Sure, they mucked out stalls, scrubbed water buckets and picked little stones out of hooves.
But for several young fans from around the region, three recent days were a kind of horse heaven.
“Myself and the other campers, we were tired afterwards. It was definitely a chore, but it was all fun,” said Cali Moore, 16, of Hughesville, who was one of seven participants in the Harness Horse Youth Foundation Summer Camp, held earlier this week at The Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
“Miss Ellen (Taylor, camp director) told us the animals come first,” she recalled. “We’d put in new bedding — we used straw — brush them, pick out their hooves and towel them off. We’d work in teams to clean the stalls and we shoveled a lot of manure.”
The young campers also learned how to tape an animal’s legs to prevent injury and practiced putting a horse into a harness and how to hook the animal up to a jog cart, which is somewhat sturdier than the “bike” a driver would use in a race.
The best part, Cali said, was getting a chance to drive that jog cart. “It’s a totally different experience from riding.”
It was also enjoyable to interact with different horses, each of whom had its own personality.
“Homer was lazy,” she said with a laugh. “When you were on the track with Homer, he just wanted to walk. Cherokee was younger; she was 3 years old and she was more exciting. When we went out to jog, she was ready to go. And with Roy, you could definitely tell he was a racehorse. He was not going to let another horse go past him.”
Calling the camp “a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Cali said she’s loved horses “for as long as I can remember. When I was really young I was playing with toy horses and pretending to be a horse.”
By the time she was 10, Cali had a dream come true when her parents, Joshua and Tasha Moore, arranged to buy Rozene, a quarter horse pony their daughter had been riding at a stable where she took lessons and pitched in to care for the animals.
Since then the Lycoming County girl has been competing at the county, district and state level. Among her awards, she’s won a top prize in Beginner English Equitation in 2015 and was named the state champion for English Grooming and Showmanship in 2018. She also won a national “Show Us Your Spirit” contest sponsored by 4-H and Dreamworks after submitting a photo of Rozene and herself and writing an essay about her horse.
Will she make a career of horsemanship?
“I’m undecided,” Cali said, noting she’s grateful for her recent opportunity to learn more about the industry.
The Harness Horse Youth Foundation is happy to teach young people about the world of harness racing and the responsibilities of taking care of horses, camp director Taylor said, adding the HHYF will hold another camp at the Downs at Mohegan Sun Pocono next summer. For more information on educational opportunities and scholarships, see www.hhyf.org.
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT