I just got back from the first EVER Region 6 Youth Dressage Overnight Camp, held July 9-11 at Devonwood Equestrian Center. The camp was a huge success!! About 50 kids attended the camp and we had 6 instructors, plus many sponsors and volunteers who helped make the camp a success! Olsen's Tack Shop, F.I.T.S, Mid-Valley Chapter of ODS were just a few of the generous sponsors who made this camp possible.
The original concept behind the camp was to reconnect the "Old Riders" (former members of one of the Junior or Advanced Young Rider teams) with the up-and-coming "Young Riders". We have several younger (20s-30s) professional dressage trainers in the area who can provide experience and instruction to the younger generation. We mainly targeted younger teenagers, and I figured we would mostly get riders between training and second level.
We had a stellar cast of instructors, including Jeremy Steinberg, Jessica Rattner, Kelly Irving-Burris, Natalie Perry, Emma Dye, and myself. All the kids got 2 private lessons on Saturday and Sunday with their assigned instructor, and we had a group schooling session on Friday where several of the kids rode in front of their instructor.
In addition to the lessons/training, we concurrently held lectures. We had a lecture on braiding/grooming, one on goal setting, one on basic horse care with a veterinarian, and one on the training scale and test design. In addition, Friday night we had a demonstration and discussion of the FEI jog. Saturday night we had a great round table discussion with the instructors sharing their experiences with the Junior/Young Rider program.
Food was included in the cost of attending, as well as stabling and some other expenses. We kept the cost low to allow as many kids as possible to attend. The instructors all donated their time to participate as did all the wonderful volunteers! All the kids camped out on the lawn of the vendor area at Devonwood, under the stars! The weather was perfect for camping, although quite hot during the day.
The weekend was really great, as an instructor I was very impressed by how serious and studious the kids were. I honestly expected much more chaos and mayhem, with many teenage girls running screaming all over DevonWood property. Instead, they were disciplined, tidy, polite, listening, and really wanting to learn and change! I was also pleasantly impressed with some of the riders and horses, who were of much higher quality than I expected.
All in all, it was a great weekend. We got excellent feedback from the kids and the instructors for next year, so we can make next year's camp even better. I think this camp is a great way for up-and-coming young riders interested in dressage to find out more about the Jr/YR program, meet other like-minded kids, learn tons, and just have a good time!
A HUGE thanks goes out to Jessica Rattner, for almost single-handedly putting this camp on. I helped her quite a bit by doing many of the documents, lecture notes, coordinating instructors, etc, but she really did the vast majority of the work. I'm so glad we were able to make this camp happen this year!