TAMPA – Discovering dreams is what the summer camp at Avalon Stables is all about.
While many places offer summer camps, Avalon is one of the few where children can form a lifelong personal relationship with a horse. It’s a special place where the kids not only learn to ride, they learn how to train, play games, and show off for their parents at the end of the week, or weeks, since many of the kids sign up for multiple camps.
After Avalon hosts its annual Advanced Camp Week, which ends with its Summer Fun Show on June 12 – 14, seven weekly camps are offered. They are not sitting around watching videos, even when it rains. The whole camp is hands-on and there’s no wasted time.
Lonna Glover, Avalon’s head instructor, said that the children like it that way.
“We go at it all day except for lunch and even then the kids want to get back out with the horses,” she said. “When the day is done, they don’t want to leave. It’s a great experience.”
On the first day of camp, the kids get a tour of the barn and are assigned a horse. The relationship between horse and camper is almost immediate. During the walking tour, the questions came quickly and Glover said the kids have many interesting observations, especially when they meet their horse. They quickly learn everything from grooming to tacking, and often ride the first day.
“They get to brush the horses and form a bond with them,” Glover said. “It’s really special. By the end of the week, the kids can do everything on their own. They walk them, tack them, ride, and they become friends with the horses and always want to come back.”
At the end of the week, there is a show put on for parents and friends with ribbons and prizes awarded. If it rains, no problem. There is a covered show area so each camper gets a chance to perform. Kids are often paired up with older kids who have been through the camp before.
There are also group rides around the vast farm. At first the kids stay close to the barn but as the week goes on, there are trail rides and plenty of other opportunities to show off. After learning to mount and dismount, things advance to the next level.
“There is no free time,” Glover said. “The kids don’t want to just stand around. They want to learn and that’s why they keep coming back. They make friends and it’s a lot of fun. We try to give them a half-hour for lunch, but they just want to get back with their horses. They adopt them.”
There is more than just a lot of hard work. The campers get to play games with the horses, such as putting grooming supplies in their proper order in a race. The kids compete, but, by the end of the week, there is a bond that is formed not only between the kids and their horses, but also between the kids themselves.
For information on the Avalon Stables Summer Camp, call (813) 765-7162 or email [email protected]