Friday, May 25, 2012

Why Come to Pony Farm Camp Session One?
Session One is the perfect time to come to camp. Let me tell you why because, as you all know…I love talking about camp!

Session One features all the same benefits of being a Pony Farm camper as our other sessions:

  • Forming life-long friendships and memories 
  • Being unplugged for a whole week in the country
  • Gaining the experience of caring for your own pony or horse
  • Gaining independence and finding your voice
  • Learning to be an advocate for yourself
  • Hanging out with all girls (we’re like a big, all-girl family)
  • And then, there’s the #1 best thing in the world about Pony Farm Summer Camp: EVERYONE here loves horses!  Right away, you have something in common with everyone you meet at Pony Farm: campers, counselors, barn staff, EVERYONE. You know, and we know, how powerful that is.  The love a person has for horses is so strong it can change lives!

Session One has all that Pony Farm goodness, and it is a great time for first-time campers and younger campers to try out camp.  Less experienced riders often choose Session One as well. Are you a little nervous about being away from home? Session One is only a week, and anyone can do anything for a week.
Session One is low-key week on the farm, enjoying what the farm has to offer. Later sessions can be quite busy with horse shows, special events, Temple Games, fairs, and hunter derbies (not all at the same time, of course).  At Session One, the horses are fresh, the staff is fresh, the weather is cooler, and all things are new and highly organized!

Session One often attracts new campers for all of these reasons. If you join us for Session One, you will be among the many girls experiencing a new experience. Don’t miss out on a great opportunity!  Plus, can you think of a better way to start summer?  I can’t!
Convinced? Find out all the details here, or contact me. I’m happy to answer questions and help you sign up. You can reach me at or 603-654-6308.

PS: Can’t make it to Session One? We still have openings in our other sessions!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Pony Farm Summer Camp - Skittles in the Turkey

Pony Farm Summer Camp - Skittles in the Turkey

One of the Pony Farm camp rules is that campers have to open packages in front of staff in case family or friends have ignored the rule about sending candy or other food treats. Read on to understand why we have the no-candy rule …

Last summer, Sophie Shulman (CIT) and I were in the lodge greeting campers as they camp up from evening barn chores. One of our Tree House campers, who shall remain nameless, received a package from her parents. It was a stuffed-animal turkey! I was thinking that this was nice of her parents to send and maybe this camper had a fascination with turkeys. Sophie thought differently after touching the turkey. She became convinced there was candy inside.

Sophie got scissors and unstitched the poor turkey from its bottom. Sure enough, it was filled with Skittles. I was so impressed I let the camper keep the turkey and Skittles against my better judgment. Two days later, there were ants in the camper’s room, drawn there by the Skittles!

Not only does candy attract small critters, it can cause disagreements, misunderstandings, and hard feelings among the campers. In the end, we have candy wrappers and unhappy campers everywhere you look.

Now, because I’ve told this story, if there is an influx of packages with stuffed animals this summer, I won’t be so gullible. And if you are feeling badly that you can’t send sweets to your camper, DON’T worry! We have snack, dessert with dinner, campfires with s’mores, ice-cream troughs and more! Your camper won’t suffer from a lack of sweets!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Flight From Conversation

Photographs by Peter DaSilva and Byron Smith, for The New York Times
WE live in a technological universe in which we are always communicating. And yet we have sacrificed conversation for mere connection.

Related in Opinion

Peter DaSilva for The New York Times

Readers’ Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. At work executives text during board meetings. We text (and shop and go on Facebook) during classes and when we’re on dates. My students tell me about an important new skill: it involves maintaining eye contact with someone while you text someone else; it’s hard, but it can be done.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve studied technologies of mobile connection and talked to hundreds of people of all ages and circumstances about their plugged-in lives. I’ve learned that the little devices most of us carry around are so powerful that they change not only what we do, but also who we are.
We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being “alone together.” Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another, and also elsewhere, connected to wherever we want to be. We want to customize our lives. We want to move in and out of where we are because the thing we value most is control over where we focus our attention. We have gotten used to the idea of being in a tribe of one, loyal to our own party.
Our colleagues want to go to that board meeting but pay attention only to what interests them. To some this seems like a good idea, but we can end up hiding from one another, even as we are constantly connected to one another.
A businessman laments that he no longer has colleagues at work. He doesn’t stop by to talk; he doesn’t call. He says that he doesn’t want to interrupt them. He says they’re “too busy on their e-mail.” But then he pauses and corrects himself. “I’m not telling the truth. I’m the one who doesn’t want to be interrupted. I think I should. But I’d rather just do things on my BlackBerry.”
A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”
In today’s workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones. Walking through a college library or the campus of a high-tech start-up, one sees the same thing: we are together, but each of us is in our own bubble, furiously connected to keyboards and tiny touch screens. A senior partner at a Boston law firm describes a scene in his office. Young associates lay out their suite of technologies: laptops, iPods and multiple phones. And then they put their earphones on. “Big ones. Like pilots. They turn their desks into cockpits.” With the young lawyers in their cockpits, the office is quiet, a quiet that does not ask to be broken.
In the silence of connection, people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people — carefully kept at bay. We can’t get enough of one another if we can use technology to keep one another at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right. I think of it as a Goldilocks effect.
Texting and e-mail and posting let us present the self we want to be. This means we can edit. And if we wish to, we can delete. Or retouch: the voice, the flesh, the face, the body. Not too much, not too little — just right.
Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.
We are tempted to think that our little “sips” of online connection add up to a big gulp of real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook, all of these have their places — in politics, commerce, romance and friendship. But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.
Connecting in sips may work for gathering discrete bits of information or for saying, “I am thinking about you.” Or even for saying, “I love you.” But connecting in sips doesn’t work as well when it comes to understanding and knowing one another. In conversation we tend to one another. (The word itself is kinetic; it’s derived from words that mean to move, together.) We can attend to tone and nuance. In conversation, we are called upon to see things from another’s point of view.
FACE-TO-FACE conversation unfolds slowly. It teaches patience. When we communicate on our digital devices, we learn different habits. As we ramp up the volume and velocity of online connections, we start to expect faster answers. To get these, we ask one another simpler questions; we dumb down our communications, even on the most important matters. It is as though we have all put ourselves on cable news. Shakespeare might have said, “We are consum’d with that which we were nourish’d by.”
And we use conversation with others to learn to converse with ourselves. So our flight from conversation can mean diminished chances to learn skills of self-reflection. These days, social media continually asks us what’s “on our mind,” but we have little motivation to say something truly self-reflective. Self-reflection in conversation requires trust. It’s hard to do anything with 3,000 Facebook friends except connect.
As we get used to being shortchanged on conversation and to getting by with less, we seem almost willing to dispense with people altogether. Serious people muse about the future of computer programs as psychiatrists. A high school sophomore confides to me that he wishes he could talk to an artificial intelligence program instead of his dad about dating; he says the A.I. would have so much more in its database. Indeed, many people tell me they hope that as Siri, the digital assistant on Apple’s iPhone, becomes more advanced, “she” will be more and more like a best friend — one who will listen when others won’t.
During the years I have spent researching people and their relationships with technology, I have often heard the sentiment “No one is listening to me.” I believe this feeling helps explain why it is so appealing to have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed — each provides so many automatic listeners. And it helps explain why — against all reason — so many of us are willing to talk to machines that seem to care about us. Researchers around the world are busy inventing sociable robots, designed to be companions to the elderly, to children, to all of us.
One of the most haunting experiences during my research came when I brought one of these robots, designed in the shape of a baby seal, to an elder-care facility, and an older woman began to talk to it about the loss of her child. The robot seemed to be looking into her eyes. It seemed to be following the conversation. The woman was comforted.
And so many people found this amazing. Like the sophomore who wants advice about dating from artificial intelligence and those who look forward to computer psychiatry, this enthusiasm speaks to how much we have confused conversation with connection and collectively seem to have embraced a new kind of delusion that accepts the simulation of compassion as sufficient unto the day. And why would we want to talk about love and loss with a machine that has no experience of the arc of human life? Have we so lost confidence that we will be there for one another?
WE expect more from technology and less from one another and seem increasingly drawn to technologies that provide the illusion of companionship without the demands of relationship. Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies: that we will always be heard; that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and that we never have to be alone. Indeed our new devices have turned being alone into a problem that can be solved.
When people are alone, even for a few moments, they fidget and reach for a device. Here connection works like a symptom, not a cure, and our constant, reflexive impulse to connect shapes a new way of being.
Think of it as “I share, therefore I am.” We use technology to define ourselves by sharing our thoughts and feelings as we’re having them. We used to think, “I have a feeling; I want to make a call.” Now our impulse is, “I want to have a feeling; I need to send a text.”
So, in order to feel more, and to feel more like ourselves, we connect. But in our rush to connect, we flee from solitude, our ability to be separate and gather ourselves. Lacking the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people but don’t experience them as they are. It is as though we use them, need them as spare parts to support our increasingly fragile selves.
We think constant connection will make us feel less lonely. The opposite is true. If we are unable to be alone, we are far more likely to be lonely. If we don’t teach our children to be alone, they will know only how to be lonely.
I am a partisan for conversation. To make room for it, I see some first, deliberate steps. At home, we can create sacred spaces: the kitchen, the dining room. We can make our cars “device-free zones.” We can demonstrate the value of conversation to our children. And we can do the same thing at work. There we are so busy communicating that we often don’t have time to talk to one another about what really matters. Employees asked for casual Fridays; perhaps managers should introduce conversational Thursdays. Most of all, we need to remember — in between texts and e-mails and Facebook posts — to listen to one another, even to the boring bits, because it is often in unedited moments, moments in which we hesitate and stutter and go silent, that we reveal ourselves to one another.
I spend the summers at a cottage on Cape Cod, and for decades I walked the same dunes that Thoreau once walked. Not too long ago, people walked with their heads up, looking at the water, the sky, the sand and at one another, talking. Now they often walk with their heads down, typing. Even when they are with friends, partners, children, everyone is on their own devices.
So I say, look up, look at one another, and let’s start the conversation.
Sherry Turkle is a psychologist and professor at M.I.T. and the author, most recently, of “Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From Each Other.”

Pony Farm Summer Camp - Important Information about Camp Life

Important Information about Camp Life 

Our Dearest Pony Farmers,

We love and cherish you, but we have a few details about camp life you need to be aware of. In our 40 years of camp we have learned a thing or two about camp and these have been the results of those years. So here we go…

Candy: We ask that campers leave their candy and other edible treats at home. We have a snack every day that consists of a sweet goodie so no one will die from sugar withdrawal! If candy and sweets are sent to campers it will be taken and kept until campers leave. We have found over the years that candy in the rooms leads to bugs and arguments. We appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

Phone: Please keep in mind that it is an important part of the camp experience for your children to be on their own and have a feeling of independence. Having said that, we ask that you do not call during your child’s first week at camp (unless of course there is an emergency situation), and that you limit your calls to one a week after that and keep them short and sweet. Please be patient when calling, we are outside enjoying the weather and the ponies and are not always right next to the phone. Please leave a message and we or your child will call you as soon as we can. PLEASE do not send cell phones. Your child will have access to the farm phone. We need to know they are calling you or their friends to support them in any way needed. If you are uncomfortable with this arrangement, please let us know before your arrival.

Laptops: Please DO NOT bring laptops.

Lost and Found: When there are this many children in one place things tend to get lost despite our best efforts. Items like hard hats, boots and chaps all look alike so the better you mark your daughter’s belongings, the better chance we have at finding lost items. We make no guarantees on return of lost items.

Spending Money: While your kids are at camp they do not need any money*. We keep track of any incidental expenses and settle the bill at the end of the session. * If your child is coming to Session 4 you will need to leave some spending cash for the Cheshire Fair ($30— $40 is suggested.) We will collect this on opening day and give it to your camper the day of the fair.

Horse Shows: The horse shows are an added expense. If your child is coming to one of the sessions with a Touchstone Farm horse show, it will cost $75, horse show and hunter derby will be $100. This will also be included on your end of session bill. No one is required to show and there is no pressure to do so. The kids who choose not to compete have a blast helping and watching the fun. Just let us know if your child and you prefer not to show.

Medications: We have a nurse on staff who visits camp every day and a doctor on call at all times. We have basic over the counter medications (Advil, Benadryl, etc.) here at camp so you do not need to send these things with your daughter. If your child takes prescription medication, these will be collected on opening day and dispensed by the staff according to your doctor’s instructions. Sun block and bug repellant are a good idea.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What is it about kids and horses?

The two intertwine like the sunshine and flowers. They need each other. The kids learn and grow from the horses and the horses love the kids. I see this all the time while teaching my students.
In my many years of sharing my life with horses I have seen how horses can unfortuantely end up with people who are abusive and neglectful. Their souls broken and they learn to be mistrustful.

Now, usher in the children. Their smiles and soft voices. They enter the barn with such anticiaption and excitement, their little hearts beating a mile a minute.  Dragging with them their helmets, boots and the tote of grooming paraphernalia. The horses will stand all day while the children groom them. The children bring no baggage or emotions to the table. There are no bad vibes for the horses to pick up on. The air is clean and clear. There is only fun times and laughter floating around.

The kids brush them from head to tail. They being as little as 50 lbs and the horses being a 1000 lbs or more are quite a contrast. The kids feel small  compared to them but gain pounds of knowledge and confidence from being in their presence. The horses learn that not all people are mean and hard. They learn some are soft and kind. The feeling of sitting on top of these horses and ponies is scary but excilerating. To learn to communicate with such a big animal just using your body and voice is amazing. The positive affects on a child are endless. I have had so many parents come to me and say Suzie school work has improved so much since she has been with horses, or John's attitude is so much improved since he started taking lesson. I love to see the smiles appear when they are riding. The smiles are contagious. It is priceless. - Lisa Broullard

Monday, May 7, 2012

Things are hopping!

Dear Friends of Touchstone Farm, Home of Pony Farm and Horse Power,

What a treat it is for me to write this blog for our loyal followers, new and old.  As we offer more and more clinics and weekend workshops, our “Farm Family” grows and grows. The steady stream of folks who come through the farm gates are the very reason I love the farm so much.  I swear there are no strangers here at Touchstone!

Things sure are hopping.  As I walk around the farm, which I am joyful that I can do as my asthma truly is ‘in remission’; I just love seeing all the activity.  Yesterday alone, we had a Kindergarten field trip; a new volunteer who had the week off from work and came to lend his helping hand to fix up the farm; a team of driving enthusiasts who harnessed up our beloved Morgan mare, Annie, to take people who were wheelchair bound down the dirt road in a special wheelchair assessable vehicle; a wonderful rider who came during her school vacation to help us evaluate three new horses for our programs; a crew of Instructors in Training who are learning to teach students with challenges; and a group of advisors who are helping us select the right paddock and field fencing to keep our horses in and make the farm look beautiful. This is all in addition to the everyday lessons for little kids on up to talented adults who are learning to navigate a course of jumps with ease.  Watching our staff try out a beautiful new Clydesdale who comes from the Budweiser Farm in the mid-West, completed my day.  It is indeed a very happy and happening place here at Touchstone Farm!  I am proud to be part of the team who works so hard to make the farm a welcoming community for people and animals alike.

Every day at the farm, we have such great riding and driving lessons happening.  Our teaching team of instructors joins us with terrific expertise in their field. Whether it is a Natural Horsemanship training lesson, a jumping lesson, a beginning driving lesson, a therapeutic riding lesson, or a pleasant trail ride, we have a great teacher and horse for you. With the refurbishing of our riding arenas and ring footing, we can truly meet the needs of both horses and riders.  With the wonderful new trail system being created, we can also offer great trail riding for all levels.  With our dirt roads and driving arenas, we can keep folks safe while they learn well.  Together, we can truly enjoy the majesty of our equine partners.
Boo Martin

Friday, May 4, 2012

Dearest 2012 Camp Moms and Dads,
            We are delighted that you have chosen to send your wonderful daughters to Pony Farm. Thank you so much for entrusting them to us. We promise to do everything in our power to have them have the time of their lives while learning a lot and staying safe.  We pride ourselves in ‘safe fun’ and joyous times on a peaceful farm with loads of beautiful horses and ponies to help!
            I hope you can tell from the Pony Farm weekly updates, the Touchstone Farm Facebook and the Blog on our website that we are mighty excited about your arrival and our summer plans for you all!!!  As I begin my 41st summer of doing Pony Farm, I cannot remember a summer about which I was more excited.  I also can’t remember a time when we will better prepared for that first car to roll in the driveway. So many great things are being done before the start of camp that I feel certain you will be impressed with the beauty and efficiency of the farm itself.
Best of all, our staff team has been strongly committed to fully participating in their training to be top notch counselors, instructors, cooks and life guards. The new bunk beds are about to arrive.  The carpets for the bedrooms and the new kitchen floor are in the works.  The new ring fencing and footing starts this Monday.  Horses and ponies are being assessed by our team every single day.  We are thrilled with the caliber of mounts that we will be able to offer this year. The only thing that is hard right now is that camp is still nearly seven weeks away.  I wish it was all starting tomorrow!!!  Despite all the fun things we do during the rest of the year, camp is still my favorite.  I love being a part of the special haven that is created each summer.  Someone once remarked that I get to live life as it should be rather than as it is.  This is so true!!!
I wanted to once again say that Becky and I are eager to speak with you on the phone or via email if you have any last minute questions or nerves about camp.  Our goal is to have a seamless transition for your daughter between home, school and camp. The more that we know about any struggles she has had this past year, the better we can plan for her arrival. The right roommate, pony, counselor or strategy put in place ahead of time most always does ‘the trick’ in terms of making camp come alive for each kiddo.  Our entire goal is to have her time at camp be the highlight of her summer.  We also strive to have her create life-long friendships and a love of horses.  We truly believe that two way communication with YOU, our terrific camp Moms and Dads, helps make our mutual goals happen.  So, do not hesitate to be in touch. 
We also wanted to highlight an upcoming weekend called our SPRING FLINGFAMILY WEEKEND, beginning with dinner on Friday night May…and ending after lunch on Sunday, May….  This is a super opportunity for any families to get away together and enjoy all the terrific things that a farm can offer in the springtime.  It is a fun ‘early dose’ of Pony Farm for campers who already know and love camp.  Perhaps, best of all, it is a perfect introduction for a new camper and her family.  It is so good for a new girl to ease into camp with Mom or Dad by her side helping get to know the ropes and catch the spirit of Pony Farm. We have found that homesickness is practically unknown to a new camper who has been with us for a specialty weekend prior to her actual stay for camp.  We welcome families of any configuration…Whether a Dad wants a special time with his daughter, a couple wants to bring the whole gang, or a Mom wants a peaceful weekend with someone else doing the cooking and dishes, we are delighted to have YOU join us.  We also offer a discounted rate of 50% off for Grandparents.  We love so having three generations with us that we try to ‘sweeten the pot’ by giving a discount.
This Spring Fling Weekend is going to be especially fun.  We will be doing five brand new things amidst lots of time tested treats! First, we will be introducing our new riding trail system.  With the mountain laurel blooming and a trust steed beneath you, enjoy a beautiful ride through the glorious woodlands surrounding the farm.  Secondly, we will have a carriage ride with a pair of the “Southern Six”, as they are called. Wait until you go to Connolly’s for ice cream pulled by two sleek, shiny black Welsh Cobs. Thirdly, we will be offering a Vaulting experience (gymnastics on horseback) with our beautiful new Clydesdale called Gruffy.  He stands 18.2 hands high and is gentle as a lamb. Even the tallest of dads can experience riding him with a surcingle and even standing up on him!!!  Next, for the more experienced riders, we will be offering lessons on some of the brand new ponies and horses.  You can help us get them ready for camp and do some of the training with our team.  Finally, I am gleefully happy to be able to offer a longer morning ride up “the Mountain”.  This will be for our guests who can surely walk, trot and canter in good control. We will venture up through the beautiful mountain roads and high fields to a spot which overlooks Boston to one side and Mt. Washington to the other.
With yummie food, rocking chairs on the front porch, a little wine or Mint Julep using our own mint, a comfy bed and a roaring fire, this weekend should refresh and renew any spirit.  We do hope you will join us. We have a few more spots and would love to welcome you.
Until your arrival, please do keep track of the farm happenings via our Blog, website calendar and Facebook. We would love to have you and your daughter friend us on Facebook as we are growing our new Touchstone Facebook as we phase out the Pony Farm and Horse Power one. We want all of us to be under the Touchstone Family rather than run three separate Facebooks!!!  Having one website instead the three we formerly had, has proven to be far more effective as a communication tool. We are working on doing the same thing now with our Facebook effort.  I am especially delighted as we will soon be having a seasonal ENewsletter to share with our growing Farm Family! Technology combined with simple pleasures is the best combination of all. 
Stay well until we can welcome you with open arms.  We can’t wait until you roll in that driveway. We will be delighted to greet you.
                                                                        Isabella (Boo) Martin, Founder & Exec. Dir.
                                                                        On behalf of the staff and horses!!!

Pony Farm Summer Camp –Just Call Me Form Girl!

Camp parents, I am not sure how to break it to you, but you may think you are filling out more forms for your camper to come to riding camp than you will for college.

What’s with all the paperwork, you ask? We want your camper’s experience at Pony Farm Summer Camp to be safe, happy, and fun. To pull that off, we need a lot of information about your camper: emergency contacts, health information (such as allergies or medications), dietary needs, experience with horses and riding, right down to whether your camper is outgoing or shy.

We do use all the information we ask you for. For example, the completed forms help us make good roommate assignments for your camper. We use the forms to assign her to a horse or pony she’ll enjoy riding and to place her in a lesson group with others who have similar riding experience. Medical and dietary information help us ensure that she is healthy and safe during her camp experience.

And I love camp forms! I love organizing them, paper clipping them, making check marks in columns confirming I have your camper’s Covenant, Camper Release and so on. Finally, I highlight your camper’s name when I know I have everything I need from you.

The best part of camper forms is getting to know your camper before she arrives. The forms tell me about her likes and dislikes, what she wants to do at camp and what she doesn’t want to do at camp.

You can find them on the website, Happy writing!  Please send in your camper forms as soon as you can! We would like to receive them from you by June 1st.

-Becky Co-Camp Director

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Is It Pony Farm or Touchstone Farm?

 Is It Pony Farm or Touchstone Farm?

It has been well over a year since Pony Farm and Horse Power became Touchstone Farm. I often hear people telling me they don’t get it. If you are scratching your head and telling yourself you don’t get it, don’t feel silly. You aren’t alone -- sometimes, I still call the farm Pony Farm or PF for short. Let me explain it to you!

In the past, the farm had three separate operations: Horse Power, Pony Farm and Stepping Stone Lodge. The three had separate accounting books, employee manuals, tax returns, etc. All three used at least some of the same staff, horses, and facilities. Horse Power was a nonprofit but the other two were not. Three operations made things like accounting, payroll, taxes, and fundraising very complicated with a lot of duplicated (or triplicated!) effort.

Now, all three organizations operate as programs under one nonprofit "umbrella" named Touchstone Farm. In this new organization:
Pony Farm is the name of our residential summer riding camp.
Horse Power is the name of our therapeutic riding program, which also includes the Barn Buddies summer day camp and the Horse Power Instructor Training Program.
Stepping Stone Lodge still refers to the lodge.
Touchstone Farm is the name of the overall farm and of our riding and carriage driving programs.

Are you nodding your head and saying, "Yes! I get it?" I hope so. But if you still call us Pony Farm, it’s OK.