Hampton University’s Equestrian Summer Camp has officially started and the students are gearing up for a great summer.
The Reading Interest Development & Enhancing Riding Skills (R.I.D.E.R.S.) summer day camp program held at Hampton University’s newly renovated 1360 N. Mallory Street stables first started in 2002. The camp is designed specifically for kids aged 7 to 17 with different levels of horse riding skills. Several students have gone through the program summer after summer to return as volunteers, assistants, and even camp leaders.
Eleanor Burrows, a high school student from Pennsylvania who has been attending the camp for nine years shares why she keeps coming back year after year. “I think most of all I like riding, and being able to play games on horseback. There’s a community here and I feel like I have a family here. I’ve had a lot of family tragedies I’ve dealt with the past couple of years and this really cheers me up.”
Patricia Bishop, who is known as Ms. Gail around the stables, works for Hampton University, takes care of the horses and the barn and has been helping with the program since its inception. Her favorite part about the program has been, “Watching the kids grow, because they mature, they get more responsible, confident, they’re able to exercise and get outside, and they find there’s a need to take care of something else other than themselves,” she said.
Ms. Gail’s granddaughter is an alumna of the R.I.D.E.R.S. program and now assists the riding instructor. “I love interacting with the horses, riding them, I used to want to barrel race,” said Cheyenne Keys, Miss Gail’s granddaughter and assistant for the program. She advises those who are interested in the program to just give it a try. “Always try something new, you could come out here and end up loving being around the horses, they’re gentle, and it’s really good for kids.”
Larry Wheeler, a Hampton University alumnus, drove all the way from Williamsburg to bring his granddaughter to the camp for her first time. “Jaiden is an animal lover so anything to do with the horses, she just loves horses,” said Wheeler. “She just started this year and has been looking forward to it for a long time.” Jaiden’s little sister is hoping to start the program next year.
“I am excited about the startup of this year’s summer R.I.D.E.R.S’ Equestrian Program for youth at Hampton University,” said Dr. Rodney Gaines, Camp Director and Assistant Professor in the Hampton University’s Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation. “It is a scene of art, beauty, academics, and nature all working together as the staff, horses, and youth come together to experience the horses. I’ve received so many requests from the parents and faculty and staff about starting a program for adults, so I envision that for this coming fall and spring with perhaps an adult program for next summer! The sky is the limit and we have a treasure chest with the HU R.I.D.E.R.S program providing everyone with tranquility and the wonderful experience of horse riding on the Bay.”
During the camp, the students not only learn how to ride the horses, but actually muck the stalls and help clean the barn, while also reading and participating in traditional camp activities, such as arts & crafts and games. The camp continues until July 13, 2018.
Jaiden Phillips receiving first riding lesson during first day of the R.I.D.E.R.S. program