“Ewwwwwww, what’s that thing right THERE?”, a little girl, around ten years old with big, round glasses, asked me. She sat astride Chance, an older Appaloosa(but don’t tell him that, he’s 26 but thinks he 3 years old and still a barrel horse)gelding, and was pointing across the arena to a horse outside, Chief. Chief, who was standing in one of the paddocks, having just taken a large drink of water, was apparently very relaxed as he stood with his….well……penis hanging out and hanging low. A look of disgust and curiosity was written all over my young rider’s face, as she waited for an answer to her question.
“Well”, I said slowly, trying to figure out how best to answer her question, there were rules in place about what questions we could answer, and this particular question was a question that was typically avoided. Letting out a big sigh, I said with a straight face and serious tone, “It’s his penis. All male animals have one. He probably has to pee.” The little girl sat there and pondered this for a few minutes, before exclaiming rather loudly, “You said PENIS!!!!”, which earned me horrified looks from the other leaders and the camp directors, and laughter from the other kids around us. Shrugging my shoulders, I answered her back with, “Well you’re the one who pointed and asked what it was called. He’s gotta pee somehow right?”…. she thought about this for a minute, nodded, then asked, “So where do girl horses pee from?” Oh joy. “Ask you’re parents when you get home, to explain all this to me, then when you come back tomorrow, tell me what they said, okay?”…She nodded and solemnly promised to do that as soon as she saw her parents.
This is just one of many “fun” questions we get asked at camps. I’ve had children ask me how horses breed, how do they make babies, can they see a picture of a horse breeding, where do the foals come out of, etc. Just as many awkward questions are asked, I’ve heard other volunteers give equally as awkward answers, all of which have made me laugh. We had one camper who came in and, when a little girl asked how horses breed, he decided to explain it to her because apparently his Dad had explained it to him. “Well,” he began, “he takes his penis and he…..” I jumped in before he could go on, “And this is a discussion you can have with your parents later, they love it when you ask THEM these types of questions, answering them is their favorite thing to do!” I gave the little girl a big smile and sent a piercing look to the little boy who looked very peeved to have been interrupted.
Camps are something that everyone looks forward to and also dreads. With camps comes flies, cranky horses and hot, humid days. There never seems to be any organization and there’s always that one child who is an anarchist at heart and will try to cause some sort of rebellious uprising amongst their fellow campers. The days seem long and never-ending and you wind up exhausted after just three hours of activities. At the same time, there is nothing more satisfying then seeing the smiles light up the children’s faces as they see what horse they get to ride. The laughing and giggling and bright, cheery looks in everyone’s eyes as they feel the horse move beneath them for the first time, makes everything worth it. Little voices yelling out the names of their ponies and horses, as they come running up to the gate to give treats or pet their soft noses. Camps make for a tiring summer, but the children’s priceless reactions make them worth having again and again.
Top Ten Most Awkward Questions(all of which we’ve been asked)
- Where do baby horses come from?
- How does the male horse breed with the female horse?
- What’s that called? [ points at horse’s penis]
- Do mares have vaginas?
- Where’s [insert horse’s name] at? Did he/she die?
- What’s sheath cleaning?
- How do you clean a sheath?
- Can I clean a sheath?
- Where are a mare’s boobs?
- What’s semen and where does it come from?
Summer camps are almost over, just around 3 weeks left and we’ll be done. The children have all been a blast to work with and have been making great memories to share with friends and families. Our horses have been solid troopers who have all brought smiles and laughter to all the children’s faces. While I enjoy helping out, I will be so very relieved when they’re all over with.
Have a happy ride.