Adult Rider Camp, dressage, Heather Oleson, Stephen Birchall

Lessons from Camp

Dear Diary,
I am home from Adult Amateur Riding camp and have finally caught up on sleep and laundry! This was my third year of attending camp and the event is a highlight for me — a chance to hang out with good friends and my horse for four uninterrupted days. The instruction was superb , with lessons from trainers Heather Oleson and Stephen Birchall.
The format is intense. I normally ride three days a week, so jumping into six lessons in four days was a push for me, physically and mentally. The heat was also a factor, when temps hovered in the upper 80’s – testing the limits of my declining heat tolerance. I guzzled water and told myself I was in an endurance event, pacing myself between rides and even getting in a quick afternoon nap.
My first three lessons were with Stephen, who has a very positive and encouraging teaching style. He helped me with my leg position, using a lot of two-point, and it was exciting to make progress with what’s been a long-standing issue for me. Stephen gave Micah and I some great exercises to do at home and the results have been terrific. I’d train again with him any day. Stephen was so good, I really didn’t want to train with Heather. I’d heard that Heather was making students work really hard and I got a bit intimidated.
Fortunately, I was able to spend time with Heather at dinner (she and I being the two ravenous people who filled their plates first) and during the course of the evening I got a feel for her dry sense of humor. She’s very funny in her own way.
In our first lesson together, Heather immediately pointed out a habit I didn’t know I had. When she asked me to push my horse’s haunches out, I automatically looked back at them. “Don’t do that!” she yelled … again and again and again.
It soon became a running joke and I simply had to sass back. I’d jump at the chance to train me again, if she’d let me.
Since we’re a bit isolated here in Central Oregon (being separated from the Willamette Valley by the Cascade Range), Adult Amateur Camp is a terrific opportunity for us to train with high-caliber instructors and experience their insights.
This year especially, I came away feeling I had learned a lot and had some new tools for dealing with old issues. And, I dare not look at my horse’s haunches.

A special thank you to everyone from Central Oregon Chapter who helped to organize this event, in particular Lisa Koch. Thanks, also, to Shevlin Stables for hosting the event at their beautiful facility.