Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Session 2 - Wednesday!

Dear Camp Families,

Thank you all for your kind words about Gruffy.  We truly appreciate it!  He was dearly loved as you can tell from Touchstone Farm and Pony Farm's Facebook Page.  To be honest, it was a hard day yesterday for the whole camp and farm community.  Today we are moving forward, because that is what Gruffy would have wanted us to do!
Anna, Sophie and Coco in their riding group this morning!

There are 8 campers at an away horse show over in New Ipswich, which is about a 30 minutes away.  The other 21 members of camp are girling the home front.  (Get it, girling instead of manning, because we are an all girls camp.)  We had our riding lessons this morning!  I saw a lot of games going on reinforce the skills that were taught including Simon Says and many smiling faces.  This afternoon we have the options of Vaulting, which will be an expanded version because of the away horse show. We get to spend a little bit more time doing it.  We will also be offering a Hacking (which is like a loose lesson format type of activity.  Campers get to pick a skill that they want to work on while riding and then do it!)  We will also be painting ponies!  Tonight we are playing Capture the Flag!

Lucy doing barn chores this morning!
Tomorrow,  the campers that didn't show, get the opportunity to do an all day drive with a picnic lunch!  There are over 15 campers signed up for this activity! We have not done  this activity in a few years so we are excited to be bringing it back!

On Saturday we will be doing a day of Gymkhana, which is games on horse back!  It is a fun day and campers will be competing for points for their Boy Band.  (I know it is a weird concept to do Battle of the Boy Bands at an all girls camp. Here is a link for an explanation of Battle of the Boy Bands!)  If you want to come see your camper this weekend then Saturday morning is your opportunity.  Please arrive around 10:00 am and anticipate staying  till 12:00 pm.  (We find that when we have structure in our day it is works the best for the campers and parents on visiting day.)  I don't anticipate many parents visiting because it is a holiday weekend and we have many returning families.  If you have questions or concerns in regards to this, please let me know.  I am more than happy to speak or email with you about it.

In no way shape or form am I trying to jump ahead in this session. Frankly I wish these campers could stay for the whole summer, but I wanted to make sure that I reminded you about pick up day info.  The info is listed below.
Sammy in her riding group this morning!

I could not be luckier to have the campers, camp families, and camp counselors that we have this year.  It is a true dream for a camp director.  Thank you all for your support and well wishes over the past 24 hours!

Wishing you Only the Best,

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Session 2 - Your daughters are rock stars!

Dear Camp Families,

Your children are rock stars!  There I said it!  Session 1 was amazing and one of the best ones we have had in many years, but session 2….you are blowing my socks off!  These girls are fun, kind, outgoing, amazing team players, and friends to their fellow campers!  They are everything you could dream of as a camp director.  For example, yesterday morning at 8:45 am the down stairs barn was RUNNING up the hill to the lodge, because they were done with barn chores already!  This is unheard of!  Down stairs barn is the largest barn and they are often the last ones up to the lodge. But yesterday they were the first ones and on the first day!  

Down stairs barn was RUNNING up the hill to the lodge.

After going through the barns yesterday around 12:15 I was headed back to the lodge and room Three  was already setting the lunch tables with no prompt from the counselors. I see the girls in the barns, with their roommates, and on their ponies (yes I do know that some of them are riding horses.  But I like to use pony and horse interchangeably and yes I know there is a difference.) and I am just blown away by them!

On Monday afternoon we did re-rides (there were only 5)!  We played slip and slide, made bracelets, and took Duncan, our mini donkey, Punch, and the goats, Kiwi and Bill, to the creek.  Last night everyone had ample time to shower while room one played tricks on their fellow campers by hiding each other in their suitcases and then trying to scare the older campers….oh room one.

When I reflect back to Sunday, I felt like it was a homecoming in more ways than one!  We had so many returning families! It was so nice to chat and catch up with you on what you have been up to over the past year!  And to my new families, either I had met you on tours,  through Mother Daughter Weekend, the Family Spring Fling weekend, or talked or emailed with you, it felt like we were old friends when I saw you.  We adore your children!

Becky Hawkes

Camp Director

The Passing of Gruffy

Dear Camp Families,

It is with a heavy heart I inform you of the passing of our beloved Clydesdale Gruffy.  Yesterday afternoon he Coliced.  We called in the vet to help him and to do what he could for the Gruffster.  The campers could see that the vet had come and that Kris was hand walking him in the Hacking Ring.  After dinner at the Community Meeting I let the campers know that the vet had come and given Gruffy medicine.  He was walking around peacefully with Kris and that we were hearing sounds coming from his stomach, which was a good sign.  It had now become a wait and see game.  I also told the campers that this is part of the territory that comes with loving animals and specifically horses.  Gruffy passed away last night while the campers were in bed.

This morning Kris informed the campers of Gruffy's passing and the campers were kept out of the barns for this reason.  After breakfast our day will returned to as normal as possible.  The structure of camp will certainly help your camper and the camp community grieve appropriately.  Your campers are surrounded by over 20 of the most loving, caring, and supportive staff you are going to find.  In addition we still have over 60 horses, ponies, goats, sheep, bunnies, rabbits, dogs, guinea pigs, minis, and one miniature donkey named Duncan that need their love and care.  They do say that animals are therapeutic. Unfortunately this is part of loving horses and is a hard thing to happen at any point in time, but especially hard when we have a camp full of girls who love horses.  We share your concern for you campers and we are doing everything we can to help them grieve.

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.

Sending my love,
Becky and the Whole Touchstone Family

More Than a Great Summer

More Than a Great Summer

Camp is for Life

This is a cross post from the Huffington Post.  (Spreading the love and benefits of camp!)

Camp Is For Life!

 06/01/2015 01:13 pm ET | Updated Jun 01, 2016
When we attended the American Camp Association’s Tri-State Conference this Spring, we went to many excellent, educational and inspiring seminars. One that was particularly intriguing, but told us something we have known for years, is that “Camp Creates Advantage.”
Dozens of camp professionals in the room nodded their heads when hearing that “over the last five years, a growing tidal wave of research makes it clear that there are a certain set of skills that predict for long-term success in life — and those are the skills being taught at summer camp.”
Of course at camp, there are opportunities for kids to make good friends, build confidence, independence, unplug and reconnect with nature. These are many of the reasons that parents initially consider camp for the summer. But what camp builds even better than school are the 21st century skills needed for success in today’s world. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills reports that academic institutions and employers are seeking candidates with skills like communication, collaboration, critical thinking, creativity, grit, self-control, optimism and leadership. Look no further than camp!
Which got us thinking about a bigger idea than camp creates advantage... camp is for life. Camp is the one place that prepares you for the real world, even though it may seemingly be nestled in the woods, tucked away from reality. At camp, you live in a bunk with a dozen campers and staff and you need to find common ground and learn how to get on the same page. You learn how to make decisions as a group and work (and live) with people who may be different than you. You learn to tackle challenges as a team, wait your turn, advocate for yourself, create magical skits and silly songs and look at the bright side of life (every day isn’t sunny and not every day is pizza day!). You learn how to hold back when things get heated and how to make people want to work and live along side of you. All of these skills get students ready for the independent college and post-grad years and gives them confidence and coping skills that they cannot get under their parents’ roof.
Why else is camp for life? Princeton’s Dean of Admissions was quoted in an article in the New York Times as saying, “If you have gone to a summer camp that you love, please return to it in the next few summers. Being a senior leader at camp or working as a counselor can be a rewarding, fulfilling and meaningful experience.” While we can appreciate all of the travel and educational opportunities that are offered to students outside of camp, camp nurtures high-quality people (a.k.a. “menches”) who will ultimately give back to their communities and make a difference in the world.
And what about staff? Being a counselor at camp gives you real-world skills and then some. Camp provides endless leadership opportunities including the art of persuasion (sometimes with a group of 8 year olds), communication (with senior staff and their peers), conflict/resolution, creativity and you learn how to win friends and influence people! Which is why we loved the recent MTV news article “Why I’m a Twentysomething Who Still Goes to Summer Camp“! We strongly recommend that camp is a prominent feature of a staff member’s resume and wrote a very popular blog called “How to Make Camp Counselor The Best Thing on Your Resume.“ Our former staff will certainly reiterate that camp helped them learn more about themselves than any internship or job and it helped shape the kind of employee they would become.
So, revisiting the idea that “camp creates advantage.” Did you go to summer camp? How do you think it made you into the person you are today? What leadership opportunities did you get that helped you achieve your academic and professional goals? What kind of networking opportunities did your camp family provide to help you succeed? If you had a positive experience at your camp like the ones our campers and staff have at Camp Towanda, we think you will unanimously agree that camp creates advantage and camp is for life. It isn’t just about getting better at a sport or roasting s’mores. It is about so much more. The benefit of camp is long lasting and goes well beyond the years you attend.
Did camp give you an advantage? Please share in the comments.
For additional reading about this topic:
How Children Succeed by Paul Tough
Teach Your Children Well by Madeline White
Homesick and Happy by Michael Thompson Phd.
The Camp Counselor vs. The Intern
The Argument We Must Learn To Make: Camp Creates Advantage
About Camp Towanda:
Camp Towanda is an independent, traditional, co-ed sleep-away camp in the Poconos in Pennsylvania. It is privately owned, operated and directed by Mitch and Stephanie Reiter. For over 90 years, Camp Towanda has continued to define what camp should really be. Our program offers state-of-the-art facilities, an excellent and professional athletic department, waterfront, extensive arts, drama and adventure programs, culinary cooking classes, and special events. We are highly regarded and respected as an industry leader and are involved in giving back to various organizations throughout the year. Camp Towanda is accredited by the American Camp Association and a member of the Camp-Alert-Network, Wayne County Camp Association, Camp Owners and Directors Association and the Pennsylvania Camp Association.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Meet the Staff Monday - Session 2

Hello wonderful camp families!

While your daughters are settling in at Pony Farm, we thought we'd share a bit about the awesome staff who they are just beginning to meet. Welcome to Meet the Staff Monday!
Becky Sanborn Hawkes – Pony Farm Camp Director
Becky is the Director of Pony Farm Summer Camp.  Becky got married this past Fall to her Mikey.  She enjoys coming to camp with her fur child, Gunner!  In Becky’s down time she enjoys teaching second grade in Wilton.  This will make Becky’s 17th year on the farm!  In her spare time she enjoys reading, swimming, cooking, and hiking!
I have a conviction that a few weeks spent in a well organized summer camp may be of more value educationally than a whole year of formal school work.
-Charles Elliot,  Former President of Harvard University

Camp Leaders

Diana Zoltko, BSN, RN, NCSN
This is my third year as the Pony Farm head nurse. I also work 3 nights a week with the girls by facilitating evening activities. I grew up in Central Maine but I currently live in Wilton, NH with my husband and four children. I have a sophomore in college, a junior in high school, a fourth grader, and a kindergartener! I love reading and board games. I am currently pursuing my Master in Nursing Education.

Hey Everyone! My name is Meg Rothnie and I'll be assisting Becky organizing and running camp this summer!  I started coming to Pony Farm when I was 7 years old and have been very close to the farm ever since (I'm 33 now)! I live in Charleston, South Carolina, but I'll be spending the whole summer at Pony Farm and living in the Homestead! I am in the process of becoming a PATH certified therapeutic riding instructor and I ride and show my horse "Sweet T" down south. My favorite pony at Pony Farm is Maggie, who I used to own when she (and I) were quite a bit younger! But all the horses and ponies are fantastic. I can't wait to meet you all and have a super duper summer!!

Senior Staff

Hi! My name is Eryn, I'm from Amherst, New Hampshire where I live with my older sister, Taylor, my mother, stepfather, my dog, Cooper, and my cat, Winston. I have been riding for thirteen years now. I also enjoy playing volleyball, going on hikes with Cooper, and teaching myself to play the piano. I am a sophomore at the University of New England for occupational therapy. This year I will be a second year senior staff member at Pony Farm! My favorite horse is Charlie and my favorite activity with the horses is to go swimming with them! I can't wait to see everyone again this summer!
Hi:) my name is Breana Lloyd and I eighteen years old. I have a fifteen year old brother and very supportive parents. I am from a small town in New Hampshire, called Rindge. I graduated this year from Conant Highschool and will be attending New England College in the Fall, as a pre-med major. I love working with kids and horses alike. My favorite horse on the farm is Merle, the mustang. This will be my first year as a member of the senior staff and I look forward to having a blast this summer with y'all.

Hi! My name is Jillian Campbell, campers usually call me JillI am from Wellesley, MA, and I just graduated from Dana Hall. For the past ten years, I have spent every summer at Pony Farm, both as a camper and as staff. This year I will be senior staff. My favorite pony is Sticky (she was the first horse I rode at camp!) I love to hike, play frisbee, and ski. I am super excited about this year at camp, and can’t wait for the summer to begin! 

My name is Lucy Anderson, and this summer will be my eighth year at Camp Pony Farm and first year as senior staff! I am a high school senior and live in the beautiful town of Shelburne, Vermont. I love to spend time training ponies, horse showing, teaching kids to ride, hiking, reading, and hanging out with friends and family! I can't wait to spend this summer having fun with the best staff, campers, and horses in the world!

Hi my name is Nora, I am from Boston, and I am so excited for camp this summer! This will be my 10th summer at Pony Farm, for the past three years I have been a CIT, and this year will be my first as Senior Staff! I have so many favorite horses and ponies at Pony Farm, but Blue will always hold a special place in my heart because I rode him when I was a camper. Some things that I do outside of horseback riding are playing lacrosse, working at the New England Aquarium, and playing guitar with my friends.

My name is Becky Ohman! This will be my eighth year at camp, and I’m a member of the Senior Staff. I’m obsessed with every horse on the farm, but our wild mustang Merle holds a special place in my heart. I’m from the suburbs of Boston, but I’m at college in DC right now. When I’m not riding, I love reading, exploring, spending time with my friends, and hanging out at the barn. I can’t wait for an unforgettable summer at my favorite place in the world!
Counselors in Training (CITS)

My name is Sophia and I am a 3rd year CIT. This summer will be my 5th year on the farm. I live on a small farm in Dover, MA with my horses, sheep, cats, rabbits, dog, and four siblings. When I am not riding, I like to ski race and run cross-country. I can’t wait to meet you all this summer!
My name is Katya, and Pony Farm is the highlight of my year every summer. This summer will be my ninth year coming to pony farm, and my first year as a CIT! I cannot wait, I'm really looking forward to meeting all of the amazing new campers, seeing my summer friends, and getting to know the new horses as well as seeing my favorites! Peaches was the first pony I rode at camp, and she holds a very dear spot in my heart. Chunk is my favorite because he is so sweet and has quite a personality! The horses at the farm are the sweetest ones I have met, and they make camp really special. I will be a junior in high school next year, and I live in Cambridge Massachusetts. Outside of camp, I volunteer at a therapeutic riding program every week, and dance almost every day. (I'm the one on the right!)

Hi, my name is Eliana Sonderling and I’m from Newton, MA. This will be my 2nd year as a CIT, but my 4th summer at Pony Farm. My favorite horse at Pony Farm is Charlie! In my family, I am one of five children and my sister, Aria, also attends Pony Farm. I have two dogs (Eden & Levi Wolf) and one hamster (Geoffrey). My hobby is Girl fit (a girls-only fitness class) and my favorite quotation is said by Hermione Granger in the Prisoner of Azkaban: "Is that really what my hair looks like from the back?”

Hi I am Jacqui! I have been on the farm for five years. I don’t usually choose favorite ponies or horses, but if I had to choose a favorite it would probably be Gretta! I am from Nantucket Island, which is thirty miles away from the mainland. This year I will be 1 st year CIT. I have one brother named Johnny, and he is 10 years old. I also have a hedgehog named Nutmeg, two dogs named Gus, and Charles, and my brother has a lizard named Rango.

I'm Laura and I'm from Arizona. This will be my fourth summer at Pony Farm and my first year as a counselor. I'm really looking forward to it. One of my favorite horses is Gruffy and my favorite pony is Annie. I also enjoy reading and playing the cello. As an only child, I love coming to camp to spend time with friends who I would consider sisters. 

Hi, I’m Lena! I've been coming to pony farm for 7 years, and will be a 3rd year CIT. I'm from Chestnut Hill, MA, have 2 younger sisters, and 2 dogs.

Hi! I’m Daphne Maniatis. This is my third year on the farm, I’m a first year CIT, and my favorite horse on the farm is Gruffy. I’m from Chevy Chase, Maryland, and I live with my parents and my dog, Penny Pickles. I (obviously) love horseback riding, but when I’m not at the barn, I enjoy reading, listening to music, and hanging out with my friends. I’m super exited to be spending part of my summer at Pony Farm, and I hope it’ll be the best year yet!

Hi my name is Rachel Wasilewski! I live in Newton, MA. I've been coming to Pony Farm for eight years and this will be my second year as a CIT. My favorite ponies on the farm are Duncan (even though he's not a pony he's a donkey) and Twilight. Some of my favorite activities to do during camp are personal scavenger hunt, swimming with the horses, and battle of the boy bands. When I'm not on the farm, you can find spending time with my horse Jameson, playing volleyball, or with my family/friends. Pony Farm is always the highlight of my year, and I hope it brings you as much joy as it brings me!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Opening Day - Session 2

Dear Camp Families,

Welcome to our 45th summer of Pony Farm! Thank you for choosing Pony Farm. We know that it is hard these days to trust people outside of our own immediate family circle, and we want to sincerely reassure you that we will take good care of your camper(s). We are committed to doing a super job for each and every camper. We have worked extremely hard to get everything ‘just so’ for her arrival and stay. We just wanted to reiterate to you how seriously we take our job of providing “safe FUN.”
Right now, your daughter is meeting our terrific staff, many of whom have been with us for years. The camp staff has received lots of training specific to how Pony Farm operates, and in other essential skills, such as first aid and emergency response. They work together as a team, each person having the right skills and commitment for his or her job.
We begin camp orientation with our important motto of “Taking good care of each other, our horses and the land”. We take all campers through the steps of barn safety, horse care, mail call, medicines, meal times and house capers. We have carefully designed each part of their day so that it is like a big, well run family with all sorts of caring adults to guide campers through each activity from dawn to dusk. The fun and joy of being together has begun!
Tonight, we will have dinner and then begin with some “Getting to Know You” games. An “All Farm Scavenger Hunt” helps everyone get to know her way around the farm. Next, we sing together some favorite camp songs (“Barges,” anyone?) to make everyone feel comfy and cozy!
Our Counselors-in-Training have prepared Vespers for tonight to help set the tone of respect, care and consideration. Vespers is a peaceful ending to the day which lets the kids slow down and prepare for bed. This is a circle of thanks and reflection on everything from horses, being together, and loving our family and friends. Sometimes the staff or children write poems while other times they bring special books and read passages. It is so beautiful with all their sweet smiling faces bathed in candlelight with our Vesper Log lighting the main room of the lodge.
Then we sing special camp songs and each room tiptoes off to bed. They get changed and brush their teeth, and then their Room Counselors come tuck them in bed. For the littler kids, counselors read or tell a bedtime story. It is a peaceful ending to a day filled with activity! Tomorrow morning they will wake up and catch their pony for morning chores. Following that, they will begin their riding and get sorted into just the right group and onto just the right mount. We take huge care to do this correctly.
Emails are the best way to be in touch with people at camp, whether it be your daughter or staff. You can e-mail your daughter at We check, print, and deliver any emails to your daughter’s mailbox every day. We are truly not by the phone because we are out with your kiddos….so do email. We are committed to checking e-mail before 11AM each day….and check once more before the evening is out.                                        
Becky’s email address:
Andi’s email (for horse related questions):

Just to remind you…Here is the phone call policy:  The office phone, 603-654-6308, is answered as much as is possible and the answering machine is checked regularly. You are welcome to call and leave a message for your child to call you back after the first week.
If there is an emergency at night, you can call Boo’s cell phone at 603-321-5255. Please reserve this for emergency use only. We are all only a phone call or an email away and like to work with parents to resolve any issues while they are small. Please look at our blog - and Facebook pages – Touchstone Farm and Pony Farm for camp updates!

We want to say again how pleased we are to have your child with us. Thank you for your confidence in us. We will do everything we can to make her stay fabulous. Rest assured that we will call if there is even one little question! Together, we will make this a fantastic time for her, creating memories she can take with her the rest of her life!

Becky Hawkes

Camp Directors of Pony Farm Summer Camp