At Willow Hill Farm our philosophy is to bring the whole world of the horse to the child with all its realities.
From early morning feeding to catching, tacking up, grooming, culminating in the beautiful ride through the fields or jumping, and back to the reality of untacking, more grooming, cleaning and feeding again. From the beginner who learns the rudiments of horsemanship to the advanced rider, the steps toward the whole horseman will help them on the path to maturity.
“The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a man.” – Winston Churchill
Campers begin by learning to take care of their own special mount and graduate to becoming managers over a section of the stable. They supervise younger campers during feeding, watering, and cleaning of stalls for the hour of chores. Weekly meetings assist managers to inspire respect while being good role models.
Success with horses is not measured in ribbons and trophies. Although Willow Hill has many competitions to test skills, the best accomplishments come through their daily training. A horse and rider team successfully complete a simple change of lead across the diagonal; another completes the cross country obstacle course in perfect obedience where, heretofore, one or both of them had not been able to do so. Campers cheer each other on because they learn to want the best for every horse and rider. Campers get to know their horses like lovers, and soon bring out the best in each other. Horses, like people, get reputations for doing some things well and others not so well. Everyone knows when a camper has created a change, a special victory in training and horsemanship, such as getting over a bigger jump or getting the correct lead after every jump on the hunter course; both of which are victories far beyond ribbons.
It has been said that passion inspired individuals to become larger than life. Lucky is the parent whose child craves to be around horses. The child appears driven by a higher life form and no substitute can be found. These children are not hanging around the streets, nor do they struggle with decisions about which activity warrants their participation. For them, there is only one true love and all other parts of life are downstream. Their focus leads them on the path of discipline, physical stamina, and exercise which will carry over to their adult lives whether or not horses can be a major part. Their love of horses tide them over through the throes of adolescence, while parents of non-focused teenagers worry about poor choices. The horse driven child who is permitted to become a horseman is a little dirty, very tired, and ecstatically happy at the end of the day, leaving little room for sin, indecision, obesity, drugs, etc.
Working together as a team with people who share the same interest forms the basis for a meaningful relationship. School friends cannot match the friendships made at camp. Living together in a cabin, as well as working and riding together, form the essential ingredients for memorable friendships. Campers share email throughout the year and return every summer to be with good friends.
Horse crazy youngsters will happily accept discipline. Parents admit having trouble with the child carrying out the trash or similar household chores are always amazed to see their child carrying water buckets, hay bales, and tack with ease.