These camps are proving to be extremely popular ways for adults to have a great deal of fun,
while cramming in a whole lot of education in a relatively brief 4-5 days.
Lessons are augmented by demonstrations and lectures covering everything from basic equine
medical care, to dealing with stage fright, to how to develop an eye for a distance to a fence,
to how to pull a tail, to how to control your horse at a gallop, to you name it. We often
video or photograph sessions to be reviewed later.
Our speakers have insight into various aspects of the learning experience. One was the first
flute for a major symphony orchestra
(speaking of coping with pressure and stage fright!) Another has been an endurance individual
gold medallist at the Pan American Championships, still another, an individual silver medallist
at a World Championship 3 Day, another who developed ski lesson packages for women talked about
what she had learned about the different ways people learn, and how we can find out what kind of
learners we are.
So, mixed in with the fun and great meals, is a great deal of serious riding instruction and
input from a wide range of people who have found great success in widely varying areas of
• DAY 5
or individual requests – Final lunch, wrap up
Lectures/Demonstrations might include such topics as:
Jumping theory – How to walk lines
How to gallop - position, speeds, etc.
Performing under pressure Developing an "eye" Different learning
Gymnastic jumping theory
Developing a "seat"
Equine muscular-skeletal & bio-mechanical concerns
Horse turn out
Tamarack Adult Camp (a.k.a. Camp
Denny), by Mary A. McEachern
If you looked really hard at the Tamarack Hill Farm ad on last year’s summer Omnibus, right underneath “lessons year round”, you’ll see it…Summer Adult Camp. Call for details… While Adult Camps are nothing new for eventers, this was.
Denny Emerson was hosting a four-day long camp, complete with speakers, demonstrations and the incredible opportunity to shed the outside world for a moment and concentrate. No family, no job, no outside worries… I couldn’t “call for details” fast enough.
The format was simple. 1st & 3rd days - One jump session per day, one flat session per day, (plus, 2nd day - all cross country - one long set, & last day - rider's choice, xc or stadium or flat, in competitive format) two lectures and a lot of hands on. Longer than a traditional clinic, more comprehensive in scope and opportunity, and smaller in size so that horse/riders got a great deal of individual attention. Brilliant.
So there we were, the dirty dozen, twelve riders of various ages and experience for one week in August at Camp Denny. The night before the camp began we all had dinner at Denny and May’s. After an unbelievably great meal we settled in a circle to introduce ourselves. Hi my name is… my horse is… I want to… as we passed Denny, (we already knew who he was), he said that this was beginning to feel like an AA meeting. So of course I stood up and said, “Hi, my name is Mary. And I am a rider. It has been four hours since my last ride…”
Now, I have had a lot of my fellow campers begging and pleading with me not to tell you what the next four days were like. Quite frankly I have my reservations too. It’s like telling someone about your favorite, pristine, ever so secret swimming hole and finding forty people there the next time you want to go dipping. Sigh… all that aside.
Cindy Strate, a training level rider from Vermont, summed it up beautifully. “I continue to be comforted by the idea that Denny has taken the time to evaluate the holes in the adult amateur’s education and has decided to do something about it.”
The first ride was at 8 am each day. If you were not in the jump session, or in dressage, then you had the “opportunity” to sit in on the sessions. Denny is a teacher. And it doesn’t matter if you are in the saddle or sitting on the fence line. “There is a lot to learn about this sport, and if you want to do it, you had better start learning.” And constantly he would ask us. “What do you think, what is right here, what is wrong, think like a rider, now think like a trainer.”
We learned to carry our notebooks everywhere.
Claire Lorraine, a seasoned eventer from Maine, said, “I've been to many upper level clinics in the past... but what set this one apart from the rest was the fact that we were all introduced the first day together plus being able (and encouraged) to audit all lessons when we weren't riding----but better than that Denny has a unique ability to hone in on someone’s ability without interfering with another coaches training-- you come away with better tools for your own training -- POSITIVE TRAINING + FOCUS + RESOLVE = RESULTS!!!”
One of the particularly good things about the camp were the speakers that came up the hill to see us. Topics included, “How to Perform Under Pressure”, taught by flutist Renee Carter, a soloist and performer with the Boston Pops & chamber groups, (hint: breathe!), to Dr. David Lamb’s lecture on how to keep a horse from going lame. Then there was Janet Spangler testing on us how we learn, to Dr. Mary Alice Brown who has been eventing longer than the USEA has been in existence, who gave us her insight on how to pick out a suitable event horse.
And of course, hats off to Sue Berrill, who taught the dressage portions of the camp. While Sue’s star has been steadily on the rise (did you see her ride at the AEC – WOW!), her instruction absolutely dovetailed into what that camp was all about.
But one of the very, very best things about the camp was something that May and Denny could never have planned. That was magic of the campers themselves. Take Anthony Han for example, the only one of us with international experience and his wife Pinky, groom for Tad Coffin and the 1976 Olympic team. So much experience, so much to share… And Nicole Diana who had been eventing for barely a year. Shy but enthusiastic and always the first one down to the barn each day.
And there was Lorrie, a school teacher herself, who pointed out one night (after yet another fabu meal), you cannot be given an education, you must go get it. For that, we all agreed, we certainly were in the right place.
Dorothee Janssen, a vet from upstate New York, whose schoolmaster TB just wasn’t going to make it to the clinic. So she stayed on, riding whatever Denny could find for her. A phenom of a person, it was only on day three we were all shocked to learn that Dorothee had grown up in Europe, English was a second language. I think equine was her first…
And then there was Nancy Butler, who unfortunately (not even on a horse) broke her ankle midway through the session, and continued on with out missing a beat. She even rode with one stirrup at our impromptu competition and had one of the few clean rounds. You see…
Anthony had worked for a number of years at an international show jumping yard. So we asked him to design a course that in turn we would build. That course had everything in it but the hill from Hickstead. Roll backs to combinations, a skinny and a liverpool, a max triple. Each rider went into a warm up with Denny and then came out to compete. We had judges. We had a bell. We had a hell of a good time.
Now for camp itself.... while I could go on and on about how enthusiastic all of us were about the instruction we received, the format, the guest speakers… I think it was well understood that with Denny, he will go the extra distance for anyone who is willing to do the same.
At the end of the camp we had one more amazing meal (many thanks to the caterers, sisters, Linda & Ellen, endurance riders) and were presented with a much-coveted Tamarack Hill coffee mug and a completion certificate. On the certificate was a photo of us at some point during the week and this quote. Denny, if it is okay, I am going to put it in.
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood, who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best, if he wins, knows the thrill of high achievement, and, if he fails, at least fails daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt.
The night before we got those certificates, a few of us were gabbing in the barn. Claire started telling us the story of how she fell off in cross-country at a three day, was it Bromont, or Fair Hill? … I cannot remember. I was giggling too hard to remember. Anyway, the story goes that she ran after her horse and caught him in the stabling area, remounted and galloped back to where they had parted company. The jump judge told her that she wasn’t supposed to be there. Claire said, “Of course I am supposed to be here. I am a competitor!”