Thursday, 25 April 2013

How the Australian Junior PoloCrosse has given me a whole new attitude towards camping.

Last Sunday we packed up the horse float and car with swags, saddles, jumpers, boots, food, blankets, chairs and three horses. Howards dad, two of the girls and I drove four hours to Albury and set up camp together with around 300 other junior riders and their families. (Howard stayed home to shear the sheep) We attended a 3 day polocrosse training course and I was well prepared for the expected cold, wet week with a clear intention to help as much as I could and not complain.

My only experience of camping was struggling to put up a tent with little children, having forgotten half of what we needed and quickly finding a bad attitude. I do have great memories of holidays by the sea in Kiama with my parents and two brothers in a caravan. (Million dollar views, great friends, bikinis, fish and chips, swimming all day long and talking all night.) Albury was completely different of course but just as fun.

Not being a rider myself I was full of admiration for these talented young people who travelled many days from Western Australia, Northern Territory, Tasmania, South Australia, New Zealand and even South Africa not to mention from all over New South Wales. (And probably other places I am unaware of) At least 400 well-behaved horses were rugged and fed each night, while the camp fires were lit and dinner was prepared. We were set up near friends who offered to join us in their meals. I felt like taking notes as they showed me how fantastic camping can be.

The food was amazing, from steak diane to damper and as the sun was setting  a big full moon filled the sky. Smoke rose above each little gathering of family and friends but all was quiet by 10pm as we had an early start ahead. The girls slept in the back of the horse float, their grandfather up the front and I went to a nearby motel. (Next time we might have extra bedding and our own camping gear, now that I have a new love of camping!!)  

The morning began with a hot coffee and a delicious egg and bacon roll as the warm sun rose. The riding began at 8.30 with each horse wearing bandages and bell boots to protect their legs. The riders were divided into groups and made their way to the instructors, who guided them through a 1 ½ hr session before morning tea. After the four inspiring sessions that ran until 4 pm the 300 riders had improved in each area of the polocrosse game and had a fantastic time meeting new friends. 

I stood at the side line looking across the fields at all the different group activities. (Line-ups, horsemanship, winning attitude, fitness, goal shooting and defence. Some groups where also trying out for state selection) Horse riding was so natural to these guys, the horses so well trained, the parents so organized and supportive, the whole atmosphere encouraging and challenging. I had a smile on my face the whole time and enjoyed the experience almost as much as the girls. We will be back again next year and no-one is more surprised to hear this as I am, ‘I cant wait to camp again!!’

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