My Great Ramey Riding Camp Adventure by Ronni Rittenhouse
I found myself wishing I were a kid again, so that I could go to horseback riding
camp. Then it dawned on me that I didn't have to be a kid, I only had to be willing to ride with kids!
"Horses! Horses!" Ever since I was a small girl, the sight of these graceful, elegant creatures
stirred me with happiness and excitement. Long, boring drives in the back seat of the family car
were instantly turned into wonder-filled flights of fancy whenever a field of horses came into view.
"Horses! Horses!" I would cry, and Daddy would slow down so that I could savor the delight of
seeing the big beauties munching grass, or chasing each other, or even stirring up big clouds of
dust-filled air as they rolled in the dirt. I loved everything about them - the sight, the sounds, even
the smell! I even loved to ride the carousel! Those thrill seekers who run for the roller coaster
always ask me what the fascination is with the boring, slow, steady circling of the merry-go-round
. Such fools! Don't they know that carousels mean horses? For the small price of a ticket I
could be cantering my steed, riding with the wind, (at least in my mind) on the back of a fun-house pony. How I wished I could really be riding with the wind on the back of a real horse.
I was bitten by the horse bug very early on, but never really had the opportunity to learn to ride as a kid. I did a small bit of riding at summer camp, no more than an hour per week on broken
-down trail horses. Actually, I wasn't riding, I was sitting passively in a chair-seat on horses that knew where to go, how fast to go, and when to go back to the barn. Then, in my very early
twenties I actually took a few lessons, and I loved it! But I had had a serious weight problem
since around age 3, and the older I got the fatter I got. By the time I was in my twenties I was
too uncomfortable in my own body to attempt any kind of serious athletic activity, including riding
horses. Then, three and a half years ago, a wonderful thing happened. At the age of 54 I was
born again, found Jesus Christ as my Lord and personal Savior, and I lost 110 pounds. I was working out five times a week, eating right and feeling more physically fit than I ever had.
Last October, when I was 57 years old, I met a remarkable 83 year-old woman named Ann Kline. Ann is sharp as a tack and exceptionally active. She looks 70 and sounds 40. One day
she mentioned that she still skis, and that she had not taken the sport up until she was age 57. "If
she could take up skiing at 57 and still ski at 83," I thought, "I can learn to ride horses now. I'm
the same age she was when she began skiing." I began taking lessons near my home in November, 2004. But I wanted to develop my skills more quickly than weekly lessons were
allowing, and I was looking for a more intensive experience. I found myself wishing I were a kid
again, so that I could go to horseback riding camp. Then it dawned on me that I didn't have to
be a kid, I only had to be willing to ride with kids! I began searching on the internet for a camp that would accept a 58 year-old woman who was a novice rider, and I stumbled onto
InfoHorse.com which led me to the link for Joan Ramey's riding camp. Joan and I began trading
emails back and forth, and before long I was signed up for two weeks of her June camp. What a
wonderful opportunity that turned out to be. Joan's love of God is integrated into everything about her camp, from saying grace at meals to treating the animals and each other with dignity
I had three goals in mind for my riding camp experience:
1) I wanted to improve my seat, so that I could feel confident on a horse. Even though I had
been taking weekly lessons and had read several books on horsemanship, I couldn't quite get the
hang of "sitting on my seat bones." I always felt that I was sitting too far forward or too far back. I was out of balance.
2) I wanted to learn how to do a seated trot, a skill which had been eluding me for months; and
3) I wanted to be able to canter without feeling as if I were out of control. Up to the point that I
went to Ramey camp I always felt as if I were going to pitch off the horse the minute we picked
up the canter. You can't feel like you're riding with the wind if you're constantly afraid of falling into the dirt!
When I was corresponding with Joan over the months leading up to my attendance at camp I got the impression she was a woman in her forties or fifties. Once I met her and watched her moving
around the farm I realized I could never hope to keep up with her busy schedule and boundless
energy, and I found out that she has 15 years on me! Like my friend Ann Kline, Joan isn't one to allow age to stop her from staying sharp and active.
The small group size at Joan's camp (six - eight of us at one time with two or three instructors)
allowed for a lot of individualized attention. Joan is a remarkable, talented teacher. She only had
to take one look at me sitting on a horse on the first day or two of camp and she immediately
diagnosed and corrected two problems. "Your seat is all wrong" she said. "You're not on your
seat bones and you're not in the center of the saddle. Drop your stirrups and do what I tell you."
Within 45 seconds she had taught me a trick that enabled me to sit properly on my seat bones,
which were then centered in the saddle. "Your boots are laced wrong." she said next. She then
untied them and showed me how to keep them lose across the part where the ankle bends on
top, so that I could drop my heel without tormenting myself. Those five minutes alone were
worth the cost of going to camp!
The camp is situated on a beautiful farm and the accommodations are comprised of the lodge and the barn cottage, a lovely three
-bedroom house that I shared with a young woman from Chicago. Each morning I got up early, sat outside and watched the sun rise over a huge field of corn across the road. Then,
turning to the west I looked at the pasture on the other side of a nearby fence. "Horses! Horses!" Joan has such lovely, well
-trained horses. I spent time each and every morning feeding the grazing horses apples and carrots, rubbing their soft noses and
inhaling the beauty of Joan's farm. Joan kept us campers well fed with wonderful, healthy meals at the lodge. While she always
had dessert and snacks for the kids, she also presented us with lots of fruit, vegetables, chicken and fish. Between all the time I
spent riding and being in the barn, and Joan's health-supporting meals, I lost five pounds in my two weeks at camp!
By the time I left for home I had met all of my goals. I was able to "find my seat" every time I
mounted a horse, and could sit the trot and canter with confidence. And I had learned (again)
that you can continue to grow and learn regardless of your age. Having been home for about five weeks now, I am happy to report that my riding skills continue to grow and I am looking forward
to returning to Rockport and Ramey Camp next summer. Thanks Joan!
Wheeling, West Virginia
Contact: Joan Ramey
Rockport, Indiana 47635
Phone: 812-649-2668/ Cell: 270- 570-3054
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