If your child loves horses and riding, or wants to learn to ride, consider Sprucelands Summer Camp, located in Java Center, NY.

The Main Lodge across Blue Heron Lake

The Main Lodge as seen across Blue Heron Lake

Eileen Thompson  owns the camp, which she purchased  in 1979.  Her background includes both teaching and school counseling, and she sees horses as her partners in teaching.  Through the horses, she and her staff help Sprucelands campers build leadership skills, self-esteem and relationships with others and with the horses. 

The camp sits in a beautiful rural area on a small body of water called Blue Heron Lake.  At meals in the main lodge, campers often see one of the graceful herons swooping to catch fish or alighting in a tree across the water. 

Most of the Staff were campers at Sprucelands.  They're friendly and make great role models for younger kids

Most of the Staff were campers at Sprucelands. They're friendly and make great role models for younger kids

The camp is what I’d call “rustic.”  The campers, Staff and Hill Mothers sleep on wooden bunk beds with foam mattresses in cabins in the woods.  At night, the campers wake their Counselors to accompany them to the latreens, using flash lights to find their way.  In the main lodge, however, there are flush toilets and showers, and there are also hot showers near the cabins in the woods. 

The food is tasty and plentiful.  Most campers can find something they like because there is an assortment of choices and always peanut butter and jelly for sandwiches. Each meal starts and ends with song, and campers alternate setting for dinner and doing the dishes, as well as handling other chores, assigned by cabin. 

Staff works with each camper at his or her appropriate skill level

Staff works with each camper at his or her appropriate skill level

Fun activities abound at this camp.  Most campers ride twice a day and when they’re not riding, they have the opportunity to do artwork in the craft room, help with the horses, play games or sports and, for the more intrepid, swim in the lake.  Their comings and goings are monitored via walkie-talkie by Hill Mothers, Counselors and CITs.  There’s always a qualified nurse on duty, just in case.

 

The horses are gentle and well cared-for and the staff is adept at training all level of riders.  Each camper is assessed for riding ability and is assigned a horse which he or she rides for the duration.  If for some reason, the horse is not a good fit, that’s quickly determined and a switch is made without question.  

It's every advanced rider's dream to be invited to take part in the Equestrian Team

It's every advanced rider's dream to be invited to take part in the Equestrian Team

At the end of each two-week session, there’s a show for parents to see what their Campers have achieved.  Every advanced rider hopes to be chosen to participate on the Equestrian Team that opens the show, after which, all of the campers get to demonstrate what they’ve learned.  

Even the youngest and most inexperienced riders come away with a sense of achievement

Even the youngest and most inexperienced riders come away with a sense of achievement

Last summer, I served as Hill Mother for two weeks, so I saw the up-close workings of the camp.  Eileen has very strong values and she hires and measures her staff by those values, so the Counselors and CITs provide good role models for the Campers.  My daughters loved the camp, the instructors, their horses and the whole experience.

To get more of a feel for the camp, check out Eileen’s blog about Sprucelands.

P.S.  Although you see mostly girls in these pictures (that is the larger proportion of Spruceland Campers), boys are absolutely welcome and they have a great time.  There are always have several boys’ cabins and the male Counselors are great!

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