TRAVERSE CITY — Peace Camp is all about kids and horses.
Kids ride and groom and learn about horses, but more importantly, they learn about themselves through interaction with horses in a variety of activities.
Long Lake Elementary teacher Melissa Morris remembers a little girl with whom she worked at Peace Camp last summer. The girl became frustrated when the horse she was trying to lead around a large, enclosed circle kept stopping to put his head down and eat grass.
“This is really hard!” she protested to one of the instructors.
“Well,” the instructor replied, “what do you usually do when something is hard for you?”
The little girl thought about it a minute and answered, “I just keep on trying.”
The instructor prodded her a bit more and the little girl made adjustments on her own and proudly marched her horse around the circle.
“Her face was just beaming when she completed it,” Morris said.
Thirteen horses, 12 kids, 25 volunteers, and a core group of certified instructors come together for five mornings at Peace Ranch south of Traverse City to help kids learn about horses, horsemanship and horseback riding in a fun and therapeutic atmosphere.
The horses at Peace Camp represent all different breeds and ages, but most are rescue horses, said Jacquelyn Kaschel, Peace Camp and Peace Ranch’s founder and the nonprofit organization’s executive director. Some horses are used for grooming and ground work, but those used for riding instruction are trained in a demanding, therapeutic riding format. Horses and helpers have six weeks of training in the spring alone to get ready for camp.
Camp is conducted in a series of four stations, Kaschel said, with four certified, qualified experts who man each station. Mounted instruction, or horseback riding, is taught in a covered arena with licensed occupational therapist and PATH certified therapeutic riding instructor Megan Hamlin. Another station is for non-mounted instruction, where kids learn to put saddles on horses, learn ground work, and other non-riding activities.