Saving Grace Farm horse camp teaches riding and grooming skills
SALISBURY — The atmosphere at Saving Grace Farm on a recent Wednesday morning was a calming one.
The sound of horses trotting, the voices of little girls, the rustling of trees in the wind, and the scratchy noise of brushes rubbing horses.
Saving Grace Farm has five weeks of horse camp during the summer. Camps last Monday through Wednesday and are open to children ages 5 to 12.
Saving Grace is a nonprofit organization that offers therapeutic riding for veterans and those with special needs and disabilities. The summer camps supplement some of the farm’s funding.
When students are at horse camp, they are taught basic control and positions of English horseback riding, and each child gets about 45 minutes per day riding a horse. The farm has a ring for students to practice in, as well as a trail to ride on.
“We’ve heard of some camps where they don’t even let the kids to get on a horse. We want to give them the experience and the chance to practice what they are learning about the horses.” said Janna Griggs, executive director of Saving Grace Farm.
Griggs’ daughter Baylee mounted the largest horse at the camp, Kanuk, for a trail ride.
“You look like an ant on a watermelon,” said Griggs with a laugh.
At the recent camp, six girls were in attendance. They groomed the horses together, then split up into two groups, three girls going trail riding and the others going to make a craft with materials they had picked up on a nature walk. After about an hour, the groups switched places.
Saving Grace Farm had three horses for the girls to learn with during the week — Kanuk, Dakota, and Fiyero. Each horse has its own personality, and Griggs teaches the students about paying attention to mood changes and noticing what the horse needs. Griggs said she believes people can learn a lot from horses and their behavior.
“Whenever horses have a conflict, they deal with it quickly and then they go back to grazing. They are able to let things go, and I think that that’s something that we can all learn from.”
In addition to riding the horses, students at camp learn about the body parts of horses, groom horses, make crafts, take nature walks, and play games on the horses.
On Wednesday morning, the kids played Mother May I and also competed in a relay race on their horses, requiring them to use the skills they learned during the week to get their horses to stop and go on command.
Before the morning was over, the girls took a break from riding. They sat down for a snack of watermelon, played with kittens, and played in the sandbox.
“I’m sad that this is the last day of camp,” said student Alexis Pruett, as she shoveled sand in the sandbox.
When asked if she would come back next year, Pruett enthusiastically nodded her head. “I really want to.”
Student Megan Losey Sorge said she learned how to ride English style at camp, and she loved all the friends she has made.
“All of the people here are really nice. Everyone is my friend.” said Losey Sorge.
Saving Grace Farm had several trained volunteers helping out with the camp, some of them girls who have taken riding lessons at Saving Grace Farm and others who had heard about the farm and just wanted to help out.
One volunteer, Caroline Gimmel, said she cares about investing in the lives of the next generation of riders. Gimmel plans to become a certified horse therapist after high school and said she loves seeing the girls get excited when they connect with the horses.
“I ride competitively now, and it’s exciting to think that they might do that one day.”
Gimmel also mentioned how appreciative she is of Griggs, saying she works tirelessly for the farm, doing all she can to maintain it.
“I don’t see how she does it. Janna gets up early to feed the horses, is an amazing mom, does work for the camp, writes grants. She does so much.”
Griggs said horse camp aims to teach the kids about horses in a scheduled but relaxed atmosphere.
“We have a therapeutic atmosphere, even when we have camp,” said Griggs.
Griggs said horse camp is a great opportunity for kids to interact with horses, as well as learn more about them.
“We have a lot of fun,” said Griggs.
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