It’s a Highlight

First tetherball game
Greeting her first camp horse

It’s a highlight of the summer, the largest opening day of a session with 210 campers, 78 staff members, parents, grandparents, a good number of little brothers and siblings all arriving at Rockbrook this morning for the start of our second session. More importantly, today is a highlight of the year for many of the campers arriving, because they’ve been waiting since last summer to return to Rockbrook, to see their camp friends, to take a deep breath of the woodsy mountain air, to sing their favorite camp song in the dining hall, and to get busy with all the fun activities of camp. And for new campers, today is a highlight simply because it is their first day of their time at camp. The directors, Sofie, Chase, and Grace, the program staff and the superb group of cabin counselors assembled this session are all equally excited to welcome everyone to camp. You could feel it as girls and their families arrived all morning; this is a amazing bunch of people and we all are pumped up for a great session!

Throughout the morning, those campers who arrived early jumping right into things by taking a hike to Rockbrook Falls, the largest waterfall on the camp property, learning to make a new patterns of friendship bracelet, greeting a couple of the camp horses, brushing up on their tetherball skills, or simply getting to know each other relaxing in one of the many red porch rocking chairs around camp.

Girls finding a waterfall on hike
Feet of girls waiting to swim

It was easy to guess this year’s t-shirt color because just about everywhere today you saw girls wearing the same heather green. Likewise, the girls all proudly wore their wooden name tags. These tags, following a long Rockbrook tradition, are thin slices of dried Mountain Laurel strung simply on a piece of vinyl lanyard, but each is designed and decorated by every camper’s counselor and is presented right when the girls arrive at camp. Some girls add to the decoration and collect them as souvenirs of their years at camp (so many wooded camp name tags hanging in girls’ rooms at home!).

After a comforting lunch of Rick’s homemade, baked macaroni and cheese, salad and fresh fruit… and pausing to sing Happy Birthday to Katie …the girls gathered in their cabins for brief meetings. These are opportunities to get to know all of the cabin mates, but also for the counselors to discuss cabin chores, the daily camp schedule, and important safety rules. Next, everyone began a rotation between camp tours, swimming demonstrations, and games in each age group’s lodge. By this time the weather had turned cloudy and a slight drizzle was falling now and then, not thunder or lightning, but the occasional burst of raindrops that would last for ten minutes or less. This made our swimming demonstrations a bit chillier than usual, but you would be surprised how this barely slowed down these girls. With encouragement and support from their counselors, coaching from all 8 of the lifeguards, reassurance from Sarah and the other directors, and cheering from their cabin mates, most girls easily earned their swimming tags and were quickly wrapped in towels chatting wildly about how “freezing” the lake is.

Camp Staff Skit

Just before dinner, the entire camp assembled in the gym to enjoy an introduction to all of the Rockbrook activities presented by the counselors. Each team of instructors took the stage to perform a skit or song related to their activity. In most cases, if their activity involves special equipment, it was featured in the skit. In this photo, for example, we have the paddling instructors singing and dancing decked out in spray skirts, helmets, and PFDs. We’ve found this to be a great way for the campers to meet the activity instructors, get a glimpse of their enthusiasm for their activity, see some of the cool craft projects available, and understand what’s involved in each activity…all in preparation for the time tonight when they will sign up for their first set of four scheduled activities. There are always fun new aspects to the activities (this year, the new Nature Nook out in the woods, for example), so this assembly gives both new and returning campers ideas about what they’d like to do while at camp.

As we settle in here at camp, I hope you begin following along by checking the online photos available each day in your parent account, reading and sharing these blog posts, liking our Facebook page, and even following us on Twitter. There’s always a lot going on at Rockbrook, and these are the ways you can keep up a bit.

P.S. Don’t be shy about commenting on these blog posts! We love hearing from you.

New Horseback Riding Video!

Horse TeenagerYou 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 SaddleAt 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. In English riding, 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.

Cooperation and Imagination

girls dancing together at summer campJuniors dance! The dance activity, which meets in the Lakeview Lodge, is popular for every age group at camp. Partly this is because Lindsey has come up with different, age-appropriate, dances for the Juniors, Middlers and Seniors, but also because the girls are really learning some cool moves. One wall of the Lodge is lined with mirrors making it easy to watch as Lindsey demonstrates a certain dance sequence, and for the group to watch themselves as they try it as well. As they master each dance move and string them together, they’ve got a great show. In fact, during the intermission of the camp play performance, each age group will perform their dance for the rest of the camp.

Today was another day that included several tours of camp, families who visited Rockbrook to tour it so they could see the camp and meet some of the people here— the directors, the counselors and the campers. It’s always a delight for us to show folks around Rockbrook. Families are certainly impressed by the camp’s buildings (the stone lodges for example) and grounds, and they are excited to learn about the wide variety of activities we offer, but it’s particularly nice when they pick up on the feeling of life at Rockbrook. My favorite comment today was, “Everyone seems so happy and friendly.” It’s true; as you walk around camp, you can’t get far without someone greeting you and saying hello. It’s just easy to make friends here, so that makes Rockbrook stand out as being friendly too.

Summer Camp Girl Smiling Camper girl

The equestrian staff organized a fun event for the campers that combined, like a lot of things around here, music, dancing, dressing up and a heap of imagination. It also, however, included some horses because it was a pop music “air band” and “lip sync” competition based on different horses playing the parts of pop stars like Katy Perry, Lady GaGa and Taylor Swift. The girls dressed the horses with paint, ribbons, beads, braided tails, glitter and even lipstick, and then came up with a dance for each. The campers then were the backup singers for each artist (horse!) as they performed for the “judges” (Audrey and Sarah). It was very fun for the girls and very cute to see.

Campers decorate a horse

After dinner tonight, we played a camp-wide game of “Clue.” Like the board game, there was a mystery to solve that involved the players, in this case all the cabin groups, moving from room to room collecting clues. For us, the cabin groups tromped all over the camp looking for clues. They went to the tennis courts, the gym, the store, the different lodges, and so forth. At each place a character from the game (a counselor dressed as Mrs. White, Professor Plum, Colonel Mustard, etc.) would first require the cabin group to accomplish a task like inventing an RBC cheer, or everyone telling a joke, or untangling a human knot. After successfully completing the challenge task, they were given the clue that would send them on to the next location. Ultimately, after performing all the tasks and solving all the clues/riddles, the groups were led back to the dining hall for prizes and treats. Wow, what a game! It required great cabin group cooperation and imagination, and got the whole camp moving. Big fun on a Saturday night.

Testing the Birthday Paradox

With all of the adventure, crafts and sports going on in camp, it’s easy to forget that through the tunnel and across the road at the Rockbrook fields, there are campers riding horses everyday. They are girls being introduced to English horseback riding, with its emphasis on balance, posture and seat position, and others improving their riding skills in mounted lessons. They are getting to know the Rockbrook equestrian staff, led by Cara and Audrey, and the 29 horses at camp this summer. It can get pretty busy down there at the stables with horses being prepared and led back and forth from the barns, campers dressing in their boots and helmets eager to learn who they’ll ride that day, and lessons being taught in all three riding rings. If you add to that taking care of all those horses, for example when the ferrier makes his weekly visit, you have quite a hive of activity. During any of the activity periods, and even in between, you can see examples of this engaged enthusiasm and hard work. It’s impressive!

smiling camp girl horseback riding two small white ponies 2 point hunt jump horse seat

The middle picture here is of Cool Beans and his little sidekick Cloud Nine, two of our celebrity ponies at camp this summer. You may have met them on the opening day of camp. They have been well-loved this session, especially by the juniors.

Birthday cake and excited camp girlsHave you heard of the Birthday Paradox, the surprisingly high probability that two people in a group will share the same birthday? The magic number is twenty three; if you take a group of 23 randomly selected people the odds there will be two with the same birthday are about 50% (1 in 2). So what happens when you take an entire summer camp of 223 campers and 60 staff members? The probability is greater than 99.9999999999999999999999998%!

We tested this paradox tonight during our special all-camp birthday night dinner. We rearranged the dining hall so everyone with the same birth month could sit together at one giant table for each month. Everybody born in April sat together, May together, and so forth. This meant some of the tables, like September, were huge and others had only 10 or so. Throughout the meal everyone compared birthdays, and sure enough we had about 4 different pairs sharing the same day. Each table also thought of other famous people to whom they could shout out a birthday greeting… “Happy Birthday Justine Bieber!” Or, “Happy Birthday William Shakespeare!” It’s not clear how many of these were true, but that wasn’t particularly important. What mattered was coming up with funny examples for everyone to hear. The biggest bubble of excitement, however, erupted when the cakes came out, one elaborately decorated, in a “Candyland” theme, birthday cake for each month/table. As you can see in this photo of the April cake, Alison baked up simply gorgeous cakes, again, all from scratch. These were big cakes, and believe it or not, there were several tables that couldn’t finish theirs! An example of being good, but maybe a little too good!

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!

Horseback Riding Videos

Girl Horseback Riding HorseLet’s say you love horseback riding, and you spent just about everyday at the Rockbrook Stables when you were at camp this summer. Certifiably “horse crazy” —that’s you! OK, but now that you’re back at home and not riding as much (if at all), what can you do to keep up with what you learned over the summer? Horseback riding at Rockbrook is great, but what can you do now that you’re back at school?

One thing you can do is watch the instructional horseback riding videos on Youtube. There are several really cool short videos about English horse riding with titles like How to Improve Your Classical Seat, How to Canter, and How to Tack a Horse. Several were filmed at Wimbleton Village Stables in London, and are very well done. Click on over and have a look at a few of these videos. You’ll really enjoy it!

P.S. Have you seen our Rockbrook Horseback Riding Video?

Rockbrook Profiled in Horse Magazine

Great news! Rockbrook has been selected by Horsemen’s Yankee Peddler for the cover story of their current edition. Located in the Northeast (as you might guess), HYP is a print magazine covering “all aspects of the equine industry, from dressage to hunt seat to reining and barrel racing.” Given all the other horse camps in the country, it’s quite an honor for Rockbrook to be selected and profiled.

There is a short digital version of the magazine available online. Go check it out and read the spread about Rockbrook’s equestrian program (on pages 14 and 15). It’s an excellent article!