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Horse Mentorship Camp…Thumbs UP!

Eva is just now seven….and a huge horse fan. She has been on a horse’s back since she was 19 months old and feels as comfortable there as she does sitting on a swing. And though she has never gone to any sort of camp before…when a friend told me about the Silver Horse Healing Ranch….I thought perhaps this was the summer to let her have some camp time. My instincts were right.The ranch is nestled in the mountains of Topanga Canyon. There are several corrals in the midst of immense trees and lush wild brush. The horses who are cared for so lovingly here are all rescues…and the most relaxed horses I have ever seen.Diva and Laydee are large, gentle Percheron draft breeds. These were Eva’s favorites…They were rescued from their lives of misery, standing in stalls barely large enough to contain them, continually pregnant and tapped for their urine for the hormone replacement drug Premarin. (An acronym, I learned, for pregnant mare urine.)The ranch holds a one to two week summer camp and other classes all summer. They also have other programs, which are designed to help heal children and adults with ADHD, high functioning autism, depression and cancer survivors. The motto there is “Helping Horses Helping Humans.”

It is run by an English gal who, I am convinced is part cow girl, part shaman….and whose name happens to be Sara Vaughan…well I think she just changed it to Sara Fancy! She has such a love and respect for horses and all living things…including children. On her site it says, “Children are taught how to tap into the horse’s willing nature to gain co-operation and a reciprocal relationship. There is no pressure put onto the child or the horse to do things that are stressful to the child or horse.” The experience Eva had demonstrates how true those words are.

One of the things I love most about Sara is the matter-of-fact respect she had sharing with the children all her knowledge. From a Waldorf perspective, when a child enters first grade, as Eva will this year, she looks to a single point of authority and yearns to learn about the world of adults. Sara has that authority with humor, a straight forward approach, wealth of info and a spiritual perspective on her world that makes her a wonderful role model, for boys and girls alike.

The day begins in her yurt, (equipped with an outhouse and a compostable toilet.) There she forms a circle with the children and gives the ground rules and the plans for the day. She might tell the histories of the various horses and share her convictions about why horses and every living being deserve respect and how it is an honor to be on a horse’s back. Then they might play tuning forks together, learn to run in a herd around the room, or have a beautiful horse-related tale read to them, choose Indian names for themselves or discuss various animal encounters they had the previous day with a snake, or bee or coyote etc. Then it is out to care for and groom the horses. With just about one on one attention, which is easy to do because the camp is limited to nine children and Sara has two helpers, she shows them all the homeopathic medicines for the horses. “Nothin’ in ‘ere is toxic,” she reaffirms. And the children smell and look at all the various natural ointments as she tells them stories of how she healed this horse and that one from the various ailments they had when they arrived in her care.

Day by day, the children deepen their appreciation for the horses, guiding them on leads with halters (Sara never uses a bit), grooming them, tending to any wounds, feeding them carrots or handfuls of hay, molding their own horses from clay, and learning to understand how horses think and feel and how human behavior affects them.

“Where is the riding?” you might be asking. It is actually a special time reserved for the end of the day. The children ride one at a time on a soft pad, led by Sara or one of her two lovely assistants. Eva even got to canter for the first time, with Sara running along, huffing and puffing!

But this is not a riding camp, per se. It is so much more. When Eva arrived, she was tentative around the horses, around Sara, around these unfamiliar grounds. By the end of the first week, she was marching around (with quiet feet, of course, so as not to startle the horses), directing any newcomers, getting bits of hay and feeding it to her favorites, or just having a tete-a-tete with Hank or Diva. From her posture to how she discussed her various opinions with Sara or relayed the day’s events at home, her confidence, not just as a “camper,” but as a little person, was deepening and growing every day as her bonds with the horses grew stronger. She and all the friends she made there shared a beautiful and fun adventure none of these children will forget any time soon.

One very funny coincidence that topped it all off for Eva specifically was that Sara has a rescued chihuahua mix named Minnie…and so do we! Here are the two Minnies with our Minnie on the right! This delighted Eva and the other children to no end!

I can’t say enough to recommend the Silver Horse Healing Ranch‘s children’s programs. What a natural way to spend the day, what a relaxed way to spend the summer, what a very special experience that will touch my daughter for a lifetime. We will be back for more!

Thank you for reading!
Rebecca Varon aka Nushkie!

4 thoughts on “Horse Mentorship Camp…Thumbs UP!

  1. What an amazing way to learn along side horses. I would love to be able to do one of these camps myself. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story.

  2. This is such a beautiful post, Rebecca! Thank you for sharing about this experience.

  3. Such a lovely post and one lucky little girl, you have inspired me to look for something like this for my own kids!!

  4. There are so many abused animals around. What a great way to save them and teach kids at the same time!

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