If you are working on yourself then possibly work with a horse you are more familiar with so you don’t feel like you have to ride “on guard” and can focus on strengthening your riding skills. So let’s talk about this exercise and let’s get to know him! Start by simply walking over a pole. If this is nerve wracking to you, do it in hand on the ground first. Then, under saddle, walk the pole, then trot over the pole with a lightened seat over the pole. Once the horse shows no signs of stress or shows ‘Ease of go’ then two-point over the pole. Then we switch directions and do it the other way. Then we move into the canter in both directions a couple of times in two point position to see how the horse reacts. The key is to stay in rhythm and the same tempo each direction. The next stage is to use two rails, set at five strides, (60’) apart, and trot through first in two point, then canter through and accomplish five strides keeping your same rhythm and tempo. Now we test the horse’s adjustability by lengthening and shortening the strides through the rails. Canter through at six strides by slowing the tempo, stretching up and shortening the horse’s stride, then go again at five strides, then sit and push for four strides and go over again at five strides. Knowing your horses’ adjustability is of paramount importance especially through larger fences and grid work. Adjustability creates a trust between horse and rider and makes for a wonderful team effort.”
Thank you A.R.I.A for this amazing honor of being named Instructor of the Month for December 2017. What a way to end the year and celebrate my birthday month.
Earning certification through ARIA is not easy. I plan to go for my Level III certification soon, which is daunting and so very exciting – feels like I am going up “the hill” the entire time I study, but once I test and give it my all and once I get that certification, I’ll know I earned it and was graded and mentored by some of the best people in the business.
Thank you to Coeli Netsky for always being the best mentor and to ARIA for helping to make my dream a reality.
Deborah Lyons Greer
Suffolk Stables LLC
1418 Old Indian Mills Rd
Shamong, NJ 08088