Saturday, March 26, 2016

Buddies, Bits and Bridles

“No selfies on horseback!”

It’s a new rule at Ballyshannon Equestrian Center in Courtland, one that owner Maura Britt never imagined she would have to enact when she opened Ballyshannon in 2008. But, for Britt, the safety of the riders—and horses—is always a priority, and distractions have to be minimized. This is just one of the many safety points that Britt will teach to nearly 60 girls this June through her summer camp partnership with Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast.

This is the fourth summer that Britt will be running the horseback program for Girl Scouts, during which she teaches girls about horse care, stable management, riding and safety. This summer, there will be five sessions of the horse-themed camp for girls in grades four through 12, who will stay at nearby Girl Scout Camp Darden during the week. The camp, although typically attended by Girl Scouts, is open to all girls.

Maura Britt helps Erica get her horse up to a trot during a 2013
Girl Scout summer camp session at Ballyshannon.
“On day one of camp, the girls have a tour of the barn, and we teach them a how to put on a halter and lead rope, and groom, saddle and bridle the horses,” Britt said. “They also learn how to mount, walk, turn and dismount the horse. The next day, we introduce trotting. By Thursday, they go on a trail ride, and Friday will be horse show day.”

The Girl Scout Juniors—fourth and fifth graders— who attend the camp will earn the new Horseback Riding badge, which was introduced last June as part of an effort from Girl Scouts of the USA to further encourage girls to be active outdoors.

Through her riding lessons, Britt is committed to providing that hands-on learning experience that girls want. She shows the girls how to groom the horses, and then they work in small groups to groom the horses on their own. After Britt teaches them how to saddle and bridle the horses, it is up to the girls to saddle and bridle the horses each day, of course with Britt and her staff nearby for guidance when needed. She wants girls to be safe and know what they are doing, but it is important to her that the girls also have a lot of fun.

And, for the pictures, girls may not have horseback selfies, but Britt is sure to photo-document each week of camp and place the pictures on Facebook for the girls and their parents to download and share when they get home from camp.