Now that Covid restrictions are easing a bit, and spring is in the air, people are starting to hit the road again. I thought perhaps both travelers and hosts at horse camps might benefit from some feedback on what makes a positive experience for both parties.
Before I divorced and remarried (and retired), my previous horse camping experience was limited. I spent a week at 4-J Big Piney nearly every fall. I spent a few weekends at other camps in the Midwest. However, when Alan and I hit the road last fall for a couple of months of equitrekking, it was a new experience for both of us. For the first time, we went from horse camp to horse camp. It was an excellent opportunity to figure out what we liked and what we did not.
To scoop or not to scoop?
The initial motivation for this post revolved around “to scoop or not to scoop?” After we left one of our initial campgrounds last fall, we received a rather nasty email from the host. We were thoroughly chastised for not having cleaned our stalls when we left. Now, to be fair, we should have! We had cleaned them all week. However, here’s the deal…
Our frame of reference for what was expected was very limited. At 4-J Big Piney, we clean stalls all week, but at the end of camp, the host cleans them. The camp we stayed at immediately before arriving at the camp that chastised us told us not to clean stalls. Nonetheless, if in doubt we should have cleaned the stalls at that early camp. However, if that was the expectation, our hosts should have communicated that clearly!
We were made to feel like scum of the earth because we left dirty stalls. Whereas I get that it might be frustrating for the host, there were far better ways to communicate their viewpoint. Simply charging us for doing it themselves would have been preferable to reaming us out. Again, perhaps a sign communicating clear expectations would have eliminated the potential for conflict before it happened!
After that experience, we started to keep a record of “to scoop or not to scoop?” How were we to know what was expected? Here is what we found:
- Camp #1 NO with no signs
- Camp #2 YES with no signs
- Camp #3 NO with no signs
- Camp #4 YES with signs
- Camp #5 YES with signs
- Camp #6 NO with no signs
- Camp #7 YES with signs
- Camp #8 YES with signs
- Camp #9 NO with no signs
Expectations should be clearly stated!
Do you see a pattern here? The only place that we had issues was the camp that required cleaning but had no signs to indicate their expectations. The hostess at the last camp found our “research” to be fascinating. She planned to add a sign to her facility, to more clearly communicate her expectations. She didn’t like it when guests cleaned their own stalls because she wanted it done a certain way.
I reached out to a couple of Facebook groups to ask both campers and hosts what they expected of each other. It readily became clear that many (but not all) issues could be avoided if expectations were clearly stated. I once heard this adage, and I have never forgotten it:
The closer your expectations match your reality, the happier you will be.
Alan and I are conscientious people. We are respectful of other people and their property. We follow the rules (except the speed limit!) Nevertheless, we are human. We made a mistake (although expectations were not clear) and we were made to feel terrible because of it. Expectations can closely approximate reality only if those expectations are clear!
Next week, I will share with you the feedback I received from the Facebook groups. We’ll talk about dogs at camp (a lot about that!) and boom boxes and generators and manure left behind… Whether you are a camper or a host, you might learn something!
As you head out on the road this summer, make sure your horses (and you) have identification readily available in case of a trailer accident or mishap on the trail. All existing inventory of ID MyHorse Emergency Information Tags are on sale as we await our next-generation version!