Submitted by Lori Reule
Twenty-nine enthusiastic equestrians gathered in Donalda over the May long weekend for the second annual Gramma Shirley’s 4-H Horse Camp.
The 4-H members represented 10 different 4-H clubs in the east and west central regions.
The camp honours the memory and philosophy of the late Shirley Woods, a longtime 4-H leader and mentor to many young riders in the east-central region, by offering many varied activities for the members to experience over the weekend while supporting the 4-H program.
Gramma Shirley’s 4-H Horse Camp sprang from the vision of Karen Sorensen, Shirley’s friend and fellow 4-H volunteer. The main goals of the camp are to encourage members to try something new with their horses and to have fun while strengthening the bond with their four footed partners.
Last year, the riders got to try polo-crosse. This year, they got to experience being part of a drill team.
Various clinicians throughout the weekend keep the kids and horses moving. Barrel racing, equine massage, driving, trail, jumping, showmanship, equitation … horses and riders had no trouble sleeping at the end of the busy days.
Consistent favourites have been Kelly Strandquist, who gives the members a chance to try roping, horsemanship instructors Dustin Grams and Marty Gardner, and Jeopardy Trail (imagine “Minute to Win It” on a horse).
On Friday evening, the kids were inspired to overcome any obstacle by motivational speaker Dausen Kluin, whose down-to-earth approach to life with cerebral palsy brought laughter and tears.
Saturday evening’s gymkhana gave the kids the chance to engage in a little “friendly competition,” as did the show that wrapped up the camp on Monday.
Generous sponsors have allowed camp organizers to offer top quality instructors, a great facility in the Donalda Arena complex and fantastic food, thanks to Marie Bignell’s catering.
The members were also rewarded with prizes for things such as “camper most willing to try anything” to high points in the gymkhana/show events.
The tremendous support of sponsors and volunteers has encouraged the organizers to make this camp an annual event.
However, a comment made on Monday by one of the campers represents the true reason that the organizers will ensure the camp continues. A young girl who had heard about last year’s camp told the group, “I joined 4-H just so I could come to this camp.”
Shirley would be proud.