Monday, April 30, 2012

Upcoming Events

We will be hosting a CHA (Certified Horsemanship Association) Instructor Workshop and Certification in early June.  This is a fabulous way for all instructors to gain valuable knowledge, increase their professionalism and gain certification.  Insurance reductions are given for CHA certified instructors as one perk.  The biggest benefit is that each instructor will leave with a big tool box of teaching tips, as well as much more knowledge about how to keep our school horses robust and eager in their job.  Mitzi Summers will be the Lead Faculty for this certification. She is also doing a pre workshop to help all teachers gain confidence while improving skills to be able to eventually certify.

Our wonderful SpringFling Family Weekend is also about to happen. Look on our calendar for details but this is a fabulous get away weekend for all ages who love farms.  We will have yummie food, new baby chicks, horse drawn hay rides, trail rides, jumping lessons, therapeutic massage, carriage driving lessons, a bonfire, our famous mountain ride, and lots of time to enjoy springtime on the farm.  Come one, come all for a glorious weekend to enjoy your family and our farm family.  All levels of riders and drivers are welcome.

Finally, we are about to begin our summer camp season.  This glorious time of year finds us welcoming kids both from the local community, as well as the entire world.  With BarnYard Buddies, our Day Camp, and PonyFarm, our world-wide residential specialty riding camp, it is surely a paradise for farm and horse lovin’ kids. If you are ever driving by and want to see happy, growing, learning and successful kids, cherish their animals while they learn new skills, just drop in.  We love visitors. We can promise you a delightful scene.

Mostly, we hope you will drop by. The Touchstone gates are always open to people of all ages, hopes, dreams and abilities.  Together, with a tremendous board and advisors, generous donors, fabulous staff and wonderful horses, it is a place of magic.  Come share this magic with us!
Isabella (Boo) Martin, M.Ed.
Founder, forever
&. Director for a while longer only!!!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Pony Farm Summer Camp - What is the food like at camp?

You can look at a sample menu below, it does a better job of describing and detailing what we serve at camp all summer long. We have a terrific staff of about 5 ladies, who feed camp all summer long. They are healthy, tasty, and most importantly food kids will eat. The ladies serve 3 meals a day, snack, and dessert. They prepare the meals right in the lodge kitchen and the food is served buffet style.

If your child has a special diet or food allergies, please let us know on the camp forms. Another reason why those forms are important! We are happy to keep the special dietary items in the kitchen, where they can be stored properly and monitored.

We have seen the gamut when it comes to kids’ allergies and eating habits, from celiacs, vegetarians, vegans, and allergies to fruit and meat, to the semi-vegetarians who don’t eat poultry, beef or pork, "but bacon is okay."

We once had a returning camper who started off eating only Raman noodles and Hershey bars. I am proud to say we increased her diet by 100% to include strawberry yogurt and French fries. Our meals are kid-friendly, and there is always a vegetarian option. As a last resort, peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff (this is New England, after all) are always available.

Please send us your camp forms so that we can let the kitchen staff know about any special diets or allergies.

Becky Co - Camp Director

Sample Menu

Frittata and smoothies
Pancakes, Sausage, and fruit salad
Bagels, yogurt, granola, and bananas
Scrambled eggs, English Muffins,  cheese and sausage
Hash Browns, smoothies, hard boiled eggs
Waffles,  bacon, oatmeal and fruit salad
French Toast Sticks, sausage, yogurt and granola
Make your own sandwich day!
Chicken tenders, Vegan nuggets, and smile fries with oranges
Hot dogs or veggies dogs, coleslaw, chips

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup, veggie Sticks and ranch dressing
Mac and Cheese, Chicken Patties, and garden salad
Hamburgers or veggie burgers,
Baked beans and potato salad
Quesadilla, chips and salsa
Spaghetti with meat or veggie sauces, garlic bread, zucchini and summer squash
Dessert: Death by Chocolate

Baked potato bar and chili
Dessert: Vanilla Cake and Chocolate frosting

Make your own Tacos!
Dessert: Chocolate chip blondes
Chicken Pot Pie or Veggie Pot Pie, Garden Salad, fresh Bread
Dessert: Brownies

Lasagna (veggie or meat),  bread sticks, garden salad
Dessert: Peanut butter Squares
Turkey Dinner! Mashed potatoes, carrots, stuffing, bread.
Dessert: Peach Cobbler

Make your own pizza! Dessert: Ice-cream Sundays
My Little Ponies
Golden Gram Fish and String Cheese
Granola Bars
Rice Krispy Treats
Kettle Corn

Note: Cereal is an additional option at breakfast.  Peanut butter and Jelly or Peanut butter and Fluff are also available at lunch and dinner if the camper doesn’t like anything else that is being server.


Breakfast:  Milk and the Juice of the Day (OJ, Apple, Cranberry, Grape)

Lunch: Water

Snack: Water and the Bug Juice of the Day (Lemonade, orange, blue raspberry, fruit punch)

Dinner: Milk and Water

Vegetarians – There is always a vegetarian option at meals.  An estimate 25% of campers and staff are vegetarians or has vegetarian tendencies.

Snacks – We have snack every day at 4:15.  There is also fresh fruit available during the day.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Carriage Driving at Touchstone Farm

Carriage Driving at Touchstone Farm

We have just finished our first in a series of driving clinics. One of the new programs to emerge out of our Strategic and Marketing Planning weekends was to start a driving program. Our board, staff and customers have set their sights on building a driving learning center here at Touchstone. After much research, we feel that experienced drivers have many wonderful pleasure driving and competition options here in New England. However, we discovered that the driving community needs a venue for new drivers who wish to learn either with their own horse or with one of the TSF’s horses.
This past weekend was the start of announcing our intent to become a Carriage Driving Learning Center for drivers, young and old, beginners or experienced! We kicked off our new program with none other than John Greenall. We could not have had a better person to help encourage brand new, eager drivers, or to meet the needs of those who are gearing up for competition. With his sterling reputation, his gentle and respectful ways, and his great sense of humor, a blast was had by all from Thursday morning to late Saturday afternoon.  What a glorious treat it was to have him as our guest, and to be joined by so many other fellow horse & driving enthusiasts.  Everyone loved every minute of it, but none more than I!

Watch our website and calendar for more such Carriage Driving Opportunities.  Our next clinician is Marc Johnson. Again, he is superb in his field, bringing a wealth of experience to us. Again, we can offer new drivers the option of driving one of our turnouts with an experienced whip to ride along with you for your session. We also offer stabling and lodging for those who are bringing their own horses.  Please refer to the flyer on our driving section of the website.

We are also eager to let everyone know that Touchstone Farm will be offering two opportunities to receive a carriage driving certification.  First, we are honored to be hosting the PATH, International (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship…formerly NARHA) Therapeutic Driving Instructor Certification in September. Secondly, we will be hosting the new CAA (Carriage Association of America) Driver Proficiency Testing with Jerry Trapanio in October.  Both certifications have a workshop/clinic to help drivers prepare to succeed.  The clinic for the CAA Driver Proficiency Testing will be offered here at the in September with Muffy Seaton as the clinician.  We are thrilled to be eligible to offer these important events as we work toward establishing high standards for safety and competent driving at TSF.
Boo Martin

Friday, April 20, 2012

Dearest Pony Farmers and Families

Dearest Pony Farmers and Families,

            I have a big smile on my face as I write to you!  Camp is just around the corner and, WOW, I cannot wait to have all the fun begin with YOU! I feel like a little kid waiting for a big birthday party. Summer cannot get here soon enough for me!!!

            Things are really popping at the farm. Not only are the buds beautifully blooming but all the horses and ponies are shedding like mad. It is so fun to watch the birds swooping down to gather us the loose hair to build their nests. Nothing is wasted on a farm!  The grass is greening nicely despite the dry conditions and the little peeper frogs are doing their spring singing in the early morning and evening. It is simply great to be alive!

            We are so thrilled that the new ring fences are just about to be started.  The material is ordered and the work crews lined up to have glorious new rings for your arrival. I am sure you will immediately spot the difference.  Not only are they going to be straight and true, we will not have to take valuable camp time to paint them ever again! The new sand footing for all the rings, as well as the indoor arena, is being prepared to go in after the fences are finished.  What a delight for riders, drivers and horses alike to have just the right, rock free footing. Just yesterday, after weeks of research, we finalized all the paddock and field fencing.  This too is just about to be delivered and ready to be put up. Imagine this farm with all solid board fencing that matches. Miracles do indeed happen! We cannot wait for you to see the changes when you roll in to begin your Pony Farm adventure.

            All sorts of new horses and ponies are arriving weekly so we can get our wonderful lesson string of great mounts up to snuff for YOU.  We know that the equine partner is the most important ingredient of a “happy camper”.  With the right horse under you, the sky is the limit!  To honor our commitment to having a “horse of your own” experience, we start working weeks ahead of the start of camp to grow our herd of treasures from 20 to 60.  It is no mean feat to get that many great horses all under one roof but that is our goal that we will accomplish for YOU! Over the years, we have built so many lasting friendships with our colleagues in the horse industry that we are able to gather this many suitable, safe ponies and horses for the summer months.  We already have a number of great new additions and we are traveling all over NE to get more.  If you have someone you know who is going away for the summer or needs to sell their beloved horse, do mention us.  We can also take donation horses and give tax deductions.  Also, if you are looking to either do a school year lease with us or to buy a new horse for yourself, let us know. We love to play matchmaker for great kids and horses!!!

            We hope that you might like to join us for our upcoming SPRING FLING WEEKEND on Friday evening May 18th  to Sunday after lunch on May 20th You can come get a sneak preview of the new fences and rings, ride some of the new horses, and enjoy the arrival of spring at Touchstone Farm.  The Banty hens are laying their eggs for chicks and the seedlings will be sprouting for your arrival.  This is also a perfect way for a new camper and her family to really get a feel for the spirit of the farm.  We have found that coming to our spring family weekend chases away all homesickness during the summertime!  Families are welcome to bring little brothers or sisters, too. Grandparents can come at a 50% reduction in the rate.  We also welcome single moms and dads…in short, we want YOU no matter what your family configuration is!!!

            This Spring Fling Weekend is going to be extra special because of two things.  We are going to offer a hay ride, complete with hay, with Chunk and Charlie.  They are our two Welsh Cobs who adore driving.  We will do a terrific hay ride down the road with anyone who wishes to come along.  It is a special way for all ages to see the country side.  I would also love to offer a longer morning ride up the mountain on Sunday for those who want to see the woods and countryside surrounding our farm.  Folks must be able strong enough riders to be able to do this as the ride will move along more than our usual trail rides.  The ride is well worth it because of the spectacular woods and scenic views.  With my new found health, I have been out clearing trails so we can once again offer our guests and campers fabulous trail riding through the woods and down the country lanes. We think this is yet another feature that makes our farm unique!!!

Finally, as we gather our final staff team and make the final selection of brand new bunk beds, we want you to know that this, our 41st summer, is shaping up to be terrific.  We welcome any questions you have.  Just call the farm and ask for Becky. If she can’t answer it, she and I will find the answer for you.  We will be sending out invoices for this summer on May 1st. For any of you who have let us use your credit card for your deposit payment, we will again run your card.  If you all would rather use our secure on-line payment on our website, please feel free as it makes it so easy for you.  Remember that the payments are due by May 1st. 

            I hope you can feel the spirit of joy and eagerness as we approach our favorite time of year…summer camp and your arrival. All the staff and board of directors join me in wishing you well. We cannot wait until you arrive.  Hurry up and get here!!!

                                                                        Most enthusiastically,


Pony Farm Summer Camp - The Over-Under of Horse Matches

At Touchstone Farm, we have horses and ponies of all sizes. Some love to canter and jump. We have some whose favorite gait is “Whoa.” All of them love being ridden and cared for by our Pony Farm campers. Each camper not only rides but is also responsible for feeding, grooming, and – as Boo would say – “lovin’ on” her camp horse or pony.

For Pony Farm Summer Camp, we make the best and safest match between horse (or pony) and rider that we can.  A lot of parents ask about our process for horse matching, and it really is a great question. Here’s how it works.

Matching camper and horse begins with the information campers provide on their forms. (Yet another reason why getting those forms to us is so important.) We consider each camper’s riding experience, and even her size and weight when making the initial assignment. Parents sometimes come up to me and question their daughter’s horse match, even before she has even ridden or seen the horse! My response is often that we had only their daughter’s height and weight from their forms and no other info to work with. But that’s not the end of the story.

On Monday morning, campers have a trial ride on the horses they are assigned.  Our head riding instructors watch carefully for correct matches.  Based on their observations, input from the riding staff and from the campers, we confirm or change the horse matches.  If a camper is not happy with her match, she rides again in the afternoon to find her equine soul-mate.

On Tuesday morning, we double check that campers are in the appropriate riding groups for lessons. We wait until Tuesday because it is hard to make sure the campers are in the right riding groups if everyone isn’t yet on the right horse.  We also find that for the campers,  camp is a lot of physical activity, excitement and change they aren’t used to, especially right at the end of the school year.  We want to make sure the campers are  fresh when we are checking to see if they are in the correct riding group.

We strongly encourage  campers to let us know if she thinks her pony is too fast, too slow, or just plain isn’t pretty enough.  (I joke about the last part. Who could ever find a Pony Farm pony or horse anything less than adorable?)  Seriously, this is horseback riding camp, and we want every camper to be comfortable and happy with their mount.  That’s why we want to know if a camper isn’t happy with her assigned horse. I know that speaking up is a life skill that some adults find hard to do. So camper parents, please talk to your camper about speaking up for themselves before they come to camp.

Disclaimer:  We know that it is not mathematically possible to make everybody happy all the time, but we try really hard!  Sometimes in a less-than-ideal match, a camper and a horse or pony can learn a lot from each other.