Really Cool Things You do at Longacres Besides “Just Riding Five Hours a Day”!
We know the big reasons most new students choose to come to Longacres. The chance to ride five hours a day over amazing jumps on some pretty nice horses covers most of it! And there is more to Longacres, explained pretty well on our “Welcome to Longacres Tour” of the website.
But one of the best things about Longacres, once you’re here, has always been the spontaneity of unexpected surprises and special events. In a way, I hesitate to write down an actual list of these Really Cool Things you’re likely to do at Longacres as surprises. They won’t be such surprises anymore. But we are going to try harder this year to try to include many of the things on this “Fun Stuff” list during each of our main sessions during the summer. We’ll try to do most of them during the Pre-Camp Clinic weeks in June; again during each of the two week sessions in July; and once again during the 3 ½ week August session. We’ll do some of them during Lazy Days at the end of August, but that session is too short to fit in everything!
This list of “Fun Stuff” includes a list of events we’ll try hard to plan in each of these sessions, but it’s not a guarantee. Some of the events depend on the weather, and other horse show preparations and lesson plans might keep us from doing everything on this “list” every session. But we’ll get most of it done and we want first timers at Longacres to have an idea of some of the special things they’ll experience here besides “just” riding five hours a day over amazing jumps on pretty nice horses!
So here goes – a list of “Really Cool Surprises” you’re likely to enjoy during a session at longacres!
1) For the 2011 season we’ve repaired and refurbished what we call “the old junior barn”, and we’re putting in a small turnout paddock there. Seventy years ago, this was where all the riding took place at Longacres before we put in the much bigger riding complex half a mile away at the other end of the farm. Each session this year we hope to offer a chance to take an after dinner trail ride ending at the Old Barn, where you will have a slumber party up in the hayloft. You’ll turn your horses out in the small paddock right outside the door to the hayloft, so you can spread your sleeping bags out in the loft and listen all night to your horses munching the grass. Some of you may wake up early and watch the sun come up and the first rays strike the horses as they graze or lie sleeping in a corner of the pasture.
There’s a good bet that Meghan or I will pay you a visit after your horses are all turned out and you’ve claimed a spot in the hayloft for your sleeping bag. Good bet that we won’t come empty handed, but will have a pizza or a cookie cake for you to share as you trade end of the day horse stories!
2) “Pond Riding” has always been a favorite activity for those of you who were lucky enough to be with us when we did this a couple of times a summer. If it was up to our students, we’d have pond riding every few days when the weather was warm enough. It is FUN to walk out near the middle of the pond with the water lapping higher and higher as you try to lift your legs high to keep them dry. You may scream with delight and shock as the cold water finally is too deep for you to avoid any longer. Then it’s time to turn your horse back towards shore and wait for Meghan or a counselor to shout, “One, two, three, GO!”, and your horse takes off trotting as fast as you can make him go, racing for the shore with spray flying high as the horses take huge, plunging steps through the water! Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be – you need strong legs to make your horse go fast in the pond! Check out some of our YouTube video’s, and you’ll see why this is so much fun!
We would do pond riding more often, but even though the pond is shallow with a pretty smooth bottom, there is some risk in this unusual activity that a horse may get a cut or pull a muscle. We’ve rationed our pond riding to a couple of times a summer in the past. We’re going to do it more often this year, and hope to include it in each major camp session as part of “The Fun List”!
3) Moon light rides are right up there with pond riding as a special event at Longacres that you may remember all your life. Not everyone will get to do this while you’re at Longacres. We do need a full moon! Full moon dates for 2011 are June 15th, July 15th, and August 13th, according to my calendar. That means, weather permitting, that we’ll try to offer this during the June Clinic weeks, the second two week session in July, and the August session.
On moonlight ride nights, a group meets up at the barn after dark to tack up inside the barn and then single file ride out of the barn and walk around the lower paddock letting you and your horse both adjust your eyes to seeing in the moonlight. Then we lead an organized single file trail ride all around the riding fields and the big show field. If the horses are quiet (and they will be with our careful night time warmup), we then often set up a cross rail jump with all white jumps stands and white rails. The horses are amazingly good at seeing the jump if you trot up to it with the moon at your back so the white jump is bathed in moonlight!
We finish the moonlight rides by taking the horses over to a very quiet corner of the field, lining them up, and waiting until there is not a sound but the breathing of the horses and an occasional chomp on a bit. We stand for two minutes of silence listening to the soft sounds of the horses and an occasional bull frog croaking. Tradition has it that if you make a wish during the silence and nobody talks, the wish will come true!
4) Longacres is not a nature camp – we know you come to ride! But what would a camp experience be like without a “smores campfire”?!? We try hard to plan a campfire once each session with an ample supply of marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers to make smores around the fire. We tell a few scary stories and often I tell a story about the history of Longacres in the old days. Some sleepy riders after a long day in the saddle will quickly drift off back to their bunk after getting their share of smores. Others sit by the fire sharing stories much longer. A good time!
5) Meghan’s Cookie Dough parties are not such a surprise. It’s a tradition that your second or third night at Longacres, Meghan will show up after lights out with a treat! But it’s still fun, and by your third night you’re ready for a little break in the routine.
6) We video tape you often during your stay at Longacres, so it’s not really so much of a “special event” as some of the other things on this list. But it’s worth mentioning here because the way we do it at Longacres is quite special. We have good equipment to begin with. We have prosumer level HD camcorders and take most of the video in HD and show it on HD tv’s. We tape most of your horse show rounds every week and several lessons during the week. Sometimes we take wide angle views showing you and your horse jumping, and sometimes we’ll use the video as a clinic tool and take close-ups of your seat, or your hands, or your legs as you ride on the flat and jump. Although we don’t have time to watch every minute of the hours of video we take in slow motion, we try to elt each of you see yourselves in clear slow motion while you are here for a session. It is a good learning tool and we use it extensively.
7) “KONE KING!” At Longacres, we like ice cream! We often enough have ice cream and sundaes for dessert after dinner, but our students are always ready to respond with a shout of “YES!”, if we ask, “Do you think it’s a good night for a trip to Kone King?”
Kone King is the local ice cream parlor on our side of town. We are one of their best customers! Besides the chance to pig out on ice cream treats, you usually get your cell phones during a Kone King trip so you can call home or a friend. But mostly, it’s the ice cream!
8) You can learn about “Big Jumping at Longacres” on another part of the website. Like Pond riding, big jumping days are something that have to be done carefully, so we haven’t always scheduled them every session at Longacres. We will do so more often this year, but with care. A big jumping day isn’t meant to let every one of you jump higher than ever before. But it is a lesson dedicated to letting you do just a little more than you will in most of your rides, and a chance to see what you can safely do in you and your horse’s comfort zones. It definitely deserves a place on this list of special “Fun Stuff” at Longacres!
9) There are people who come to Longacres just so that they can jump the amazing jumps on our show field. We keep that in mind and schedule time for even the least experienced riders to spend time out on the big show field and have a chance to get their pictures taken going over our Castle Jump, the big Butterfly Jump, and all the other special show jumps. We build all of our specialty jumps so that they can be set to very low heights so everyone can try them! Few riding camps have jumps like ours, including the bank jump and Pulverman jump. In each session you’re also likely to have a chance to take a trail ride through the woods and end up at the old hunt course where we have some small but very picturesque hunt jumps including a stone wall, log jumps, and a “Keyhole Jump” where you jump through a hole in the evergreens. Meghan is good at keeping track and making sure everyone gets to try all the cool jumps. (Well, maybe not the “Big Water”!)
10) Gymkhana’s are fun! Most of our time in the saddle is taken up with more formal lessons and then relaxing trail rides for a break. But in each session we plan to have Gymkhana events with a variety of mounted games. We have traditional games that we always do, and every year we learn something new from one of our new students. Some of the mounted games are timed events like barrel racing or pole bending. But we do lots of “goof ball” fun things like taking turns with a partner trying to get on bareback, then being lead 100’, jumping off and helping your partner mount while you lead them back home. If you happen to be on one of the taller horses, this can result in hilarious video!
This list includes some of the more popular “Specials” that we include in your Longacres stay as surprises. There will be other things, and Longacres is the kind of place where anything can happen if someone can imagine it. We hope you like the idea of doing some of this “Fun Stuff” each session – AFTER you ride five hours a day, and jump AMAZING jumps on very nice horses!