March 24, 2009

First-ever horse camps open to students ages 14-18

by K.C. Jaehnig

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- This June, Southern Illinois University Carbondale will open its first-ever horse camps to students ages 14 to 18. Enrollment in each of the two five-day camps, which mix riding sessions with lab classes, is limited to 12 students, and campers must already know how to walk, trot and canter a horse.

“It’s a unique opportunity to study scientific theory balanced with hands-on experience in a small class setting on a beautiful campus with Illinois’ only four-year equine science program,” said Stephanie A. Speiser, a senior lecturer in the Department of Animal Science, Food and Nutrition.

Students will spend most of their mornings, divided into two groups of six, honing horse-handling skills.

“That’s a good student-to-instructor ratio and will allow us to give lots of attention to each camper,” Speiser said.

In addition to high-level riding instruction, campers will learn how to drive the two-wheeled, horse-drawn carts used in harness racing.

Afternoons will focus on learning activities, covering such topics as health care, nutrition and management.

“They’ll practice taking vital signs, figure a horse’s age by its teeth, paint the skeletal structure right on the horse -- educational but fun projects,” Speiser said.

To help them get acquainted with SIUC and the surrounding area, campers will stay in the University’s residence halls, eat their meals at the Student Center and several other locations, and take part in evening activities that will introduce them to recreational opportunities both on campus and off.

“With this first camp, we wanted to focus more narrowly -- we’re looking mainly at students who might be interested in our major,” Speiser said.

“We hope to build from there in future years so we can offer camps aimed at those with less experience.”

For a closer look at SIUC’s horse program, visit

Camp I runs June 8-12; Camp II runs June 15-19. The camp fee, $800, covers four nights’ lodging, meals, instruction and materials.

“We will supply the horses and tack, but campers should bring appropriate boots and a helmet if possible,” Speiser said.

Students who don’t want to stay overnight may enroll at a reduced fee of $650, which will include a welcome reception, lunches, a class dinner at Giant City Lodge, instruction and materials. They may participate in evening activities with permission of the instructor but will have to pay for any extra costs incurred.

All campers must pre-register, paying a $100 deposit, by May 4. Campers can register online at Those with questions about the program may contact Speiser at 618/453-1773. Direct questions about registration to Jackie Welch at 618/536-7751.