Along the Kingwood Pike, nestled just out of view of passersby, sits a small stable and a corral. Children gathered there – accompanied by supervisors, of course – around 8:30 Monday morning to participate in Meadow Green Stables’ Beginner Horse Summer Camp.
Meadow Green Stables is offering six weeks of horse summer camps this year. Participants ride horses every day to learn the ins and outs of horseback riding. They also become equipped with a variety of other skills, including how to saddle a horse, how to care for a horse, safety, handling, first aid, stable and equipment management.
Young equestrians-in-training also get to experience some summertime fun not directly related to horses. They are treated to a pizza party at the end of each week, go for nature walks to a nearby creek, pick wild berries and engage in scavenger hunts.
Jennifer Pugh, owner of Meadow Green Stables, said the Beginner Horse Summer Camp has been a staple of the stables for over a decade now. The camp has seen success each year, according to the owner.
“We’ve never had a camp not fill,” she said.
Normally, camps fill up completely by early March. This year, however, not all spots were claimed until April.
Last March marked the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. But the pandemic didn’t stop Meadow Green Stables from operating its beginner camp, Pugh said. It only changed the way the camp operated.
“We minimized our numbers and redid a lot of our plan to keep the kids more separated and made some different hygiene adjustments to make things more accessible to the kids,” she said.
Some of those hygiene adjustments included the purchase of gallons of hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes and the development of stringent, daily, timed cleaning procedures. The crew at Meadow Green Stables also kept young camp participants outside more and in the barn less to facilitate proper social distancing measures.
Pugh said this year, they decided to keep a lot of the sterilization and safety features they added to their property and program last year. Things such as automatic hand soap and paper towel dispensers and keeping participants in smaller groups are examples of those remaining procedures.
“We implemented a lot of last year’s things because we actually liked how they worked out better with our plan and how our day unraveled,” she said.
To Pugh, the importance of having a horse camp strictly for children or beginners lies in allowing children access to new experiences they might otherwise not have the option to or might feel overwhelmed by if going into them while surrounded by a group of mixed ages.
“It’s really cool for those kids to build these friendships and bonds early on and grow together in this hobby. So, we enjoy that,” she said.
The biggest difference between a beginner’s horse camp and an adult training program is the pace – a beginner’s camp is much slower, according to Pugh. Beginners start out by learning basic terminology and the foundations of horseback riding safety.
She said children learn on their own time; some might pick up concepts faster than others. A child who finds it difficult to pick up a concept in the saddle might be able to grasp the ground concepts with ease.
“All kids are different, just like all people are different and all horses are different,” Pugh said.
One thing Pugh has learned through her time as a stable owner and horseback riding instructor is that children tend to become comfortable with horses faster than adults.
She said children listen well and have less opinion as to how the horseback riding should be done or even taught. Additionally, children lack a strong fear of horses that might prevent an adult from ever setting foot near one.
“Their fear isn’t there. Adults are like, ‘If I fall, this is going to hurt.’ And a kid’s like, ‘If I fall, it’s going to scare me,’” Pugh said.
While this year’s beginner camp is filled, Pugh said Meadow Green Stables hopes the program is something it will continue to do for a long time.
“I think it would make me really, really sad to have a really quiet summer at the barn,” she said.
Those interested in the Beginner Horse Summer Camp should contact Meadow Green Stables via its Facebook page or by calling 304-376-2966 to receive an application. Spots are reserved when paperwork and a $75 deposit are given to the stables. The total due for the camp is $350.