“The camp is geared toward kids without experience,” said Polly Hayes, 4-H coordinator. “It teaches them the basics of taking care of horses. They learn about feeding, grooming, washing and cleaning the stalls before they get on the horse.”
Camp started with important lessons about caring for horses. Kids learned hands-on about horses’ digestive track and parasites, including worms, that pose threats to their health.
Kids hesitantly collected stool samples from stalls, which were sent to a lab to be analyzed for worms, and learned how to treat horses if they have them.
“I want the kids to be able to understand all aspects of owning a horse, including the science of the horse, safety and horsemanship,” said instructor Paula Daniel, of Okeechobee. “There are so many things to know.”
Other lessons included learning the anatomy of the horse, saddling the horse and putting on the bridle. Safety tips included never walking behind a horse to avoid being kicked.
After lessons finished, kids saddled up and rode horses in the Fred Smith Rodeo Arena, where they learned to take control and steer horses around cones. After the ride, campers walked the horses back to the barn to lower their heart rates and then washed them. Campers used scrapers made from palm fronds to remove excess water from the horses.
Camper Vivianna Gore had ridden horses before, having grown up around the rodeo.
“I thought it would be fun and maybe I’d learn more stuff,” said Vivianna, 14. “Horses are my favorite animal; you can get away for a little bit when you are riding. Riding makes everything better.”
Six-year-old Amariah Fannin learned she could control the huge animal without help.
“The most challenging part was going around the cones,” she said. “I had to pull him and kick him to do it. But I did it by myself. It was the first time I went all the way around the arena by myself.”
The 4-H horsemanship camp will be held in Big Cypress from July 21 to Aug. 1. To register, contact the Big Cypress 4-H office, Dionne Smedley or Polly Hayes at 863-763-5020.