|The awesome Baron|
Catherine Capers was heaven for me--a camp centered around horses, a mecca for horse-crazy girls who wanted to eat, breathe, and live with horses. I've never forgotten my first moment there as a camper when I realized I'd be caring for a horse every day for four weeks. Sgt. Pepper certainly taught me a thing or two; a seasoned camp horse who could be an ornery curmudgeon. From camper to C.I.T. (counselor-in-training) to counselor, I gained a wealth of knowledge at camp. Aside for all things equine, I learned to use a map and compass, build a fire, make doughboys, practice first aid (horse and human), and a plethora of silly songs.
It all started with my first breakfast ride as a camper when a Nellie, the trip counselor, woke me around 5:00 a.m. and asked,"Want to go for a breakfast ride?" Before the rest of camp arose, a selected dozen or so, retrieved their mounts from the pastures, saddled up, and rode off to meet a dropped-off breakfast, somewhere down the trail. Breakfast rides, supper rides, and my favorites, multi-day rides, filled my days. My first overnight was on a horse called Doc--a roman-nosed bay. That was the year we had a barn full of bay horses whose names began with D on loan from nearby Fort Drum.
|5 Day trip - campsite along the Mettawee at Aunt Eunice's|
When I became a counselor at CC, my role was horseback trip leader. I spent enough hours during the school year at Hollins College riding hunters and practicing ring work. Summers, I let down the stirrups and high-tailed it for the hills, spending my days leading kids on adventures in the Vermont countryside. I took out trips ranging from two to three days. Our supplies would be dropped off at each night's location; food, tent, personal gear, horse feed, hay, water buckets, brushes, blankets etc. By August, cool nights required blanketing since the horse we tied up at night.
My mentors, Nellie Higgins and Sally Shaw, showed me the ropes over the years. I accompanied them on many a trip as a C.I.T., learning the maps, the trails, the campsites, and meeting the landowners. I remember being in awe of Sally, taking off on a ride bareback, with only a halter on the Shaw family horse, Nutmeg. I think the only "must haves" were heeled boots and a helmet, back then, with or without a chin strap!
|Sally and the gang leaving camp|
|The honest soul, Spice|
|Lewis--my mount for 5 days|
We rode through some lovely land, although we did have to skirt a bull one day! I can still see the roads, trails, and maps etched in my memory. The local farmers allowed us to camp on their land providing we cleaned up, aka "leave-no-trace" camping.
|Above Rush Hollow--before we met the bull!|
|Early morning sun along Flower Brook|
Sally Shaw schooled him, and another riding counselor, rode him in the Combined Event. I don't think he was quite ready for the dressage ring. But he was a sweetie to care for....
|Newton attempting dressage|
So next week, when another kid regales me with camp tales, my mind will wander away to the hills of Vermont. I'll smell wood smoke, horse sweat, and hear the babble of a brook. The sun will beat down on a string of girls on their horses, trotting along the dirt roads of Middletown Springs. Then they will wave at each other as they round the hairpin turn, heading for home along Lake St. Catherine, a trip song on their lips to sing that night to their fellow campers. Oh to spend my summers in the saddle at camp once again.