Clinic at Southern Pines, Dec. 30 - Dec. 31, 2006

Several members of an online bulletin board got together over last New Year's Eve weekend for an impromptu clinic at Tamarack Hill Farm, Southern Pines, NC. Here are some of their experiences:



It is hard to say when it all began. We are the living definition of six degrees of separation united by an online bulletin board, except that as time goes on the six degrees have shrunk to one. I joined the group in 2001, some were there years before me, and others have joined within the last year or two. What is that they say, you can't choose your family but you can choose your friends? Well, we are both friends and family and our reunion was at Tamarack over New Years Eve weekend.

Billed as Camp Denny and planned entirely online, we managed to get 15 horses and 20 people organized to arrive in Southern Pines for our reunion. This was no small accomplishment. The locals coordinated housing and transportation for the visiting masses. Rachel flew in from New York, Denise drove from Georgia, and hordes of us came from Virginia and Maryland. As for horses, at least half of us ended up riding someone else's horse for either a trail ride or a lesson. In several cases, the owner of the horse had never seen the rider in the saddle before, but we know each other well enough to trust her judgment about her capabilities in the saddle.

Arriving throughout the day on Friday, the locals had their lessons while those of us coming from further away found our way to the visitor's barn and unloaded our horses. Those of us arriving too late for lessons took our horses for a quiet hack around the farm and out on to the Foundation. As dark arrived, we made plans for a group dinner at the local Thai restaurant. Dinner discussion included bloodlines, our fellow 'family' members, trucks, and our plans for the rest of the weekend. The highlight of the evening was Denny telling us about his dinner the night before with George Morris, including an excellent joke at George's expense!

Saturday and Sunday were similar in format. In the morning we cared for our horses and then we headed up to the ring to watch the first group go. One of the things that became clear quickly was that we were not there for camp. We were there for a 3 day clinic and should've had our notebooks at the ready. Denny spent as much time teaching the auditors as teaching the riders. After some time in the ring it was time to head out to the cross country course. It didn't matter how much experience the horse or rider had, Denny was quiet and reassuring. The riders that had never jumped a solid obstacle had huge grins on their faces and the horses that had never seen a ditch or a bank were crossing them with their ears pricked and expressions quiet. For the more advanced groups, the jumps were bigger but the horses and humans looked just as happy and confident. One of the horses that went out to play on the XC course was a confirmed AA Hunter with the ribbons to prove his excellence in that career. He was obviously concerned about some of the scarier things, like barrels and ditches, but with Denny's quiet presence, he jumped around several Novice and Training jumps in perfect hunter form and even finished up with the water jump.



I could spend hours and pages detailing all that we learned, although I missed a chunk of it due to illness, but the most important things that I learned were not the things you often list when you are doing a clinic report, but are best summed up with some of the following quotes from my family of friends.

"Can I tell you my favorite part of the entire weekend? Watching Ellen OWN those piles of poles. She rode the BSM beautifully, and we all knew her fear of jumping, but she did SO SO SO WELL!"

"The one thing I noticed about everyone was how much they loved their ponies, how no one lost a temper or blamed their horses for trouble. That's really great and that's why NOBODY sucked."

"And I've never seen such a group of happy horses & happy riders. No drama, no princess-like behavior, no 'it's my horse's fault', just a bunch of people encouraging their horses to improve & trying to improve themselves."

So thank you to Denny and to my chosen family.


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Organizing camp via bulletin board has its' unique moments. Squillionponies, citypony, and shady were sharing a house, and Betsy was driving down with hairball, but was Betsy who we knew as Pixie, or was JulieAnne? People would walk up to the ring, recognize my OTTB from progress photos online, and squeal, "Larry! You're so handsome! And you must be Jeannette!" We ended up with 15 people and 20 horses converging in Southern Pines from Georgia, Tennessee, Maryland, Virginia, other parts of North Carolina, and New York City. Shady won the prize for flying in to meet the most internet strangers, having had lunch once in Manhattan with citypony, but otherwise having met the rest of us only via the internet.

You could say this gathering started taking shape in the early days of the equisearch listserve, when Jane got hooked into the online horse community, or 6 years ago on the Chronicle of the Horse online bulletin board, when I first met FairWeather and SaddlefitterVA. In the way of online community, we had met via different bulletin boards, and found each other again when various boards imploded or grew too large for easy chatting. We had ended up forming our own small board with probably 40 regular posters, and on this board we had said, "Who is free at New Years? Tamarack has stalls and Denny will be in town. We can run our own camp!"

At first it seemed like there might be 5 or 6 of us, which would have been fun enough, but suddenly we hit critical mass and it became clear if you weren't with us over New Years, you would be missing out on huge fun. People arranged rides online, offered loaner horses, and discussed driving directions. We had no idea how much education Denny would slip and hammer into us along the way, but have vowed to return again next year with notebooks for another gathering.

Jeannette Ford

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My eyes focused on a topic "Southern Pines NC Contingent Gathering"..I was there. Pants said we could meet at either Denny's or her place and then go for a trail ride with Jnday, Maria, Squillion Superotto. I chose to meet up at Pant's cute little farm. She had a laugh over my confusion of famed rider Denny Emerson's Tamarack vs. the moderately priced breakfast restaurant, Denny's.

So we hop on our fiery TB's and head out on the lovely trails, coming across a field of XC jumps. One of my companions mentioned getting together a clinic with Denny Emerson. Upon seeing a rather large table in the field, I managed to squeak out "Oh, you guys have fun, I'm not exactly ready to ride with him". Squillion, seeming like a sane, honest individual offered that Denny works with riders of all levels. Something about her made me trust her, and everyone else seemed excited.but I still wasn't sure- this was a group mounted on chestnut OTTB mares galloping through the woods jumping piles of logs.

So I returned home and emailed my trainer, Jennifer who very kindly allows me to ride her lovely ISH Greta. She confirmed that it was a great opportunity and was more than happy to loan me Greta for the day. I was still a bit leery, as Jennifer is one of those exceedingly brave riders who would happily jump whatever was put in front of her. But part of me knew that my pal Greta would never put me in harms way.even if everyone else did. As luck would have it, Superotto needed a horse, so we would be able to split the costs of the trip..and SHE would be able to do cross country day!

The big day came and it was really great. After setting jumps for Jennifer and Andrea's lesson, I felt the urge to run back and steal all the jump cups. They jumped high and looked great. I slunk into the ring on Greta and proceeded to warm up. I made a deal with myself to just listen to Denny. I had a fabulous time, jumping all sorts of jumps, even oogy things like oxers and barrels. Greta, relieved to have someone sitting up in front of the jump, jumped her best for me. As I finished up, feeling brave, confident and excited about jumping, my thoughts immediately turned to offing Superotto so I could go do cross country on Saturday.


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HI there Denny and May, This is allie, She of broken back, lost camera card, and unofficial photographer.

First, It was SO nice to spend time with you two on your fabulous farm. I think I learned more from sitting and watching everything than I would have on my horse, so yay for that! And what a treat to have a chance to watch Susan Harris teach alongside, simply awesome!

I hope I can come down for a lesson in the next month or so. I was certainly inspired and re-energized to get riding seriously again, so thanks for that too.

Allie Conrad

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My husband asked for my Christmas wish list, "I want to go to Camp Denny over New Year's," was my immediate reply. Of course he wondered what a Camp Denny was and who would be there, so I explained that a group of riding friends from "here and there" had decided to meet in Southern Pines for a long weekend of top notch instruction with one of the country's most knowledgeable eventing clinicians. He then nodded and said he'd bring his bike so he'd have something to do.

What followed was a group of women from various riding backgrounds - eventers, dressage enthusiasts, and hunter/jumper riders - as well as riders of different experience and comfort levels. I'm not sure if Denny's the praying kind, but I felt a few Hail Mary's and an Our Father would be necessary before we entered the ring. However, he entered the ring for our group lessons and asked what our goals were and where we were in that journey. Then he proceeded to teach, cajole, encourage and challenge us to learn the basics in order to achieve those goals. I found at the end of the 2nd day that his exercises had greatly increased my abilities and confidence levels.

Now we're planning on returning this spring. Oh, and the non-horsey husband really enjoyed listening to Denny, as well.

Jane Day



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