Some evenings, I stare at this screen trying to think of something to write to you.  I have had a few of those lately.  I begin to feel a mild panic as I wonder if I will be able to find anything amusing or interesting.

This morning, I got a lovely gift. Our Horseback director, Harriet Ma’am, has been one of the great serendipities of the summer. For the past 8 years, we have always hired a returning counselor to run our horseback program. For the last two years, long-time camper Carlen Long reinvigorated the program.  This summer, Carlen accepted a new challenge – running our Outdoors department – so we wondered who could replace her and continue the pattern of improvement.

In January, Leah Ma’am told us she had found the answer: Harriet.  Harriet is in her mid-20’s and has ridden horses her entire life.  She has a great outlook on life and sees opportunities where others might see problems.  But we were still worried about the transition between Carlen Ma’am to her.

We should not have been.  In addition to keeping horseback fun and safe, she has gone to great lengths to help the campers see bigger lessons.  The picture I include with this blog is from a 10 year old boy (the hand writing should be a good clue).

This is a four page workbook. The front page asked for the camper’s name.  You are looking at the middle pages.  The final page asks a few additional questions.

Let me start by saying how pleased I am that Harriet Ma’am is not only doing this, but the campers are enjoying it. I would have thought that writing would be the last thing that a camper would want to do at camp, but in this context, it’s a pleasant experience.  They love to be understood and they love to see how they are growing. Even at a young age, campers are surprsingly capable of verbalizing experiences about creative learning, or ones that build confidence and resilience.

I also love this because it is so, how do I say this? 10 year-old boyish. Not only do you have the handwriting, but you also have high-quality 4th grade syntax.   The answers also combine a few elements I have come to expect from young boys. 

  • The first is the obvious insight: I have shown cooperation by “cooperating with my horse”.   It doesn’t get any simpler than that.
  • The second is the unexpected insight: He showed leadership by cheering on other people to success.
  • The third is the ‘brush with danger’: I showed determination when “once my horse went bezerk (sic) on me and I never gave up.” [Note: the first time you hear a story told by a boy aged 8-11, you may experience a mild panic as he explains “it was soooo dangerous” or “we almost died” (I shorten this to WAD). These words are terrifying until you realize that many great stories include this breath-stopping hyperbole. “We were sailing and the boat blew over and we went into the lake and WAD”.  “We were on climbing the wall and my foot slipped and I held on with just one hand and WAD”. These stories seem to ignore the fact campers were wearing lifejackets or safety climbing gear. I have heard about many WAD experiences from their homes and know that they are simply sharing stories the way that boys do.]
  • The final quote was on the opposite side: My favorite horse is “Flash” because “he listens well, he’s fast and I like his hair.”


I guess it is time to tell Susie Ma’am that I have finished my blog.  It was hard at first – and I almost died – but all is well now.


Steve Sir


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