Days End Farm Horse Rescue started its Legacy Summer Camp for juniors and youth (ages 7-17) a decade ago. The Woodbine-based nonprofit rescues and rehabilitates neglected horses and provides educational opportunities for the public to learn more about equine welfare and advocacy.
“Our volunteer program is inclusive and open to getting youth involved, giving them responsibility on the farm and helping us care for the horses,” says Nicky Wetzelberger, outreach director for Days End.
The program began in response to a need during the summer months for students who were out of school and wanted to come to volunteer. The rescue has more than 200 youth who volunteer throughout the year. Due to the large number of students during the summer months, Days End decided to create a summer camp where kids could learn about volunteering and partake in some fun activities.
“It is really unique for campers to be on site at an operating horse rescue,” she says. “When they are onsite, if we have an impound and horses come in, they help us prepare to quarantine and help us prepare the stalls for these horses’ first moments of safety and rehab and getting better. The kids get to see what it is like working at a horse rescue and caring for seriously injured or sick animals.”
While a number of camps in the area are horse specific, Days End offers the equine wellness aspect to the weeklong camp. Wetzelberger notes that youth are taught why it is important to care for other living things and what things they can do to help.
Children who participate do not need to have any experience with horses or animals before they come to camp. “We are beginner friendly and all inclusive,” she says. “We are happy to make it a very judgment-free zone and teach people about horses and how to care for them, how to read their body language and what they are telling us, and what to look for when they are grooming them. With more than 70 horses on the farm, when youth campers or volunteers come out, they are a vital piece in helping us ensure the overall health of our entire herd. They are taught from the start what to look for when they are grooming our horses, and it is kind all eyes and all hands on. If they see something like a scratch, a bite, a tick or anything that could be concerning, they go find a staff member.”
Many of the participants volunteer at the facility during the year but also come for the special weeklong event, including getting to play games on horseback, which they don’t get to do normally. “Camp offers the unique opportunity to be on site all day five days a week and immersed in the day-to-day with the rescue along with the friendships that are made and the different fun activities.” Many go from the junior to the youth program and later to the counselor-in-training program.
“The biggest thing is we want them to have fun,” Wetzelberger says. “(We want them) to enjoy their time at the farm and learn why responsible pet ownership is important, whether it be horses or cats or dogs, and help teach them responsibility in caring for the animals and the world around us.”
The Legacy Summer Camp dates are junior (ages 7-11) June 13-17, June 27-July 1, July 18-22, Aug. 1-5 and 15-19; youth (ages 12-17) June 20-24, July 11-15, 25-29, and Aug. 8-12.