The ladies who gather there on Facebook are an enthusiastic bunch with a lot of wonderful memories of Little Hope. I'm glad they all loved it so much! Many seem to have attended camp there for a number of years; perhaps they lived a lot closer than I did? At any rate, I would like to state unequivocally that it is not my intention to tarnish their memories, or to unfairly malign a place where I know many, many girls had a fantastic time for a lot of years. I can only write about my own experience... no, it certainly wasn't ALL bad, but I'm afraid I mostly remember the parts that were. I'm truly sorry if anyone is offended or if I've gotten something wrong; however, this is my blog and telling my story the way I remember it is important to me.
Please keep in mind, my whole experience at Little Hope was colored by the fact that my confidence in myself at that age (13) was practically non-existent. I was a sensitive kid, gullible, insecure and extremely easy to pick on. I definitely overreacted to things that would not have fazed a different kind of girl.
In the bunkhouse at night, there was a lot of taunting about the flatness of my chest and lack of experience with boys (hah, they didn't even know I existed). I was called names and teased about being a baby, a Mommy's girl, etc. I pretty much cried myself to sleep every night. In addition to the verbal harassment, probably the worst thing Patty did was take my favorite stuffed animal that I'd brought along and throw it under the bunkhouse, amongst the dirt, spiders, cobwebs and heaven knows what else that also inhabited the crawlspace. You can imagine how much fun it was retrieving the poor thing. This alone was more than enough to traumatize me, so everything else that went on just added to the trouble. Believe me, I would have had a bad time stuck anywhere with Patty back then, let alone a horse ranch!
I was assigned a little grey mare named Cricket as my mount for the week. The Arabians at the ranch did not resemble the hyper, blindingly shiny, mane-tossing steed at Madison Square Garden and that was actually a very good thing. :-) Although I was a decent rider by that age, I sure didn't need a "living flame of the desert" underneath me. Nowadays, I appreciate the ranch Arabs for what they were - actual riding horses, not over-exaggerated halter types like my dream horse there in the Garden. (Note: I'd love to show you a picture of Cricket, but I have no photos from LHR of my own, unfortunately. I don't think I was trusted with a camera and they didn't make disposables back then.)
Cricket was a sweet girl and I enjoyed grooming her and hanging out. Riding-wise, we got along fairly well. She was a little opinionated, and had plenty of experience informing the riders of all descriptions who were plopped on her back of when she was DONE listening. The life of a school horse is never easy, so in hindsight I completely understand her attitude. I don't remember if we went on any trail rides, but I know I had lots of riding time in a large ring (it was very hot and dusty but the nice swimming pool was a good place to escape afterwards). We did flatwork and jumping, and the extra saddle time compared to back home was terrific. I know we spent time preparing for the horse show which would be held on the last day of camp.
One of the more distressing events that occurred, however, was the day Cricket decided she was REALLY done and headed back to the barn a bit... prematurely. In other words, she grabbed the bit in her teeth and took off out of the open gate of the arena. I had been run away with once before (you can read about that incident in this post), but this time I knew what to do - turn the horse. This I finally achieved after tearing down the stretch aways. Alas, I also succeeded in being dumped unceremoniously in the dirt. I wasn't hurt, but the whole incident further undermined my already extremely shaky confidence. I never blamed Cricket or thought she was "bad;" I must have been doing something that upset her. Of course I got back on Cricket after that, whether the same day or the next, so I'm grateful I had the chance to try again.
One thing I'd really been looking forward to was spending time with foals. The barns where I'd been riding had never had one on the premises, so this would be a real treat. Unfortunately, either there were no foals around Little Hope that summer, or if there were, I was never able to handle them - I can't quite remember which. I think they were there, and just some of the other girls were able to work with them? I did spend a lot of time mucking stalls, which was a good learning experience, and I also found out about the importance of soaking beet pulp before feeding it to horses. I had never even seen nor heard of beet pulp before (Tricorne school horses got hay and sweet feed) so that was interesting.
|Do YOU know what this is?|
The last day of camp was the big Horse Show. My parents were 850 miles away, so my mom's friend came to watch. I was issued a white blouse and red neckerchief like the rest of the campers so that we'd match, and we were all quite excited to have an audience. I think the horse show consisted of some drill team-type demonstrations and then flat and jumping "classes;" if so, there were no placements/ribbons from the latter. What I DO remember, in excruciating detail, is what happened at the end of the show. All of the campers were lined up on horseback, down the middle of the ring facing the audience (there were about 20 or 25 of us), like you would do at a regular horse show. One by one, riders were called forward. Each of us was to receive a certificate and a ribbon, either blue (first) or red (second), signifying our participation and progress at camp.
|Here's what they looked like.|
They had forgotten to make my certificate and get my ribbon.
Through a blur of tears I somehow made my way out of that ring. I will never forget the humiliation or heartbreak I felt. Someone told me to go to the ranch office and I did, leading Cricket. I waited outside for a few minutes, and then was handed my items with an apology. A certificate with my name on it... and a shiny, red, ribbon.
Yes, I know, cue the violins. I'm sorry if I'm being overly melodramatic, but that's what really happened. Of course I know this wasn't done on purpose, we can't all be winners and that in BC ("Before Computers") times it would have been easy enough for my name to get lost, but back then it was all rather hard to take. Perhaps now you can see why Little Hope turned out to not be the horse camp of my dreams.
I didn't know what became of the ranch after I went there, and thanks to the Facebook group, I'm glad to see it looks like it went on and prospered well into the 90s. I'm happy that other girls enjoyed every minute of their time there (in fact, my mom recently told me that one of the reasons I was sent to the ranch is friends of theirs had a daughter who'd had a ball). I'm sorry that I went when I was a low point in maturity, and not really ready to be off on my own. Things probably would have been different in just a few years, like they were when I went on a horse camping adventure that was one of the best times in my life. But that's a story for another blog post!