Written by Irene Baldwin
Shortly after my retirement from teaching English, I saw a brightly colored sign for Kimberly Farms Riding Stables in Shaftsbury, Vermont. I have had horses in my life since the age of twelve and was looking for a part-time job that included equines. I decided to follow the signs and inquire if a summer position was available. Val and Robert Shemeth are the owners of Kimberly Farms Horse Stables in Vermont. On this day Val was in the barn with the horses when I approached her about working at Kimberly. Little did I know, Val and I would become close friends and I would be working at Kimberly for all of my summers since our first meeting. The position I hold is that of Director of Arts and Crafts for all of the camp participants. This is the perfect job for me – I love horses and I enjoy arts and crafts of all kinds.
The farm is home to between fifteen to seventeen various breeds of horses. The horses lead happy lives. They are ridden for lessons, arena work and trail riding mostly in July and August. I remember the first day I walked up the dirt and grass road bordered by white fencing to the top of the first hill on the farm. The view is simply breathtaking. Spread out in all their glories are farms, silos, fenced pastures, and the spire of the Bennington Monument rimmed by the blue and purple Green Mountains. The scene never grows old.
I have the pleasure of accompanying campers on a post-lunch hike each day Monday through Friday. Some of the campers complain because our walk is along hilly terrain, but I never do. I understand the gift we are being given. The dome of blue sky stretches out above this part of the world, a ceiling to green pastures and the many colored and beautiful horses who graze contentedly in their fields. A profusion of wildflowers grows in clumps along the way as we make our way up, up the hill. We go by a sign that states this is the site of the oldest marble quarry in Vermont. If a hiker continues, she passes the farm’s rustic cabin and eventually comes to a flat meadow at the very top with another magnificent view. Here riders can rest their mounts and breathe in the fresh air and the beauty of a Vermont day.
Most of the campers are from New England states with a few coming from as far away as California or even a foreign country. The majority are females between the ages of five and sixteen. The overnight campers have beds to sleep in and a giant table for meals in The Bunkhouse. All of the girls are horse-crazy (an affliction I share with them).My two grandsons, who are day campers one week a summer, giggle when I tell them that the smells of horse poop and horse skin are like perfume to me. Who can explain the phenomenon? Once bitten by the horse bug, the obsession seems to stay through all of the days of a horsewoman’s life.
My work takes place on picnic tables under the Arts and Crafts Pavilion out of the sun, but in the outdoors and with a view of all that goes on at camp. I am free to devise projects that I believe campers will enjoy. We write in our handmade journals twice daily. I try to keep the writings horse-focused: haiku, trail and ring experiences as well as word snapshots of their special steeds. We paint and decorate horseshoes, create living terrarium horse homes, sketch, inquire, laugh, talk horse and become acquainted. Who could ask for a better time?
One of the perks of my summer job is that I can bring my thirty-year- old Palomino Quarter Horse with me to camp. Crical Jack climbs eagerly into my nephew’s truck each June knowing he is going to his special place. Here, he will be lightly ridden, fussed over, petted, painted with handprints, sprayed with a hose on hot summer days and reacquainted with old friends. His favorite pasture-mate is Sonny, a retired forty-year- old Quarter Horse. Crical loves to flirt with the few mares housed on the farm.
As another summer approaches, I hope that by camp time, the Coronavirus is under control. I pray that Kimberly will once again be the busy, active place it has been for campers for so many years. I look forward to fun days of sun, rain, horses, kids and crafts.