A Kentucky Equine Excursion
By Amanda Bailey
Five campers travel four and a half hours out of the Shawnee National Forest to Lexington, Kentucky–the horse capital of the world, for Kentucky Equine Excursion (KEE). KEE is taking on its second year as one of Camp Ondessonk’s many unique adventure programs offered this summer. Tuesday through Friday, campers participate in unique programs offered exclusively in Lexington.
“I believe that Kentucky Equine Excursion is an important exposure for campers to learn what equine activities are offered outside of camp beside trail and arena rides. While those experiences are important, I enjoyed seeing the campers astounded by the variety of equine activities available outside of Ondessonk that they may appreciate or practice in the future.”
–Shandril Dayton, Equestrian Coordinator
Upon arrival at the Kentucky Horse Park Campgrounds, campers wipe their brow as they put up their tents and unpack their hefty luggage. As they gather firewood for a foil burger dinner, the KEE team survey their surroundings and week ahead. Tuesday is sure to test their balance and determination skills.
Campers work on lifting their confidence by practicing vaulting on a horse. At Life Adventure Center in Versailles, Kentucky, they offer therapeutic equine experiences that center the body and mind, as well as practice teamwork, leadership, and communication.
After instruction and practice, campers learn single and double vaulting moves as horse Maggie keeps at a walking pace (seen in the photo to the left).
Wednesday offers a detailed history of horse breeds and the evolution of equine through the decades at the Kentucky Horse Park museum. Campers venture through a tunnel of interactive equine history games and artifacts. At the end of the tunnel are hundreds of flashy horse racing trophies with camper’s noses pressed against the glass cases in awe.
By Thursday, campers are ready to see the horses in action. They go to Keeneland Race Course to see professional racehorses perform their daily warm-ups. Not only is the course beautiful, but the horses seem even more so.
Behind videos captured, campers and staff can be heard shouting, “Wow! Wow! Wow!” as horses zip past, leaving behind a cloud of dirt.
At Claiborne Farms, they give visitors a run for their money. They get a chance to meet retired racehorses, pet them and feed them many mints. Visitors quickly find out the retired racehorses at Claiborne Farms are worth thousands or millions of dollars.
As the tour comes to an end at Claiborne Farms, campers wave goodbye to Secretariat’s grave and realize they must pack for their departure back to Ondessonk. The following morning, a Disney playlist is ready for campers to sing along on their journey home.
Upon returning to Camp, sounds of Ondessonk horses galloping to pasture welcome campers home.