This post comes to you live and direct from Pony Camp.
It’s summer here in India, the schools are on holiday and where I ride is awash with pony campers. There have been week long camps running since March and they’ll continue till June.
Also, on FaceBook a friend posted that she would be taking her ex-racehorse to camp; a camp for 60 ex-racehorses. This is strictly grown up camp…with wine. I imagine the wine is for rider medicinal purposes after a day trying to convince your horse he is not reliving his racing glory days.
So I got all nostalgic about pony camp. When I was a teenager I was really lucky to attend pony camp twice. Once by myself and once with the chum with the ex-racer and the wine.
Camp was held at an equestrian centre in Hertfordshire. It was the East Herts branch of the pony club summer camp and somehow I got invited to attend. I was lent a super pony; a veteran pony club pony. Pony Club ponies are worth their weight in gold. Never mind Totilas the million dollar horse, a good pony club pony is worth that a dozen times over!
And I was lent a tent to sleep in…more about that later.
So camp is a rolling schedule of eating, riding, eating, stable duties, some educational stuff and seeing as the ratio of boys to girls is usually something like 1:10, there is also some snogging and a lot of romantic drama (not me! I was very well behaved) In fact, pony camp would be a great subject for a soap opera; daytime obviously! These are only kids!
Like anything, the first time try something you might not be suitably prepared as you don’t know what to expect. For example at my first camp I only took my riding boots; a long pair and a short pair. I thought that the short pair would be fine to walk around in when I wasn’t riding. No.
The tent. I think this was probably the first time I’d ever slept in a tent. There are things you don’t realise about tent living until you actually live in a tent. The ground is really hard. All your bony bits will feel like you’ve been pummelled by a washerwoman on a riverbed during the night. No one told me I should bring a mattress.
Damp. Even if it doesn’t rain you will create enough condensation inside the tent so that for the duration of your stay you will be slightly damp…and you will smell of mushrooms. When your tent is pitched in a field you will also have to contend with the dew in the morning and evening. The dew caused the front of my short boots to come unstuck from the soles…so I had to spend the week in my long riding boots. It’s quite difficult negotiating a shower when you’re wearing long leather boots.
Most of the other kids on camp stayed in their horse boxes or trailers. A few had the luxury of a caravan. You don’t realise that once it’s dark, there is no light in a tent and I didn’t have a torch. Did I mention I was unprepared? So I would sit in my tent and I would see light from the horse boxes and trailers, hear the laughter and imagine the illicit shandy drinking and snogging.
You must bring snacks. Even though there is a continuous stream of food supplied by the Pony Club mums, once you get back to your accommodation you always get a snack attack. You also get thirsty in the night and the thought of having to put on your long riding boots over your pyjamas to get a glass of water definitely makes you think twice…same for going to the loo.
I must have looked like crap because at one point the Pony Club Comissioner asked me if the countryside noises were keeping me awake…yeeeeah…something like that.
Second pony camp was MUCH better. Armed with hindsight and my friend Sarah who is obsessively organised we had horse box accommodation, in a prime spot overlooking the fields where our horses were. We had snacks, LOTS of snacks. I had my trainers; they still got a bit soggy but so much better than wearing long boots all day. It was great. We also won the team stable management competition. We might be city girls but bloody hell our tack and horses were spotless.
I took action.
I found an equestrian centre in India that I liked the look of; travelling to pony camp is always best. Pony camp at your own yard is not nearly enough fun plus you’re always wondering why you’re not down the road sleeping in your own bed.
I organised lessons and accommodation at the centre. Found and booked the appropriate flights. Booked the taxis to and from the airport. And so here I am, in Bangalore, at pony camp. I’m not riding ponies and and I’m not camping but THAT’S NOT THE POINT!
The yard is beautiful. There is a restaurant on site. I’m wearing shorts and flip flops. There is NO snogging…not that I can tell anyway! I have a lovely ensuite room overlooking one of the riding arenas. There are mango stealing macaques, tiny rabbits, two geese and over a hundred horses and ponies.
Sometimes in life if you want pony camp, you might just have to make your own.