Archive for the ‘Horses’ Category

The Thrill of Horseback Riding

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

When riding a horse, I feel connected.

Trees blurring past, the thunder of hooves.  I held tight to the reins, remembering to keep my heels down.  Fourteen hundred pounds of power galloping through the forest.  Horseback riding is a mystical, powerful adventure.

When riding a horse, I feel connected.  It’s a mixture of love, fear, and respect.  Humans and horses have a long history together, a productive relationship that has lasted centuries.  Before machines, horses were the machine, they were a power that helped pull our civilization together.  Before cars, horses carried us across the land.  When we ride horses in this modern world, it’s a timeless event.  And Sanborn Western Camps is one of the best places to ride.

At Sanborn, one of our many goals is to foster a sense of wonder in every camper.  We work to inspire a connection with nature.  And one of the many ways to achieve that connection is to swing up into a saddle and ride a horse.

I gazed into the huge marble eyes.

There is something therapeutic about horseback riding.  Studies have shown that we truly connect with the animal.  Brain waves slow.  We even change our breathing to match up with the horse.  The slightest movement, a turn, the twitch of a muscle, it’s all communication.  The horse understands without words.  If a camper is stressed, the horse can sense that.  If a camper is relaxed, the horse relaxes as well.  It’s a feedback loop, animal to animal, a real time relationship.

Many years ago when I was a camper at Sanborn, I was afraid of horses.  I pretended I didn’t care, but the truth is I was scared.  The staff was ready for this.  The counselors and wranglers gently encouraged me to step outside my comfort zone and give horseback riding a try.  So I did.

I thought we would jump right on a horse and ride, but the process was much more intricate.  The wranglers first taught me how to care for the animal, to understand it, to lead the horse gently, to speak to it.  They showed me how to brush the horse, tracing the contours of its power.  I began to relax and forget my fear.  I began to feel a sense of wonder.

I gazed into the huge marble eyes.  I ran my hands along the sway of the horse’s back and wondered if a Ute boy or a young trapper did the same with his horse two hundred years ago, right where I was standing.

We learned to saddle and bridle, tightening buckles, bringing all tack to the perfect length.

We learned to saddle and bridle, tightening buckles, bringing all tack to the perfect length.  Then, with mud on my rented boots, I swung up into the saddle.  We rode slowly, ambling away from the Big Spring barn.  That sunny afternoon, I went on my first ride.  And I’ve never looked back.

When we ride, we develop all kinds of skills.  Horseback riding is a two-way process.  You can’t just sit back and do nothing, you must interact with the animal with physical and verbal cues.  As a result, riding develops subtle communication skills.  Riding also develops balance and coordination.  Your core gets a workout, and you must stay focused on where your body is in space.  After a long ride, the next day you can truly feel it, aches in muscles you didn’t know you had.

At camp we do all kinds of rides, from half-day trail rides to five day pack trips deep into the Rockies.  It’s a range of fun that fits perfectly with the range of campers.  My favorites are the long trips, adventures that are unmatched.  We ride deep into rugged country, places where only horses can take us.  We sleep under the stars and rise before dawn to care for the herd.  It’s a unique experience that you can only find at a place like Sanborn.

In our modern chaotic world, it’s important to find ways to relax.  Horseback riding can do that.  Horses are a direct bond with nature that we can all share.  When you ride a horse, you find both companionship and solitude at the same time.

Any chance I can get, I’ll take a horseback ride.  The rasp of an old saddle, the musk of the animal, the joy of a slow walk through an aspen grove.  The world looks better from the back of a horse.  The Ute Indians of the Rockies once said, “The way to heaven is on horseback.”  I think they might be right.

- M. Huffman -

Wordless Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Cindy Lou- Blue Eyed Girl

Saturday, February 18th, 2012

Cindy Lou with her thick winter coat

Cindy Lou

Color: Bay

Gender: Mare

Breed: Quarter Horse Cross

Cindy Lou is a very popular horse around these parts. She is ridden by just about everyone at camp- from Silver Spruce campers up to JCs, riding counselors, wranglers, and those of us that work with the horses all year. We love her!

Besides being able to get around camp’s extensive acreage with ease, Cindy Lou has gone on just about every Horse Long Trip that Sanborn has to offer. She’s been to the Puma Hills, around 39 Mile Mountain, Sledgehammer, Black Mountain, the Corduroys, and to Split Tank.

Cindy Lou with a camper friend on the 39 Mile Mountain Long Trip

Cindy also has amazing skills at being a “ranch horse.” From knowing how to work cows, to being an expert at moving horses from one of our big pastures to another, she loves to have a job. She also enjoys running around High Tor and Quicks’ pastures on the search for some of our sneaky herd who like to play hide and seek on warm summer mornings.

Cindy Lou has a unique blue eye that she likes to assess situations with.  She always wants to know what she’s getting herself into before making the next move!

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A few camper stories

Friday, February 17th, 2012

A few stories to send you into what is hopefully a good weekend for you…

Hi, I’m Daniela and I want to tell you about a great horseback riding experience! Here at Sanborn, they teach you everything about the horses and give you time to love them. There is time to appreciate and learn about them. The wranglers help you understand the horses and how horses understand your feelings. Horses teach you how that everything is possible! They give you a feeling of comfort, even though the horses are bigger than you. The horseback riding experience at Sanborn is unforgettable and you shouldn’t miss it!

I love horses! I ride English at home and compete in lots of horse shows. I really love to come to camp and ride Western. It is fun and relaxed and I still learn a lot. The wranglers are all really nice! I am able to sign up for lessons on Saturdays, go on a horse overnight, and different rides in the morning and afternoon. Even though it is a different type of riding, the wranglers help me improve my riding skills so I will be a better rider when I go home. I like going on trail rides because we get to play games on horseback and talk to our friends. I definitely recommend riding while at Sanborn!

We are getting ready for our last overnight this week. I am really excited to go on the Pirate overnight. I heard we get to build a pirate ship, go on a scavenger hunt, and play fun games! I loved all of my trips and activities this summer. I can’t decide which is my favorite! I am going to be really sad to go home soon. I have made such great friends this session – I’ve made some new friends and spent time with some people who were here last year. This has been such a fun summer and I can’t wait to come back next year!

Rafter The Gentle Giant

Friday, January 20th, 2012


Color: Red Roan

Gender: Gelding

Breed: Appaloosa Cross

Rafter is a gentle giant who has called Sanborn his home since 1996.  He is one of our biggest horses, yet our smallest campers love to ride him.  Rafter’s got a very calm demeanor and overall mellow attitude.  He also has a very smooth gait when he trots and lopes.  Rafter loves to lounge in the sun on warm afternoons and munch on hay with his fellow “seniors” (our other horses that are 20 years and older).  Our senior horses are often used for Sanborn Junior riders because they have years of experience in safely teaching younger children how to ride.  Rafter’s name comes from his unique brand that he had when he first came to Sanborn.  On a foot note… Rafter has very large hooves!

Rafter usually needs some pretty short stirrups!

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Jaunts With Jasper

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012


Color: Chestnut

Gender: Gelding

Breed: Mustang Cross

Jasper is a very talented horse in more than one way.

All his friends call him Houdini for his amazing skills of escaping from any locked gate or corral.  He can also quickly untie a knot no matter how tightly it’s been tied.  Jasper not only frees himself, but he encourages his friends to join him for a little rendezvous.

Jasper also has uncanny swimming skills.  His favorite day in the summer is the Super Wrangler All Day because he gets to pretend to be a very large fish and take campers for a dip in the Witcher Fish Pond.  Lost Lake is another favorite stomping ground of Jasper’s.  He will jump in with campers on his back again and again!

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Cowboy Take Me Away

Monday, January 16th, 2012


Color: Bay

Gender: Gelding

Breed: Quarter Horse Cross

Cowboy is a gentle, wise soul who has been at Sanborn for over fifteen years.  He used to be a wrangler horse who loved to pull shenanigans and was always looking for adventures.  Now he is enjoying being more mature and has the experience to get you anywhere around camp – from Top of the World, to Lost Lake, to Fish Creek, to the Big Spring Barn or the High Trails Stables.  Cowboy has his own special saddle with his name right on it because of high withers on his back.  He also has quite the forelock which gives him a Justin Bieber-esk quality.  He could definitely pull off some great karaoke if the situation arose! He and Rafter are best friends and have been for a long long time.


Cowboy sports the Bieb's hairdo

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Innovation and Leadership Styles: There is No Single Formula

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Creativity. Innovation. How else will you find the next foothold?

This weekend, the New York Times interviewed Bill Kling, founder and president emeritus of the American Public Media Group, about leadership and the influential lessons of childhood.

Kling appreciates the space and time his parents provided him, as it allowed him to let his imagination run.  He also spent a great deal of time dismantling and reconstructing (and sometimes destroying) radios….perhaps leading to his lifetime interest in radio.  He feels “we often undervalue the importance of giving young kids that kind of hands-on experience. It may not lead to their deciding what to do with their lives, but it’s surprising what they will absorb — and maybe their lives will turn out differently.”

This ability to experiment as a child, and follow one’s passion areas, strengths and skill areas truly add to a person’s leadership potential.  If a child, or young adult, feels he/she has aptitude in an area—he/she will have more confidence.  That said, it is essential that our future leaders understand that they have to try a variety of activities and work with others in order to achieve great things.

Hard work at 13,000 feet

As Kling says, “A mentor of mine taught me that every perspective is additive, because every person sitting in a room is looking at things differently. Each of them has a different perspective. They come from a different way of thinking and different experiences. And their collective perspective gives you a better outcome. So you have to value the perspectives and try to organize those perspectives in some useful way that lets you go forward.”

Our SOLE/CORE programs allow our 8th and 9th grade campers to not only work together and learn to value new perspectives, they also give our campers opportunities to focus on a specific skill set that interests them.  Whether they are rock climbing, expedition backpacking, horseback riding, or mountain biking, the time and effort these campers dedicate to planning, route finding, learning, teaching, and collectively improving (through service projects and mentoring) gives them a depth of experience and a camaraderie that is life-changing.

They discover that their own leadership strengths can compliment the strengths of others, and they also learn that, sometimes, those very strengths need the balance of other ideas in order to find success. They discover inner creativity—sometimes in humorous ways—because they are in such a supportive, “can-do” social environment.  They discover the outdoors to be a very demanding and inflexible teacher, one whose course requires a great deal of preparation, creativity, flexibility, and innovation in order to pass.

And, sometimes, they fail.

Repairing Fence...Building Leadership

Yet as they come down from the rock they didn’t climb, or the mountain they didn’t summit, or the river they couldn’t cross—they are already thinking, wondering, formulating, planning, and talking about how to do it again…and again…and again.  No one on these trips tells anyone “you can’t do it.”  Kling said, “Too often, leaders fail because someone told them they can’t do it. If you don’t know what you can’t do, then you may well achieve it. If you don’t know what you can’t do, then you may well achieve it.”

All of this brings to mind a favorite children’s book, The OK Book by  Amy Krouse Rosenthal.  Childhood is the time to be “OK” at many different things….because you will have the whole rest of your life to become really terrific at something.

Undoubtedly many of our SOLE/CORE participants will go on to become “really terrific” leaders in the fields of their choice….many of them already have.