Monday, August 20, 2012

She Eats Like a Horse

Roxy: "Hullo. Got anything to eat?"
To say that Roxy, my lesson horse at Touchstone Farm, is food motivated is only to scratch the surface of her deep passion for all things edible. Roxy dines on good quality grain and hay in quantities appropriate for her age and size. Even so, she never – I mean never – misses an opportunity to scarf down extra “noms.”

Roxy is impressively skilled at finding sources of snacks. When leading her, I’ve learned the hard way to watch for bales of hay, grain buckets intended other horses, and patches of green grass. But pulling leaves off a nearby tree? No, I didn’t see that coming.

In the lower barn, the smart money is on keeping Roxy to the middle of aisle. Otherwise, she sticks her head into every stall to see if there might be a little grain left unattended in a bucket. (I guess it’s the equine equivalent of double-checking the coin return in vending machines. It could pay off.) Even on cross-ties, she can snatch a mouthful of hay from passing barn staff just trying to do chores.

A big challenge of trail riding with Roxy is all the greenery along the roadsides. When I see this:

Roxy apparently sees this:

Roxy’s food escapades are legendary. Here are a few of them:
  • A few years ago, she got loose in the lower barn, worked her way into the grain room and feasted. She ate so much that staff needed to monitor her carefully for signs of laminitis. (Thankfully, it didn't develop.)
  • Last summer, she regularly defeated the electric fence around her paddock to roam the farm at night in search of edibles. (I had a part in one of these excursions – a story for another post.)
  • This summer, on a Pony Farm overnight camping trip, Roxy got loose during the night and ate the hay and grain intended for all the horses on the trip.
Fortunately, the new paddock fences put in this summer keep her secure at turnout, and her stall is now far away from the grain room. But Roxy’s determination to get at good eats is a challenge for the equine staff and her riders. We know, but Roxy alas does not, that she is too clever for her own good when it comes to finding food. Overeating could make her very sick.

Still, part of me admires Roxy’s ability to see potential dessert trays in the landscape of her world. I think of it as her personal take on the “Bloom where you’re planted” philosophy. In Roxy’s case, perhaps it’s “Eat the blooms where they’re planted.”

See you around the farm.

Kathy McDonald
Rider and Volunteer at Touchstone Farm

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hi Folks,

It is me again!  Twice in a week!  Crazy talk…I know!  Your children are so cute!  They are just so lovely.  This morning we practiced our specialties!  We will be doing carriage driving, Vaulting on our Clydesdale (Gruffy), Obstacle Courses, and Courses!  You are going to be impressed!  This afternoon there was a trial ride to Connolly’s, painting ponies, catch riding, and pony spa.  We were offering pool and small animals and slip and slide too today for afternoon activities, but no one took us up on the offer! I guess there was too many other great things to choose from!

Last night the weather was questionable and we had planned to go camping.  I know I told you how I was like a meteorologist yesterday, and boy I was I right.  About 3:00 am there was thunder and lighting, and boy was I glad we had ex-naiad the camping trip!  Instead, Boo told stories of her own and Bubba stories (Bubba is Boo’s mother).  We did a fire in the fire place and did s’mores inside.  Basically all the advantages of camping and not of the disadvantages!

Tomorrow we have lessons and swimming with the horses.  So in the morning half the group will swim with the horses and the other half will do lessons and in the afternoon we will flip flop!  During rest hour we will pack and write candle light!  As you can see we have busy days here!

On Saturday, if you could arrive at 10:00 am parents.  In the lodge we will have a list of who your camper is riding and where they are located along with the name of their riding instructor.  We ask that you put their things in the car as they get packed up to cut down on the number of people in the barns while campers are getting tacked up.  We find that we have fewer accidents this way.  Once you are at the lesson, the senior staff member will be able to talk to you about what you camper has been learning this week.  Around 11 the lesson will end and you will follow your camper to her specialty.

We can’t wait to see you all the day after next!

Co-Camp Director

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

It has been a busy summer and I have been so awful about blogging. I am SO sorry!  It is not that I haven’t had blog ideas or things to share, it is just well... I don’t know I have a laundry list of reasons the main one being ACA (American Camping Association).  This year was/is an accreditation year for our camp to become ACA accredited again..  There are over 290 standards; many with multiple sections to one standard.   The whole process has been quite time consuming as I am sure you can imagine.  The good news is that the whole process is over and we got like a 99%.   We won’t get our official score till November, but we missed a sentence to a standard that had to be written. So the 99% is my guess.  So that is what has been taking up my time and this other little thing called Pony Farm Summer Camp; which I am sure is what you really want to hear about anyway.

We have the cutest group of girls this session; they are also the youngest of the summer.  It is a nice way to end the summer with a group of great camper’s that love their ponies and horses.  We have all the right campers on the right mount.  The girls are getting along beautifully with their roommats.  It is just a nice group of girls.  We have had a busy so far and there are more things to come!  So far we have done lessons, swim tests, bareback riding, Bubba Stories, Ice - cream Trough, Fashion Show, Small Animals, Pony Dress Up, Gymkhana, Budweiser and more!

Tomorrow we are hoping the weather holds and we are able to go swimming with the horses!  Keep your fingers crossed for us!  I keep watching the different weather sites and apps, and feel like I could be a meteorologist.  We will keep keeping an eye on the radar and an eye on your children.

Till tomorrow!

Monday, August 13, 2012

All Ears

Some people think that horses are expressionless and therefore must not have much personality. I think these unfortunate souls must not spend time around horses. Horses are incredibly expressive. You just need to know where to look.

True, as prey animals with wide-set eyes, horses can’t express themselves with eye contact in the same way that dogs and cats can, though their gaze can tell you a lot. I personally think that the ears are the window to a horse’s soul.

Roxy: "You rang?"
Even viewed from behind, Roxy’s ears have plenty to tell me when we ride. I can see by the positions of her ears whether she is attentive to me or something else, distracted, puzzled, or relaxed.

A case in point: At the end of my lesson this past Friday, I directed Roxy to walk down the center of the ring to meet our instructor, Denise Hopkins. Roxy loves Denise – so much so that Roxy would stop to pay a social call on Denise every time we pass her in the ring if I didn't insist otherwise.

Here’s what Roxy’s ears had to say in the few seconds it took us to head down the center line:

  • OK, I’m turning the way Kathy asked. [neutral ears drooping a bit to the sides]
  • Oh look – Denise is just ahead of us. [both ears forward]
  • Will Kathy let me visit Denise? [one ear turned back to me]
  • Hmm. So far Kathy isn’t directing me away from Denise. [ears forward and then back to me].
  • I’m getting closer to Denise. [both ears forward]
  • Is Kathy going to ask me to turn before I get there? [one ear back and then forward and then back]
  • She isn’t! She’s letting me visit Denise. [both ears forward]
  • Oh, Denise! Here I am!! [both ears forward and then relaxed out to the sides]
Roxy: "What have we here?"
Denise and I were shaking our heads and laughing as Roxy’s inner dialog broadcast itself through her rapidly moving ears. And Roxy got just what she hoped for – hugs and pats and an “I love you” from one of her favorite people.

Roxy expressionless? I think not.

See you around the farm.

Kathy McDonald
Rider and Volunteer at Touchstone Farm

Saturday, August 11, 2012

                                    Friday at lunch!!!

Dear Session 5 Moms and Dads, and any other PF farm family members,

            I am writing first and foremost to say a great big “SOOOO SORRY” that Becky and I have not written sooner.  I swear your children are dear and wonderful…and everyone is all smiles….We just plain got swept away with the accreditation process of the American Camping Association.  Our big day visit was yesterday and it took every extra minute to get it all done!!!

            Before I tell you about the visit and the results, let me say that you have lovely children.  They have come together nicely as a group.  We have some truly tiny ones and they have led the way of being terrific.  Our Room One and Two kids are amazing as several of them are only 6,7 and 8…Amazing children, all.  Up in Tree House, we have equally great kids who are just having a blast doing things together and being silly, happy go-lucky kids. All the troops in between are equally great.  I see” Roommies” doing funny bag skits, fashion shows, games and Treasure Hunts doing the evenings, while picking up their rooms for the big race to the Cleanest Room Finish Line for Connolly’s Ice Cream.  In short, it has been a sweet, nice, happy, cooperative and gentle group.  I love seeing each of the quiet ones come out of their shyness, only to be funny and silly. I do want to see kids being silly in this day and age of serious!  These kids have surely done this…

            I think you will be most pleased to see how well they are riding in the lesson groups.  We have had a lesson every morning and… wow, have I seen good concentration and focus.  The kids who could hardly steer are zooming around the ring as a group, while those who had barely started jumping can now do a course with some turns…Meanwhile, the more experienced ones are doing in and outs with two strides on the third jump.  I hope you will like what you see tomorrow.

            Speaking of tomorrow, we hope you will arrive right at 10AM. We promise to have everyone packed with suitcases ready to load up if they are leaving.  For those staying, they too will be ready…AND, for those staying, PLEASE do not feel like you have to come to see the Parents’ Riding Exhibition.  We will love them in your stead and then they can strut their stuff for you next week at your exhibition. Andi and I are planning on taking the kids who are staying over to a fun fair in our local town so they will have plenty to do.  They will have a special dinner and a good relaxing movie. The next day they will get to sleep in and then have Brunch and get to have a carriage ride with me with a pair of ponies.  Following that, we will greet the last group of campers for 2012. Where has the summer flown…OMG, as the kids say…I am so sorry to see it all end for the summer.  I love camp the best of all the year.

            Now, for what they have done this week.  Sadly, we have had two strikes against us…First, the weather has not been our friend. We had a couple of nice days in the beginning of the week and then we have had weather reports of thunderstorms throughout the rest of the week.  Thunder and lightening are not friendly to kids on ponies out on the trail, so sadly we were not able to do this together.  We had them ride and ride lots, but not out a mile or two from the farm. They stuck close by and did Driving, Vaulting, Pony Dress Up, Pair Jumping, Catch Riding, Bareback, Treasure Hunts and Jumping Courses.  When they were not on their ponies, they painted rocks with ponies on them in arts and crafts, made bracelets with their ponies’ names on them, learned about them, or just hugged & petted them.  In short, this really is a camp for kids who love horses, pure & simple. They sure seemed to love it all.

            Just to be fair, we did several non-horsey things…All group swims and lots of singing, complete with one guitar played by a camper.  We also had our lovely evening Vespers where each room read poems, or stories, or adlibbed a version of why I love my pony.  It is all so sweet to see how grateful the kids are and how much they love to talk about their time here. Combine this with rest hour and gentle good night stories, it makes a pretty dear picture!

            However….This group’s finest moment was in preparing for the ACA visit…Man, did they knock my socks off. You would have been so proud…But I should not start here.  Let me start at the beginning.

            Every three years as part of the summer camp community of the American Camping Association, each camp is asked to voluntarily submit to a process to become accredited with a site visit.  Prior to this visit, members of the camp management must attend a training session for a day and learn how to prepare for the visit. Once this is done, the team of the camp must take each section of the Accreditation book and start in on preparing the standards laid out in the various parts of any camp. Sections include everything from food prep, to refrigeration, to nursing staff and medication dispensing, to programming and free choice, to transportation, to insurance and worker’s comp, to job descriptions, to staff training, to ethics and integrity, to camper forms and evaluations, to bunk beds and car first aid kits and electrical outlets, and dumpsters, and camp fires at camping trips, to teaching the kids things, to diversity…..the list simply goes on and on. 

            We had 297 standards to which we had to comply.  Many of the sections had multiple sections.  Many of the standards needed written documentation of our policies and practices.  We needed a score of 80% or better to become ACA accredited.  We were shooting for a 100% score.  While I knew this was ‘shooting the moon’, I also wanted the triple play. We had previously gotten 100% for our Horse Power program for therapeutic riding and a 100% for the regular riding program through the respective national associations. I wanted to get 100% on ACA too so we could win the Trifecta!!!! So, with much ado about a lot, we mushed forth for the last 6 months to get ready.

            Thursday was the day that everything had to be organized and ready…with the farm in tip top shape…and every kid lined up, blade of grass clipped and flake of hay swept…To the credit of Becky, who led the charge, to the staff who wrote and thought and planned, the kids who worked to make the farm sparkly…it got done. When I walked the barns and offices, tack rooms and riding rings on Thursday morning, it was a true beauty to behold.  I felt like the general making his rounds…There was not a wrinkle out of place or a cobweb to be seen.  It was amazing and dazzling. The amount of care and love and pride that this group took in being the ones to present the farm was just amazing. I was touched and teary.

            By 8AM sharp, all was in place and the troops dressed to do their best.  When the accreditation visitors arrived, you would not believe the welcome the kids and staff gave them.  From beginning to end, your children served as ambassadors of Pony Farm. We had room guides, lunch guides, info guides and general beautiful kids, through and through.  The visitors were dazzled.  Following the introductions, we had Community Meeting and the lessons for the day were laid out and the Afternoon Activities were explained. The visitors were part of this and enjoyed seeing the kids eager to get to their morning rides.  We then saw all the rooms, the Infirmary, the Kitchen and Food Storage areas, as well as Recycling and the Business offices. While the kids tacked up, we looked at the gas/flammable storage areas, the workshops and Pool safety equipment.  Then, we went to see each group ride and work on learning new skills. I was a proud “Camp Momma”.  Wow, did they shine, as did all the barns. It was pretty darned amazing.

            We then had lunch all together and each group of kids had a lunch table hostess with friends.  They were alone with the visitors and were interviewed.  The staff joined in…As the kids went to their Rest Hour and Afternoon Activities, four of us went up to my Dining Room Table to do the paperwork, which we will display for your tomorrow.  It is simply inspiring and daunting.

            They went over every single page of nearly 1,000 pages of work, all carefully typed and detailed. It took from 1PM to 6:30PM to do this process.  As they say, “No stone was left unturned.”  We read and reviewed and hashed out every procedure and thought we ever had.

            By 6:30PM, we were all crossed eyed but happy.  WE had done the whole thing.

            The joyous results are that your children attend an ACA Accredited camp which has a 99.9% rating….We missed a 100% by one simple sentence.  We missed one section of one question that we did not think even applied to us…So, Moms and Dads, we are proud to our toes.  Like in the Olympics, on the Gymnastics Team no one gets a perfect 10 on each of the floor exercises, the balance beam, the rings and the parallel bars, we got 10s on everything except one small detail. We will now be accredited with the ACA for the next three years.

            Your dear children were part of this experience of joyous success.  We are grateful to them for doing such a superior job of helping present what we do so beautifully…and so well.  I am proud of our staff beyond all words that they do such a superior job. A score of 99.9% is unheard of…and we got that!!!

            So, as I write this, I am about to fall asleep in my soup, I am a happy camper…along with the rest of the community. We are proud to tell you this and will be equally proud to have you watch the festivities tomorrow. Let’s hope it does not rain.

            See you soon and with a big smile, Boo

Monday, August 6, 2012

Izzy the Trusty

Last week while Roxy was camping on the trail with the Pony Farm campers, I got to ride another Touchstone Farm lesson horse, Izzy.

Curious Izzy in his shaggy
winter coat
Boo refers to Roxy, Annie, and the other longtime mainstays of the farm as “the old trusties.” Izzy joined the farm only this Spring, but he is well on his way to becoming a trusty. He works in both Horse Power and the Touchstone Farm riding lesson program. He's curious about his world, and inclined to give people and other horses the benefit of the doubt.

Izzy’s Thoroughbred heritage was immediately apparent as we prepared to ride. For starters, he is so tall that I couldn’t use the two-step mounting block in the indoor ring where we ride. We had to make a quick detour to the stairs outside the Tag ring so that I could climb aboard.

Though Roxy is my pony of choice, it’s really interesting, and illuminating, to test out my riding chops on a different horse. For the most part, my chops held up pretty well. I was particularly pleased to see how nimbly Izzy stepped to the right or the left when I gave him the cue for a leg yield. Getting Roxy to step sideways is a lot like nudging a Jersey barrier.

Roxy: "Whoa is overrated."
Izzy’s walk has a wonderful relaxed swing to it. With his long body and legs, he covers a lot of ground quickly. His expansive walk felt very different from Roxy’s straight-ahead, no frills gait.

Izzy is also very good at whoa, a cue Roxy sometimes thinks is optional. On the other hand, Roxy moves easily from walk to trot upon request, and I could not get Izzy into a trot. Just couldn’t do it. I think he and I need more practice with our upward transitions.

Despite the lack of trotting, Izzy was fun to ride. We rode until a group of campers and their horses came down to the indoor for their morning lesson. They were treated to the sight of me dismounting from tall Izzy. I did this with much grace – until I swung my right leg off and caught my half-chap on the extra-high cantle of his saddle. I could neither get back on nor swing my leg higher to clear the cantle. With as much control as I could muster, I slid/fell the long way down to the ground.

I wasn’t hurt, though I was fairly mortified. I suspect the campers enjoyed seeing a grown-up make such an embarrassing dismount.

Izzy’s reaction was the best, though. He stood still through the whole awkward dismount. He then turned his big head and looked down at me in quiet puzzlement. His question was so clear: “Why did you want to get off like THAT?”

A trusty for sure.

See you around the farm.

Kathy McDonald
Rider and Volunteer at Touchstone Farm

Friday, August 3, 2012

Friday August 3rd,

Dear Moms and Dads, and PF Farm Family,

            It is with sadness that I wake up this morning as it is the last full day with your TREASURES….I hate the thought of them leaving. I swear they could just stay on and on.  They continue to be so great.  What a fabulous session we have had.

            Picking up where I left off yesterday, we had the Hawk Demo on Wednesday night. What an experience that was.  The girls had seen it the week before and loved it. I had missed it as it was the same night I had the stomach bug.  However, I was there in the front row and just dazzled this time around.  They brought their favorite owl, Petie.  He is a Barn Owl and big & beautiful.  He even called for us. They also brought a little Screech Owl who had been injured by hitting a window in someone’s home.  His sight was ruined as one eye was badly damaged.  He also sustained a head injury, making him unable to fly or feed himself.  He is going to a local college this fall to be used to train biologists how to rehab raptors.  The last owl that they brought was a young Barn Owl.  This wee one arrived in starvation mode.  With some good food and some time to recoup, they are hoping he will be able to make it in the wild.  To our delight, they let Lisa, our youngest camper of 8 years old, take him on her arm and gently release him.  We all watched in wonder as he looked at us with his big eyes.  What an honor.

            The teenage girls who were preparing to take their Raptor Exam to be able to catch, keep and hunt hawks once again got to present to the camp community all about hawks and their lure.  With fabulous information given, we were then able to watch two of my former lesson students do a live demo of falconry on their beautiful black horses.  These 13 and 15 year old girls completely impressed us as they walked and trotted with beautiful matching Red Tailed Hawks on their gloved arm.  Their horses did not flinch a muscle as the birds flapped and squawked.  It was truly dazzling to watch these girls, hawks and horses work together with the horses in rope halters, none the less.  Truly amazing!

            The evening ended on a high note when all of us got to hold the owls or hawks on gloved arms.  What an experience. It was truly moving as it was one of the only things that young girls and women in the old days could do.  They could learn to do falconry and ride to go out and hunt.  Imagine all the things we can do today that were forbidden to them in Medieval times.

            The next day dawned right and good as we all gathered prior to the Cheshire Fair to do our Specialties in preparation for your Parents’ Exhibition on Saturday.  The girls have chosen to do one of these things…Vault (Gymnastics on a moving horse) on Gruffy, who is 18.2 HH; Perform on the Hunter Derby Course; Show off the Gambler’s Choice Jumping Course; Strut their stuff on a regular jumping course; or Drive Carriages through a cones course.  We are excited to show you all of these things in addition to the regular narrated riding lessons.  We are proud of all that the girls have learned and can’t wait to show this off to you. Becky will follow up with more details of that.

            Following a fun morning, we all put horses away and started barn chores early as the bus was a’coming to take everyone to the famed Cheshire Fair.  With a yummy lunch and quick turn out, Rest Hour happened. Everyone got spiffed up and ready to go to the fair.  More to follow on that too!

            Today, we will get packing, neaten up our rooms, go swimming together and generally take an easier day as the fair ended really pretty late for the kids and staff.  After sleeping in, we will then again practice the Specialties to we can hopefully really impress you all!

            The day will end with one of my favorite camp evenings which is Candlelight.  Each girl will write something about her camp experience at Pony Farm.  She will also take a shower and get dressed up for a great special dinner.  Following dinner, we will light our favorite candles and have a big candle that we will pass around to light the readings.  Fresh flowers will be everywhere and we will sing our favorite songs.  With such beautiful girls and wonderful stories, this is our official wrap up of our experience.  I love this time together perhaps best of all!

            Tomorrow we will greet you with open arms even as we are sad to give you back your daughters.  They are truly a wonderful group of young women.  The world will be in good hands when they grow up.  Their generosity of spirit, grit, determination, loving hearts and hard working hands is just what our hurting world needs.  It has been a pleasure and a privilege to have them with us for this session. Thank you for sharing them.  See you tomorrow.

                                                                        All my best for a great day.

                                                                        Warmly, Boo

Thursday, August 2, 2012

                                                                                    Thursday Morn…of the Cheshire Fair!
Dearest Moms and Dads and PF Farm Community,
            We ALL continue to be dazzled and delighted by your children…At the expense of making a bold statement, I think this is my favorite camp session of 20 years.  Each and every girl is sweet, hardworking, loving, fun and funny.  We are having a blast…and sadly, that is why we have not written more blogs…It is because we are just doing so many things and having such fun. I truly hate to see this session come to a close.  You should all be most proud of the parenting job you are doing because you are creating fabulous young people who will take good care of our world. Thank you for sharing them with us!
            Sunday after the Jumper-Palooza’s fun, dawned kind of rainy. A perfect day to lay low and enjoy just being with each other and on the farm!  The kids all slept in late and had a blissfully peaceful morning.  Once everyone had woken up, the girls got to room cleaning and laundry organizing at a leisurely pace.  It was a lovely time of munching on cereal and biscuits while the cooks made brunch.
            The afternoon was the time to go to the pool as the weather cleared up a bit.  Letters were written, books read, much good friendship built, and crafts made.  I am also delighted as the girls each made me a beautiful birthday card.  I read them with tears in my eyes…..but enough of that!
            Mighty plans were made for various Talent Show Acts…What a line-up of talent was seen.  Becky and the staff reported a great night.  I missed it because I was celebrating my b-day with my own kids and returned Monday mid-afternoon, having bought the last harness to put our two beautiful black pony pairs together into a Four-in-Hand to drive a carriage.  This is a big bucket on my Bucket List and should come to be in early September once the harness arrives!!!  We all must have our Bucket List…What is on your’s and are you working toward it!!!???
            Monday was the much awaited day of swimming with the horses. We have a lovely new pond right down the road where we take the girls.  With our Life Guard in tow, we walk down with some of the girls riding bareback on the old trusties that are the swimming ones. This is a real camp highlight. There is even a rope swing to use while the girls are waiting their turn.
            Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the other half of the girls got a riding lesson as this week was pretty filled with specialties and things like the camping trip.  We figured that we should do some lessons in the meantime!  The afternoon saw the girls switching so everyone rode and got to swim with the horses. 
            During the swimming with the horses and lessons, Becky and some staff went to set up the tents for the Pony Camping Trip up the Mountain.  They did not want to start this process after the swimming and rush dinner.  30  girls signed up for the camping trip, so we had to do two nights of it.  Having this many girls and staff trying to cook dinner and swim in the mountain pool is just too hectic, even for me!  So, we decided that Becky would lead one night’s trip and I would lead the second, with good staff of course.
            So, after lessons and swimming with the horses, off Becky trooped to do the camping trip.  Armed with hot dogs, smores and breakfast, plus accoutrements for the horses, they made a merry site!  They had a blast and everyone camp home without one bug bite or stubbed toe.
For those that were staying over at the lodge, they made big plans about the upcoming Pony Farm Fashion Show…or PF’s Next Top Model.  Why they love this so is beyond me, who never had slightest desire to be a model, which I guess is a really good thing!  I think I am a much better Camp Director and Farmer than model!!!
            With gleeful times as they walked down the ‘runway’, they laughed and enjoyed good old clean fun.  After a lovely Vespers, complete with candles burning brightly, they all tiptoed off to slumber land….with them truly being quiet and asleep by 9:30!  These are full days and they are glad to hit their pillow and dream of the fun the next day.
            Tuesday was the Show Prep Day for the kids who were going to the Horse Show the next day, as well at the return at noon of the camping trip troopers.  The horse show kids were selected by each riding group teacher.  One person from each riding group was asked to go to the show.  The criteria was NOT who was the best rider on the fanciest horse…It was who was the most eager learner, hardest worker in the barn, most loving to their horse, and best team player over all.  Each staff person really got into this process and the kids were selected.  I was proud of Andi, our Trainer, who came up with this ‘out of the box’ way of doing horse shows.  She has gotten the PF spirit even after such a short time!
            With coaching, baths and tack cleaning for the horse show team of girls under way, others got to choose a variety of things to do with horses, like going to see the Budweiser Clydesdales, a trip to the falls, a Pony Spa Day and Catch Riding, which is when they ride other girls horses and try out the feel of a different horse.  Still others got ready to go on the camping trip up the mountain.  Off they went with horses and kids and sleeping bags, with the tents already set up.
            I was doing a staff meeting with the year around staff so I got to the camping scene about 5PM. It was the most pitiful thing I have seen in a long time.  They had dutifully followed camp procedure by returning the horses as they heard some distant thunder.  They did not want the kids to swim because the pool was too shallow due to the draught.  And, worst of all, one of our maintenance men had said that the state had just announced a statewide ban on all fires due to the lack of rain….So, there they sat for the evening with no fire, no horses, no swimming and PB and Fluff sandwiches.
            I could not bear the sight.  I immediately announced that we were going to ‘camp’ at my house. You have never seen a group fall on an idea so happily. We all trooped to my home above the hill at camp….with food, kids and stuff.  We built a small fire in my deep firepit, with no threat of starting a woods fire, for sure. We used my grill for the hotdogs and roasted S’mores o’plenty.  They jumped in and out of my hot tub…now a cold tub for the summer and rowed in my boat on the pond in front of my house.  With the entire living room filled with 18 children, we had a blast with me telling stories of the farm and its history, horses and people.  They listened with rapture and I did regale them.  I got even more convinced that I want to write children’s books about the farm in my old age.  They seem to love the gory and glory stories equally.  I don’t know who had more fun, the kids and staff or me…I think it was me!
            The next day I heard the trailers go by to the show as the girls slumbered on.  Once they woke up, we cooked a huge breakfast, with everyone helping…By 9:15, they were loaded and ready to return to camp without a trace of having been there…See, this is yet another testament to how great your girls are!  My tenants hardly knew they were there.
            As the kids rode in the show, the rest of the troopers divided into two teams for Gymkhana games and playing with the Farm Animals, in preparation for my Mom’s Nursing Home visit with her ‘buds’.  A happy morning was passed by all and everyone was ready for lunch.
            So many kids volunteered to help me with the Nursing Home visit that I was a little overwhelmed. 20 kids later, we had the minis, the sheep, the goat and donkey, all four rabbits and two children harnessed, clean and ready in the indoor arena for the van’s arrival. We chose to do it in the indoor as rain was predicted.  We greeted 10 residents and five staff from the nursing home.  With bunnies in baskets, chickens on leases and the rest in halters, the people got to meet all the girls and animals in safety.  Much wonderful interaction happened. The girls then did an Obstacle Course with the animals, followed by an Ice Cream Party with Lemonade.
            As the residents, mostly in wheelchairs, got loaded up in the van, the girls and I ran back to the gardens by the barn and picked flowers. We made 20 bouquets for the residents and the other people who were too old to come.  As each girl gave the old people their bouquet, I just stood there with tears in my eyes. What a lovely site this was…So much joy and happiness in one place. It is hard to believe!
            As my treat to the girls for their generous spirit, we hooked up our new Hay Ride Pair of Haflingers…Magic Mike and Beautiful Ben…and put them to our new Hay Wagon…With the lemonade to refresh us, we had a lovely afternoon hay ride.  What a great addition to the farm to be able to take 12 people all at once down the road.
            Then, with barn chores complete and dinner in our bellies, we were treated to a most spectacular Hawk Show….I want to tell you more about this but the girls are ready for me at the barn, ready to drive again this AM….I love it all…The hawks are too fabulous to shortchange by being in a rush…so I will tell you more tomorrow about this and the Cheshire Fair.
            Until then, please know how fabulous your kids are.  I love them dearly and am so honored that you sent them to our Beloved Pony Farm!!!!!
            Have a great day and know that all is well here.  Most fondly, Boo