Monday, July 9, 2007

Vilaformiu Stables II

Saturday July 7 2007

Bernat and Neus had one trial run last year with a kid's horse summer camp; it was successful, and they enjoyed it, and so this year they are doing it all summer. You can see how much they both love having the kids around – it's just like one big, noisy, happy family. (And did I say fun and NOISY?) Six kids come to stay with them at a time, for 15 days at a time, learning about horses. They ride twice a day – morning and late afternoon; they help fetch, brush, and tack their horses before their rides, and help untack and brush them afterwards, and return them to their pens.

After a huge lunch is served (I am sure Neus will send them home weighing many more pounds than when they got here, with her huge portions she dishes out),

the kids play in and around the swimming pool, then usually sit under a tree with Neus, playing cards, or listening to her tell or read a story. Neus coaches them in the arena (usually with the help of Joanna), has little teaching sessions with them about parts of the horse, or tack and equipment. The kids help clean up the dishes after meals, and I've heard a couple of them say thank you for the meal, it was delicious. Sometimes it takes a while for the kids to actually EAT their food because they are having too much of a good time talking and laughing instead of eating. So Bernat announces the beginning of the Silent Game: everyone, including Bernat and Neus, (I was exempt, I was the referee), has to be quiet for 2 minutes, and whoever talks first has to clean the bathroom in the stables. EW! (But you can't even say, “Ew!” out loud.) Well the adults can of course stretch the 2 minutes into 4, 5, 7, 8 minutes, because the kids don't have a clear sense of time; and when it gets to 7 or 8 minutes, then they know something's going on, and they tap their watch and gesture at Bernat, who plays dumb, but they can't say anything because they'll have to clean the bathroom! There's lots of pantomiming going on, and desperate attempts not to laugh out loud.

There's more hard playing is done after dinner, which happens about 10 PM; but when Bernat and Neus say it's time to go up to bed, and they ask for quiet, the kids hush right up and fall asleep – probably because they are exhausted!

After the kids' summer horse camps are over, Bernat and Neus will try putting on an endurance riding camp. This year will be the trial, to see what customers want and how things can be improved; next year they hope to carry on with it after the summer kids' camps.

Now, while summer camps are hectic enough, that's just a small portion of what goes on here in the summer. This Saturday is a good example:

At 7:30 AM, I caught a ride with Bernat from the barn-house we're sleeping in, back to the house and stables – via Berga to pick up to of the workers – where Vilaformiu was already waking up. It's like an equine Disneyland – so many people, so many things going on at the same time, so many rides. At 9:30 AM, a mini-bus came and dropped off about 25 kids. A gal Anna took about 10 down to the round pen with one pony-sans-saddle, and with another man helping (who came on the bus with the group), took the kids around the pen bareback, leading the pony, walking and trotting. Anna has worked her for 4 years, and loves it.

Meanwhile, in the other arena pen, one guy and girl had 6 riders, those who could at least steer their horses, giving them lessons. Lollipop the sheep walked around checking on everybody. Another group of kids were walking around catching horses in their pens (with help), and Bernat and a worker rode off on 2 endurance horses. About 10:30 Neus drove up with the 6 resident kids, who spilled out, and they started getting their horses together and saddling up. The sheep followed Neus everywhere, like a shadow. Meanwhile two other people showed up to ride their horses with Bernat with his second set; Bernat and the boy returned and got a new set of horses to take out (including Ahmazig for me). In the riding arena, the groups of kids changed over – new ones clambered aboard while the others stood back to watch. Some of them were obviously nervous, but the teacher-kids working with them help them to relax. About 11 AM the mini-bus came to take that group of people back.

Then I rode out with Bernat and 3 others. It was just a short trip, about 45 minutes of walking up and up, a little bit of trotting, then turning around to come back. Bernat was riding the horse would ride in a local ride tomorrow, so he just wanted to give him a little workout today. Amahzig was kind as usual, a pleasure to ride.

When we got back from our ride, the 6 resident kids were also getting back – it was happy chaos as Bernat washed his horse for tomorrow's ride, and we all brushed our horses, the kids brushed their horses and fed them stale bread baguettes – the horses LOVE them – and washed bridles, and put things away. The one boy who can speak a little english told me he was tired. I bet they all are! They stayed up very late last night watching a movie. The little 7-yr-old girl is a hoot – she's always doing something constructive: sweeping the tackroom, brushing a horse, sand-papering rusty horseshoes (how on earth would she think to do that? There's sandpaper pieces in with a box of rusty horseshoes – but has she seen someone do that before?), and picking up the broom to sweep the tackroom again.

As the kids put their horses away, Neus was walking around with the bag of baguette treats, and Lollipop the sheep was right at her heels, trying to nibble a hole in the bag. There were other people around too, coming and going, people still riding in the arena . I said to Neus, “This is crazy!” She said, “Saturdays always are... but wait till tomorrow! Sunday is more crazy!”

Lunch was again huge – pasta followed by shrimp and pork chops. I REALLY needed a siesta, but instead I watched the kids play in the swimming pool Too cold for me to jump in – I like very warm water!

After lunch more people came to ride – in several waves – and Neus was sitting with the kids on the hay bales, teaching them about horse conformation. The girl Anna is always moving – in the arena, out on the roads, escorting on foot many of the riders out on the roads/trails, or leading horses at a walk or jog in the arenas. She must do 100 miles on foot each day!

The day began to wind down around 6 or so... followed by another late dinner, and late to bed. Early to rise tomorrow to go to a local endurance ride!

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