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Horsin' around

July 23, 2007|By CATHERINE SUDUE

BOONSBORO - When Jennifer Smedley was 3, she found her passion. At the same time, the mistreatment of her pony and best friend, Lacey, awakened her to the harshness of animal cruelty.

"I knew her when she was ... 6 months old," said Smedley. "She went away to this place for about a year and when she came back, she was skin and bones. We started feeding her and working with her. I started training her ... then my riding instructor said that they were going to sell her. And I said, 'No I'm buying her.'"

The relationship Smedley shared with Lacey turned her passion for horses into a profession that includes her family, children and young adults throughout Washington County.

Growing from one horse to approximately 50 on 128 acres of land, Heritage Harvest Farm is the home of Smedley and her parents, and the site of adventurous days for children who partake in the summer Junior Camp, Red Ribbon Club and Counselor in Training (CiT) program.

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The Junior Camp, which started five years ago, provides opportunities for children to foster new friendships with each other and to share a love for horses.

Smedley, an equine veterinarian who attended equestrian camp during her teen years, decided to establish a camp at the family-owned farm. She wanted children to have the opportunity to advance their skills and learn to properly care for horses.

"They get to work with them (horses) and teach them something. And it gives them (the campers) this big confidence in learning that they can teach things," said Smedley.

According to Elizabeth Smedley, the owner of Heritage Harvest Farm, the camp program is structured in levels.

"Level one is for beginners. It requires certain knowledge of horses and certain riding skills to pass," she said. "Usually a beginner can pass level one in a week period."

With about four instructors and 15 children, the camp is structured into nine, one-week periods. On Fridays, campers showcase their skills to their instructors and parents. In addition, the campers receive medals and trophies as their levels and knowledge of horses increase.

Chandler Bellerive, 10, said the camp has taught him a lot about horses. He displayed some his knowledge as he cleaned the hoofs of one of the many horses on the farm.

"Usually their hoofs get full of stuff. They can step on things that will get stuck in their hoof," Bellerive said.

First-time camper Lauren Petit, 9, said her week at camp was not the end of her horseback riding experience. She hopes to further her love for horses by coming to Heritage Harvest Farm and competing.

"It's very fun here because you can pick what you want to do," said Petit. "I want to just start riding horses in shows and competitions."

The CiT program has been implemented for children who have gained knowledge about horses and improved their riding skills. Children in the Junior Camp have opportunties to become counselors after they have passed all seven levels and have been through the CiT Program.

Keedysville native Devyn Bellerive has come to Heritage Harvest Farm for three years. For two years, the 13-year-old was a junior camper; this year, he was part of the CiT program.

"The experience here, I'd say, it's awesome," said Devyn. "You get to ride horses. The horses are very friendly. You never get hurt by them or anything. ... When I'm old enough, I'm going to be a counselor here."

Elizabeth believes that the camp is beneficial not only to youth who have no prior experience, but to those who have been competing for years.

"We get a lot of beginners at camp. We have a bunch of advanced students, as well," Elizabeth said. "We try to tailor the program to the abilities of who we have."

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