I am of the incredibly firm belief that every child should go to an overnight summer camp for at least two weeks at least once in his or her life. I myself am an alumna of multiple overnight and day camps. Overnight camp is always a little more special because it’s time to discover who you are away from your parents. Plus, it teaches you responsibility. Keep your things together. Clean your living space because it’s just necessary. Decide what you want to eat, but you’re going to like yourself a whole lot better if you choose wisely. Write letters often. One of the best things about summer camp is the special friendships you form. These friendships led to me even getting a job, which was only made better that I was working alongside my friends. In the summer of 2008, I was a new camper at a well known girl scout camp in northwest Georgia. Several of my friends had gone there for years and I decided to give it a try. That was the summer that my friends were first allowed to get a job at camp. So I was completely alone. Rest assured, readers. I made friends by the end of hour one by playing my first ever game of Never Have I Ever. (Catholic school leaves you at a (dis)advantage for this!) One of the big draws of this camp is the riding program. It offers programs in English, Western, and natural horsemanship. I chose the basic English program, and after a verbal evaluation, I was sorted into the semi-advanced English class. We were probably the best lesson group because we had an instructor, assistant instructor, and only four riders. I had so much fun and learned so much. This is where I met India, one of my special horses.
The end of my first summer had me counting down the days until the next summer, when I could enroll in the Wrangler In Training program to become staff the following summer. Once again, I got India! I was even in the advanced group. I worked incredibly hard and spent almost all my time at camp that summer in the barn, which was obviously incredibly fun. I was so blessed to learn from one of the most incredible horsewomen I know, Glo. She may not be a grand prix jumper, but she just knows how to listen to a horse so well. She can cure any lameness, illness, and colic. And she has the extraordinary gift of teaching a rider instead of making her scared to make a mistake. I only wish I could have worked for her longer before she retired!
If I had an incredible time as a camper, I had an even better time as staff. The hours were long, the pay was less than desirable, and the breaks were very little. But let me tell you that there is no bonding quite like working for something you are so passionate about and then later crying over things like awful tan lines and stupid things your boss said to you. Camp friendships are great. Camp staff friendships are even better. I know I can depend on my camp girls like nothing else in the world. Even if I haven’t talked to them in months, I know they are there for me like I am for them. We’re happy to jump to each other’s side in any situation.
Working as barn staff was even exceptionally different from the rest of the camp staff. We had the extra duty of caring for hundreds of girls from 9-17 as well as forty horses. We worked in the hot sun. We wore shorts and paddock boots. We went through so many bottles of water, that by the end of the summer, we never wanted to drink water again. We never showed up on time for breakfast. (Someone had to feed the horses, after all.) So how did we become the zebras? I can’t even remember who first suggested we were a herd of zebras, but someone started making a zebra call and it just happened.
To my zebras, Y’all are some of the most incredible people I’ve ever had the privilege of spending my summers with. Words can’t describe what we have, and that’s okay because we don’t need words at all. Y’all have redefined “ride or die” for me because there were those schooling rides and trail rides that we really had to ride or else we would die. I love every single second with you guys because those are some of my favorite memories. Glo, Chaps, Squeaky, DW, Nala, QB, Aries, Mali, Slinky, Minnie, Clover, Blondie, Blaze, Oompa, Bingo, Fergie, Brownie, Veggie, Phantom, Kiara, Phoenix, and Derby: know that you have all the love I can give. You guys helped me become who I am today. Wop wop wop. With love, Splash