Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Camp improves riding skills while supporting program
By MELANIE STAWICKI AZAM
The Daytona Beach News-Journal Staff Writer
Marcia Lenninger smiled as her 8-year-old daughter, Zephyr, happily maneuvered her horse around the training ring of the small farm off Pioneer Trail.
“This is her first week — she loves it,” said Lenninger, who has a vacation home in New Smyrna Beach. “We’re city slickers (but) Zephyr has always wanted to learn about horses.”
For the first time in about eight years, Camp Palomino was back this summer. Camp organizer and farm owner Robin Benishek said the program, which ran five weeklong sessions in June and July, teaches youths, ages 6 to 14, the basics about horsemanship. The camp costs $150 a week, plus $30 for a riding helmet.
“The 4-H girls wanted something to do this summer and a few of them needed to get jobs,” Benishek said. “We like to teach the safety around the animals and responsibility.”
Benishek said she’s been a 4-H leader for 14 years but some of the camp’s profits also go toward supporting another program she has run since 1990 — Equine Challengers. It’s a free horseback riding program for handicapped children and adults. Benishek, who cares for her blind and mentally disabled brother, said if her nonprofit program gives the disabled 30 minutes of fun, it’s worth it.
“I’ve been around the disabled all my life. They get put on the back burner because people don’t understand,” she said.
Although the 4-H teens are the main instructors at the summer camp, Benishek said she’s had fun supervising the program and sharing farm life with campers. No fall camp is slated yet, but private lessons are offered at the farm.
Summer campers also learned how to care for the farm’s animals, which range from horses, ponies and miniature mules to an assortment of kittens, sheep, potbelly pigs, chickens, goats and even a llama. The youngsters also make a scrapbook of their activities.
Hannah Sisco, 7, was all smiles as she rode in a buggy pulled by miniature horses around the farmyard. The New Smyrna Beach girl said her favorite animals were the mini horses and the kittens frolicking in the barn.
Christie Chmielarski, 17, of Port Orange, said she began riding lessons at the farm through 4-H when she was 10 years old.
“It’s awesome and it gives you something to do,” she said, working part time this summer at both the horse camp and a daycare center.
Zephyr Lenninger agreed.
“The funnest thing about the camp is riding the horse,” she said as she cuddled a black kitten.
Marcia Lenninger said Benishek’s camp has taught her daughter a lot and been a fun summer activity.
“She’s a natural,” Marcia Lenninger said proudly. “We hope to do this more. We’ll be back.”
To Learn More
For more information about horseback riding camp or lessons, or to volunteer or donate to the Equine Challengers program, call Robin Benishek at (386) 427-4701
Serial story: THE MOUSE AND THE MOTORCYCLE