Horse Specialty Camp – 1992! The Pioneers of All Horse Adventure Programs!

Horse Specialty Camp – 1992! The Pioneers of All Horse Adventure Programs!

Horse Adventure Camp Ondessonk- Camper with horse (Cheese Whiz)
Cheese Whiz- an original Horse Specialty Camp horse!

Two campers’ perspectives on being on the first Horse Specialty Camp:

I asked Colleen Shaughnessy how horses were assigned, “I wasn’t staff but was a camper for the first Horse Specialty Camp – that would have been 1992. My horse was Cheese Whiz, and I have no idea how he was assigned to me, but he was not a racehorse! Danny Clancy was staff, as was Dan King.”

Stephanie Heigert Schofield, another camper on the first Horse Specialty Camp, confirmed Colleen’s assessment, “I have no idea how that was assigned, but he [Cheeze Whiz] was not a race horse, I agree, because I got Charlie, who had been a racehorse!”

Horse Adventure Vintage photo of three campers at Camp Ondessonk

Stephanie recalls, “I remember being so happy to be with horses for an entire week…learning and taking care of your horse…getting annoyed when he decided to suck in air as you were tightening the girth strap so you had to redo it several times…going through tunnels…and just being out there was amazing. And I never did master hitching him to a tree! I brought my uncle’s old tent with us and had one of the guy lines break while we were out on the trail and cobbling together the broken pieces (it worked!). Sitting around the fire after dinner with stories and songs (just like Wednesday overnights). Whittling sticks just because we could. Using the saddle as a sort-of pillow (hey, when you are tired enough, you will sleep on anything). Coming back to Camp tired and sweaty and in need of a shower, but oh-so-very-happy and wishing we could start it all over again.”

A good horse, good friends, and dusty trails…who could want anything else! 

Horse Adventure- Vintage photos of Campers at Ondessonk

The group learned to live, work, and support each other. Like all inaugural programs, there were unanticipated problems. With a staff like Dan King, Danny Clancy, Tim Eiserle, and Chris Cahnovsky no problem was insurmountable. 

Danny recalls, “It was a wonderful learning experience. I do remember everything that could go wrong did. Ground bees, sick campers, bloody noses. We had an extra horse due to a camper with a high fever – Munchie was his name. [Well] he couldn’t be tied so we hobbled him to graze around the forest camp site. Dominic (another stable crew member) stayed behind to watch things. Munchie broke out of the hobbles and caught up to the ride to be with his pal Cinnamon Girl. He followed along the trail all day with us without a rider. Great times over all. I’m glad we started these programs. If we [got] lost, never would have known [it]. The horses all knew the trails back then.”

Dan King, our current Executive Director, was a staff member on this trip. Dan recalls that he and Danny Clancy scouted out the camp sites during the winter. Despite intense preparation and planning, ground bees materialized, campers would get the usual bumps and scrapes, but the campers loved every minute of the program. 

I have a feeling that these staff and campers knew they were in on the ground floor of a very special program. Camp now offers Horse Camp, Advanced Horse Camp, and Horse Adventure. The programs are immensely popular with the campers.  The original Horse Specialty campers and staff are the trailblazers that laid the foundation for the current program. Heepwah & many more Happy Trails ahead!

Click here to learn more about Horse Adventure programs at Camp Ondessonk.

Click here to learn more about the Certified Horsemanship Association.


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