Our Maplewood mouse spent last week in the country with her PaPa and Mee Mee. It was an adventure-filled five days for 6-year-old Avery, a pert brunette with ivory skin and boundless energy.
Avery loves horses and stayed with us so she could attend a horse camp sponsored by Exceptional Equestrians. The camps are offered in various sessions, for beginning to advanced riders — as well as to children with special needs.
We expected Avery to enjoy herself, but weren’t prepared for the level of instruction she would receive, and the variety of activities included in the curriculum. The parents and grandparents of the nine other campers were as lavish in their praise of what their children learned as we were.
Avery arrived at our house early Monday morning ready to saddle-up in a pink cowboy hat and pink boots, beaming from ear to ear and demonstrating a heel-toe move synonymous with Western “boot and scoot.” She packed everything but the kitchen sink, her “lovie,” a menagerie of stuffed animals, and her American Doll, also decked out like Dale Evans, minus the horse, which cost a bit more than Avery had in her piggy bank.
With a hug, and an “I love you, Mom,” we were off to E.E., located on a farm off Highway A between Washington and Union. After Avery was shown to a cubby where she could stash her lunch and belongings, I watched her walk away, and turned my car toward home feeling like I’d left a small boat on a big ocean.
Back at the house, I fired up the computer, and waited for the phone to ring, sure the camp staff would be contacting me about Avery needing a family member to talk to. The call didn’t come — in fact, Avery didn’t even mention missing Mee Mee and PaPa, or wishing she could get back to Maplewood to see her sister, or her parents.
“I’m having too much fun to get homesick,” Avery said as the one fun-filled day followed another.
When I’d pick her up at 3 p.m., I’d have to put my listening ears on because Avery didn’t draw a breath all the way home. The first day she ran to me wearing her new camp T-shirt — the second day she had a different one on, a T-shirt with a photograph of her standing next to Phantom, E.E’s miniature pony.
Of course the children rode. Avery fell in love with Oliver, the Gypsy Vanner, a breed that originated in Great Britain, used to pull gypsy caravans I’ve heard my mother talk about. Avery looked pretty small perched on Oliver’s back — as did all of the children atop their horses; we got to see the campers put their steeds through their paces at a horse show held on the last day in the outdoor arena.
Parents, grandparents and others came out in full force to grab a bit of shade and watch the skills on display. Enthusiasm and applause abounded as the kids walked their horses around the ring, demonstrating “walk on,” turns, trotting, cantering and even riding backward. The most fun was watching the kids try and keep an egg on a spoon as they rode from one end of the ring to the other — not many of them scrambled their attempt.
The show was the culmination of a spectacular week of mucking stalls, painting the horses and then washing them off, crafts, games, educational information, nature walks and splashing in the horse trough, something that reduced Avery to hysterical giggles.
At the end of the camp, a packet of pictures was given to each of the parents, showing all the activities the children had participated in. In the short span of Monday to Friday, bonds were formed and confidence was instilled.
It’s a sure bet Avery won’t soon forget her special week — thanks to the terrific, caring staff at E.E., who launched a new endeavor that’s already become a big hit.
Throughout the summer, I’ll feature articles about summer adventures. Missourian readers of all ages are welcome to e-mail me with story ideas — perhaps news of an unusual trip, educational experience or unusual activity pursued. E-mail me or call the Missourian office, 636-239-7701.