Runde’s Visits The Dubuque County Trailblazers Horse & Pony Camp

There will always be situations where you absolutely need a pickup truck. The sportster in you is screaming “get the turbo coupe!”, the calm in you is telling you to “get the luxury vehicle!” Then there’s the practical side of you telling you to “get the truck, you’ll need it.” And if you are a farmer, construction worker or have a horse and kids that want to go to horse camp, you are absolutely correct in thinking you’ll need that pickup truck. No one knows that more than the parents of the kids attending the Tri-State’s annual horse camp.         

Karen Schilling is very busy during camp week!

 Karen Schilling, secretary of the camp, was able to give us a tour of the camp and let us know how things work. Karen took over the secretarial position when  she graduated from school in 1980 and this is her 30th year in that position.  Prior to working at the camp, she was kid at the camp, herself.  Karen hauls her horses in her Silverado that she purchased from Runde’s and was excited to explain how things work to us. On the start of our tour we ran into Ashley Rigdon, daughter of Runde’s employee Lisa Ridgon. We waved and took some pictures of her as she looked determined to learn more and was having a great time riding her horse. To find out the formula behind the happy smiles on the kids’ faces, Karen explained the camp to us in a nutshell…        

Ashley Rigdon had a great time riding at camp!

 “It always starts on Father’s Day. It started in Elizabeth, IL  in 1969 then it went to Galena in 1970 then in ’71 we came out here to the Dubuque Fair Grounds and this is our 40th year.”       

“Kids are split into 3 group sections based on the age of the kids. They get up at 7am to feed their horses and clean their stalls. Breakfast is at 8am then at 9,10 and 11am there are 3 riding sessions. They ride for one hour, have one free hour, and then they do a learning center. They have the same two rotating instructors throughout the entire week. At 4pm they have electives, where the instructors give the kids an option to do various activities like showmanship, ground work, and roping — all of which enhance the kids’ understanding of horse riding. At 5pm they clean and feed the horses and then at night, we have some type of educational entertainment like a herding sheep dog demonstration. At the end of the camp, on Saturday, we have a show where we ask the parents to come watch to see their kid’s progress.”          

What do the kids learn in the camp?
They learn proper horsemanship, training, how to ride and sit correctly, how to cue their horse to get them to do what they want and several other techniques that will improve their knowledge and skills. From beginner to advanced, we try to further their riding experience. To get the most exposure, we make sure they are riding two sessions, three times a day.         

What’s the furthest someone has come to attend the show?
It’s usually from the Tri-State area, but we did have one student from Spain and two people from California come. We like to keep the number of kids limited to 100 but this year we have 121. They sign up ahead of time and it costs $250 to come for the entire week. That includes a professional photographer taking their pictures, food, the box stall, feeding and boarding. Several people here have trucks from Runde’s. They have to bring in their own horse with gear and they usually do that with a horse trailer and a tow equipped truck.   

You'll need all the rest you can get! These camp days are packed with things to do.

Where does the staff come from?
Everybody is a volunteer here, parents and past campers help out and we have instructors from all over Iowa come to help. The Dubuque County TrailBlazers 4H Club sponsors the event, making it possible. Things have come a long way since we started , for example — now instead of tying up the horses in the barn, we have individual stalls. It just keeps growing and changing every year.   

We’ll I’m glad with got the chance to interview Karen and to find out what goes on at the horse camp.  I’ve learned a lot about horses, riding and what is involved in maintaining the large animals.

Thank you very much for taking the time to chat with Runde’s Karen!

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