Perfect Day

Making tie dyes with Sarah

It’s hard not to describe today as perfect. First we’re having amazing weather— crystal clear blue skies shining all day after a few pockets of fog lifted in the morning, extraordinarily low humidity making the high temperature (around 80) feel just warm and inviting, and the occasional breezes turning the leaves on the trees into rustling waves of green. Glancing up at the shining granite of Castle Rock, hearing the splattering of Stick Biscuit Falls, and breathing in the cool fresh air combined so delightfully. Spending the entire day outside— making tie dye t-shirts with Sarah, riding horses, climbing the Alpine Tower, or just reading a book on the hill —it was spectacular, pleasant in every way.

One of the highlights, and perhaps my favorite time of the day, was after dinner as the sun began to slip down toward the distant mountains. This “Twilight” time after dinner but before the start of each line’s evening programs lasts about an hour, and it’s a relaxed, friendly time for everyone at camp to play on the hill (tetherball, hula hoop, guitar, etc.), watch the sunset, or just hang out to talk with friends. It’s really special, and in the glow of the evening light, beautiful as well.

Blindfolded Girl Rock Climbing
Climbing Instructor and Camper

It was also a perfect day for climbing, which almost two dozen campers enjoyed today on our 50-foot Alpine Climbing Tower. The Tower can accommodate up to 6 climbers at the same time, each exploring a different route and overcoming different climbing challenges on the way to the top. All these options make it a wonderful place to learn how to climb. Even our youngest campers will start here, learning a couple of important climbing knots, understanding the equipment for rock climbing (What’s an ATC?), and practicing the belay commands used by climbers around the world. Some of the girls opt of an even greater challenge climbing the tower by blindfolding themselves. Not being able to see where foot- and hand-holds are located slows things down, but it also makes climbing more about concentration and balance (that’s a good thing!) than about reaching the next hold in sight. What a great feeling for a girl to have tried something that sounds really difficult, and with encouragement and perseverance, being able to do it!

Camp Girl Riding Horse
Love Rockbrook Calendar

The Rockbrook horses are also enjoying this perfect summer weather as they keep our many young equestriennes busy in the riding rings. From the beautiful thoroughbred mare Ava to the veteran Connemara pony Annie, most of the 30 horses here this summer were providing mounted lessons today. So far there’s no shortage of enthusiasm for riding at Rockbrook this session, keeping both our horses and riding staff happily busy.

Powerful crafting forces are at work now too! Armed with gallons of paint and glue, paper, fibers, cloth and clay, among so many other options, these girls are extraordinarily and creatively productive. There are so many examples. Our master instructors Maggie Kelsey, Alex Baker and Nancy McDonald have amazing projects planned for the girls. I’m sure you’ll be impressed with the colorful results that make their way home at the end of camp. Isn’t this calendar fantastic? Click the photo to see a larger version and you’ll find out what appears to be the most important days… so far! 🙂

You couldn’t ask for a more perfect day of whitewater rafting either. We took four buses and vans of campers over to the Nantahala river today to bump, bounce, splash, and scream their way down the rapids for a few hours. We practically had the river to ourselves, gorgeous weather, and with our top-notch Rockbrook guides and equipment, flawless trips all day long. It really feels special to paddle the Nantahala like this… a boat full of excited girls, warm sun, cold water, moments of intense, wide-eyed adventure, followed by full-bodied laughter. You might just call that “fun.” Yep, it was that too.

Rockbrook Whitewater Rafting
Girls Swimming Lake

Crazy About Activities

Horseback Riding Camper
Horsback Riding Child

Let’s not forget about riding! Down through the tunnel and on the level pastures near the river, girls are working with horses every activity period. Most are taking mounted riding lessons and learning to post (rising and falling rhythmically in the saddle) while their horse is trotting, or to balance and sit properly while in a canter. A few more advanced riders are working on jumping low rails, while the first-time riding girls are excited to get their horses to walk. This morning, during the second activity period, and despite the cloudy cool weather, there were four lessons happening simultaneously.  Later, other girls who had signed up for the “Stable Club” spent their activity period bathing and brushing two of our veteran Connemara ponies, Annie and Danny. Kelsi and the whole riding staff are keeping all our “horse crazy” girls at Rockbrook happily busy.

Child Swimming at summer camp
Child Wall Rock Climbing

The Rockbrook Lake, like the riding center, is another part of camp that is a favorite for many girls. We might call them “water crazy,” but again, even in less that ideal weather (i.e. more cool than hot, I’d say) you can count on a group of campers ready to jump of the diving board, zip down the water slide, swim “Mermaid Laps,” or just float around in a tube.  Dunn’s Creek, the mountain stream that feeds our lake, keeps the water temperature quite “refreshing,” so it takes a real zeal be wet on a regular basis. My guess is that for these girls, the water temperature is trivial compared the thrills the lake has to offer. Like they say, “You get used to it!”

The “climbing crazy” girls at Rockbrook have many opportunities to satisfy their appetite as well. Instead of one area, though, they have three places on the camp property where they can tighten their harness, buckle their helmet, and tie into a belay rope. They can climb our 50-ft Alpine tower choosing any one of its many different elements, work out on the climbing wall in our gym, maybe learning to “stem” (stretch to two wide footholds) in the corner, or get out on Castle Rock to hop on “Whim,” “Wham” or “Bam,” three of the most popular routes of there. Each of these climbing areas offers a range of challenges keeping our climbers coming back for more.

Of course, there are not just horse, water and climbing crazy girls at Rockbrook. There are girls keen about crafts, sports, and drama too. There are tennis girls and nature girls, kayakers and hikers. With almost 30 different daily activities at camp, most everyone has a favorite, and if given the chance, will spend extra time pursuing their preference. While more true for some camp activities than others (e.g., the ones mentioned above), it is possible, in other words, for campers to focus their choices even as our sign up system encourages them to explore a variety. As they switch activity selections every three days, have regular options for adventure trips, and fill 3 blocks of free time each day, campers can find, if they desire it, a good balance of diversity and emphasis in how they spend their day at camp. It’s possible to be excited about all your activities at Rockbrook, and a little crazy about some as well.

Camp Teen Girl Friends

Proud of These Girls

Horseback riding camp girl

Horseback riding was back in full swing today under bright blue skies and without a drop of rain to speak of. Kelly and her team of dedicated instructors were excited to move their classes from the porch of the equestrian office and inside the barns, where they’ve been meeting during that spell of soggy weather, to back outside for mounted lessons. The riders in every lesson were itching to ride too, the beginners ready show what they’ve been learning about the horses’ tack (saddles, reins and bits) and the more advanced riders thrilled to be meeting a new horse. A big part of riding is creating a level of trust, friendship really, between a horse and rider. The best riders “click” with their horses, communicating clearly, respecting and sympathizing, so it’s always a great thing to see Rockbrook girls out riding and demonstrating this kind of intimacy with their horses. Almost 100 girls rode today, so it was a big day of horseback riding down at the barn!

High Ropes Course Climbing child
Child with big gun

The Alpine Tower came alive with all kinds of high ropes course adventure today as well. Driving up the north driveway of camp, you may have spotted in the woods this giant, 50-foot climbing tower made of massive telephone poles, cables, bolts and rope. Up close, and particularly when there are (up to six at a time) girls climbing all over it, it’s even more impressive because there is such a variety of climbing challenges to try. There are swinging logs, tall cargo nets, climbing ropes, inclined poles, wiggly planks, and a strenuous overhanging climbing wall to choose from. At the top of the Tower, there’s a triangular shaped deck where the staff have placed a poster for girls to write their name as having successfully made the climb. Coming down from the platform is simple. Every climber is on belay when climbing, so when ready, the belayer lowers her slowly down on the belay rope. Like being on a big rope swing, it’s a fun ride.

At the rifle range, which is also set back in the woods away from camp, the girls are focused on the upcoming riflery tournament against the Camp Carolina boys. The instructors are hoping to match last session’s win, so they are really working, shooting hundreds of rounds everyday. Cliff, who is a retired law enforcement trainer and our marksman coach this summer, is helping the girls with their shooting technique as well as keeping the rifles perfectly sighted and maintained. And his coaching is paying off! Some girls are consistently scoring in the mid 30s (out of a possible 50 points- 5 shots, with a bullseye scoring 10 points) and a couple are clustering shots and scoring in the 40s. Very impressive accuracy and precision!

Campers making tie dye t-shirts

Get ready for tie dyes! The craft activity we call “Hodge Podge” has been cranking through tie-dye t-shirts giving everyone a chance to twist, fold and squirt colorful dyes. The process begins with soaking a plain white t-shirt (though a few other cotton items have found their way) in a solution of urea. The girls then use rubber bands to bind folds of the still wet fabric tight enough that when they apply different colors of dye, some parts absorb less dye than others. The shirts then sit overnight. It’s always fun to see what cool patterns are revealed when the they are finally unfolded and rinsed.

Tonight was a camp dance night as we hosted the young boys from Camp Carolina in our gym, and our oldest girls rode over to dance in their dining hall. For years we have done it this way, holding two simultaneous dances to manage better so many children and to play more age appropriate music at each venue. The senior girls seemed most excited about the event, but in a great lighthearted, Rockbrook, way. Instead of fancy outfits, most of them wore campy clothes, t-shirts, even crazy costumes. Most brushed their hair, I suspect, but face paint and glitter were more prevalent than make up. When came to dancing, it was just as silly, with small clusters of girls laughing and jumping together to the beat, almost oblivious to the (much more shy) boys. These are strong young ladies who know how to have good fun. You should be proud!

teenage campers dancing at camp dance

Girls with Moxie

Camp kid tie dyeing t-shirts
Young camper girl learning to canoe

Moxie is a good way to describe it… that impressive quality these Rockbrook girls have driving just about everything they do, from singing songs in the dining hall, to making tie-dye t-shirts, to learning how to canoe. The word is a neologism, more well known in Maine because of the soda, but it’s a great way to describe having “vigor, verve and pep,” “courage,” “skill and know-how,” as my dictionary defines it. There’s something about camp that brings out the moxie, making everything more fun and exciting. It’s akin to a “spirit for life,” an enthusiasm for doing. All kinds of adventure, sports and creative activities, punctuated by free time with friends and wrapped in a multicolored layer of silliness, is the name of the game around here. And like one Rockbrook song puts it, these girls have “ginger, pep, spirit, grit and wit,” making it all the more awesome.

Young camper kid horseback riding

With this kind of fun happening each moment at camp, with these girls exercising their moxie, it’s easy to forget that through the tunnel and down by the river, the Rockbrook Equestrian Staff and their 29 horses are just as busy teaching horseback riding. Kelly, the Equestrian Director, told me she’s got 93 campers placed in classes throughout the week, ranging from beginners to advanced riders. Kelly places campers interested in riding into lessons that match their interest, experience and current riding ability, and then those classes meet several times each week. It becomes a complicated schedule, but also a busy one given how many girls want to ride this session. The advanced riders tend to be out in the late afternoon, so that’s a good time to see jumping and faster cantering. It’s just beautiful to watch, especially in the upper pasture where the view of Dunn’s Rock is so prominent in the background. Coming in the morning is a treat too though because you can talk with the youngest riders, see them learning the fundamental skills of riding and relating to their horses with such care and attention. No matter what their level, horseback riding for many girls is their favorite activity, and is quick to bring out the most wonderful smiles and feelings of accomplishment.

Camp Counselor friends with camper

Moxie describes the pulse of our campers really well, but when it comes to the counselors this session, their moxie can be seen in the patience, compassion and caring at the core of their relationships at camp. Here too, these great young women are confident and lively in their teaching. They are fantastic role models, trustworthy and responsible, treating everyone fairly and with respect, and at the same time enjoying themselves and laughing just as hard as their campers. Our counselors have a “spirit for life” at camp, a verve making them friendly and instinctively aware of their camper’s needs.  Sofie and the other Rockbrook directors take great care recruiting staff members, but it’s this special quality we’re looking for.  We know it makes the best counselors, and this summer, they’ve definitely got it.

When the summer wraps up and your girls return home, we hope you’ll see their moxie a little more clearly, and marvel at its power in new ways.

Camp Kid splashing down off the waterslide

New Horseback Riding Video!

You can learn a lot about the Rockbrook horseback riding program by reading through the many resources on our Web site. We’ve written about being an advanced rider and a complete beginner. We’ve talked about our horses, our staff, even some of the games we play in addition to our mounted lessons.

Now we have a new video to show you! It’s a great way to see our horses and riding program in action. Cara, our Equestrian Director, explains the philosophy and main goals of the Rockbrook program. Go ahead an check it out… And share it with your friends!

Riding English

English Equestrian Horse and Saddle

At Rockbrook, our camp Equestrian Program teaches “English Riding” as opposed to “Western Riding.” But what is the difference between these two forms of horseback riding?

One difference you’ll notice right away, even before mounting your horse, is in the saddles. Western saddles are wider and deeper, with a very prominent horn toward the front. These are stable, comfortable seats designed for the cowboy (or girl!) who needs to spend a long time in the saddle. English saddles are smaller and lighter to allow the horse the greater freedom of movement required for the different hunter jumper gaits. And again, they don’t have a horn.

Other parts of the tack are different too. The reins are closed (left and right sides connected), the stirrups are shorter, and the bit is softer in the horse’s mouth in English Riding.

With these differences, naturally how you ride English is different from Western riding. As opposed to Western riding’s use of the reins, English horseback riding relies much more on balance and the rider’s legs to control the horse. The rider is often up and out of the seat (two point, posting and jumping for example), as opposed to the seated position in Western riding.

Add to that learning to walk, trot, canter, dressage and jumping techniques, and you can see that learning English horseback riding is a wonderful sport.

A Confident Equestrienne

Equestrian Kids Camp Riding

If you’re a horse kid, an equestrienne (a girl who loves all things horse related), then you will love the equestrian camp programs at Rockbrook. You’ll of course learn a lot about riding and improve your horseback skills, but you’ll also gain important equestrian confidence. This photo shows a little of that. It’s a great shot of what it feels like to be comfortable in the saddle, to really know and trust your horse, and to build up a set of instincts about horseback riding.

The secret to all of this is not just great horses and great riding instructors; it’s also making the equestrian lessons fun for kids. With the right match of horse and rider and the right level of instruction, you feel good in the activity, not worried about anything and certainly not bored either.  At Rockbrook, we’re riding, and learning, and becoming more confident equestriennes, and having tons of fun doing it.

RBC Equestrian Program Profiled

Horse Camp Girl Riding
Horse Information Logo

Rockbrook has recently been added to the “all things horse” web site With information and articles about horse care, horse breeds, horse careers, horse training, and of course horse camps, it is a fantastic Internet resource. Since 1997, has been a great place for every horse enthusiast to find out about horse related products and services.

Rockbrook is proud to now be included. Our equestrian program has a very nice detailed profile on the site.

Want to learn more about horses and horseback riding? Head on over to!

All Year Equestrian Program

Equestrian Camp Program Riding

Down at the Rockbrook Stables, there’s lots of action these days, even now after camp. That’s because Brevard’s Free Rein Therapeutic Riding Program has begun operating its equestrian programs there. Free Rein is a nonprofit organization dedicated to encouraging human-horse connections for educational and therapeutic benefits. Children, teenagers and adults with a wide range of disabilities make tremendous physical and emotional strides through riding and caring for horses, through having gentle, trusting relationships with such large, powerful animals.  For many, these are life-changing effects!

Free Rein is a member of the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International (PATH Intl.) and its teachers are PATH certified instructors. There are over 800 accredited equestrian centers like Free Rein around the world promoting equine-assisted activities and therapies, and serving individuals with special needs.

Free Rein will operate its programs at the Rockbrook Stables during the school year allowing camp to run its equestrian programs during the summer.

Want to learn more about Free Rein? Visit their site!

The Riding Program Staff

Youth Horse Camps

One important aspect of Rockbrook’s youth horse camps is its horseback riding staff members’ qualifications. The equestrian program’s director, Cara Thompson, interviews and selects all of the riding instructors that work at Rockbrook. Cara has directed the Rockbrook horse camps for five years now, following her graduation from St. Andrews College with a Bachelors Degree in Equine Business Management. Cara insures that each of the women teaching riding at Rockbrook’s youth horse camps has several years of experience working with horses and instructing both beginners and experienced riders. Most of these instructors are studying a horse-related field in college, and in some cases, have already graduated with an equine studies degree. The horseback riding program enjoy great consistency too because every summer several of the riding staff members joining Cara return from the previous summer.

The youth horse camps at Rockbrook have continued to expand their reputation and to attract an impressive group of young riders.