Tamarack Hill Farm’s Horse Camp with Denny Emerson
Camp isn't just for kids anymore! Learn about Denny Emerson's adult camp for eventers in Part IV of Adult Riding Camps.
by Jocelyn Pierce
Olympic gold medalist Denny Emerson runs three eventing camps a year, two in Vermont, and one in Southern Pines, North Carolina. Denny Emerson’s camps are extremely popular with competitive eventers who want to have some fun and focus on their riding and horse.
Participants not only have riding instruction throughout the day but also have daily demonstrations and lectures. Campers are exposed to specialists from all aspects of the horse world, further enriching their learning experience.
In 1970, Denny Emerson started working student programs at his Tamarack Hill Farm, which were primarily filled by high school and college kids. It didn’t occur to Emerson to start a camp for adults until about 10 or 15 years ago when he realized how many adults could benefit from a hands-on, comprehensive learning experience.
As a child, Emerson attended multiple camps and remembers the experience fondly, as many adults do. In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, summer camps were popular in Vermont. Forty years later, adults are still talking about how great it was to go to summer camp as a child.
Equestrians expand their knowledge in a beautiful setting at Tamarack Hill Farm.
“I thought, why should this be limited to kids?” said Emerson. “Why can’t we give adults the same kind of fun that kids have?”
“This camp is a combination of serious training and fun,” explained Emerson. “It’s the mystique of being alone with your horse with a bunch of people who are just as nutty about horses as you are for a week. That’s something that a lot of people either didn’t get to experience as kids, or it’s something they can relive as adults.”
Denny Emerson’s camps are extremely popular with competitive eventers who want to have some fun and focus on their riding and horse.
Emerson usually aims to take about 12 riders per session, but has had groups as small as 8 and as large as 17. He usually gets a mixed group of riders, with about two Intermediate or Preliminary level riders, a large bunch of Novice and Beginner Novice riders, and even a few that are very green or are riding green horses. Emerson is able to structure the camp so that all levels get individualized attention and have a true learning experience.
Both Sue Berrill, a local Advanced rider from Windsor, Vermont, and Daryl Kinney, an Intermediate eventer who also manages Tamarack Hill Farm, offer their expertise and work with participants throughout the duration of the camp.
Campers ride twice a day, grouped by level. On the first full day participants have a jumping lesson and a private or semi-private dressage lesson. The second day riders work strictly on cross-country jumping, again, grouping riders according to level. Intermediate riders have appropriate obstacles to tackle and green riders and horses can work on fundamentals of cross-country riding, such as trotting up and down hills and balancing the horse.
Denny Emerson is able to cater to upper level eventers as well as those new to the sport.
Emerson notices that people usually become quite close once the week of eventing camp comes to a close.
“We’ve had campers from age 21 to 70,” said Emerson. “The love of the horse transcends age. I think it’s an interesting sport in that sense. They can be two generations apart in age and still have that common bond. The horse nullifies those differences.”
Denny Emerson is offering three eventing camps this year, one in Southern Pines, North Carolina and two in Stafford, Vermont.
Participants not only have riding instruction throughout the day but also have daily demonstrations and lectures. Campers are exposed to specialists from all aspects of the horse world, further enriching their learning experience. Each night at dinner Emerson welcomes speakers that talk about anything from training techniques, to fitness, to how to perform under pressure. They also have lectures and demonstrations at lunchtime, with everything from a saddle fitting clinic or a gymnastics clinic or a breaking a young horse and long lining clinic.
“A lot of the women that come have husbands and kids and responsibilities and for five or six days they are just back being 12, and all they have to think about all day is their horse,” said Emerson. “I think there’s a huge visceral need for this kind of thing. Let them be 12. ”
Check out more great horseback riding vacations in the Equitrekking Vacation Guide.
About the Author: Jocelyn Pierce is an avid equestrian and lover of travel and photography. Her passion for adventure has led her on numerous excursions throughout North America and Europe. When she’s not riding and competing her homebred mare, she enjoys hiking, camping, and snapping photographs.