All right WITs of the future. Here's your chance: the secrets of the WIT program, the test, and the evaluation are all revealed here. So if you're thinking about becoming a WIT, prepare yourself. Drink some water. Take a buddy. And read on...
WITs, or Wranglers-In-Training, comprise the highest level of the horseback riding program at Camp Cedarledge. WIT is one of two specialized staff-training programs on camp which, along with the CIT program, trains campers to be staff in years to come. They learn leadership, camping, and equestrian skills from the WIT Director, wranglers, and other staff members. WITs also participate in all the fun activities the rest of camp does, often to a more advanced level. The WITs live in Gail's Place, which is located conveniently right across the pasture from the barn. They ride bicycles around camp, so if at all possible, it is a good idea to bring one from home. The Advanced Wranglers-In-Training (AWITs) share in all the same activities that the WITs do, but they stay at camp for 4 weeks (with a break in the middle), are given the chance to learn bareback and English riding, participate in and on-camp horse overnight and horse show, and are given more leadership opportunities. They also teach one riding lesson and one dry lesson, in the second half of their session.
The most important thing to know when considering signing up for the WIT program is that with the higher status and skill level comes more responsibilities and work. WITs spend half the day, either the morning or the afternoon, working at the barn. They spend most of this time grooming, saddling, mucking, mulching, sweeping, feeding and watering horses, and cleaning troughs or buckets. They will also assist the wrangler teaching in the arena, and may also assist with dry lessons, unloading hay, and other barn maintenance. Three WITs will be assigned to the Lower Corral every day, where their main job is to assist younger riders in getting on and off horses for trail rides. Whenever possible, wranglers will take the opportunity to teach the WITs extra things not scheduled for regular lessons, such as how to medicate a horse, various behavior explanations, riding tricks, and tips for more successful handling. It is a lot of work, and getting tired, dirty, and sweaty is unavoidable.
However, all the work is not without its rewards. Every night, the WITs and AWITs alternate riding and dry lessons. They each start with a review of what they learned in previous years. Depending on how advanced the whole group is, WITs may walk, trot, and canter singly, in patterns, and in groups. AWITs do that, and they also learn to walk and trot bareback and walk, trot, and possibly canter English. No one jumps or gallops, as the arena is too small to accommodate such things. Dry lessons go over horse and tack parts, colors, markings, breeds, feed, horse sense, body language, how to tell the age, counselor skills, etc. AWITs learn medications, vices, and illnesses in addition to this.
Another important thing to remember is that there is a test at the end of each session over everything covered in the dry lessons. For WITs, the test is nothing to worry about as long as they pay attention in the dry lessons and make some effort to study the WIT manuals given to them at the beginning of the session. The AWIT test is much more complex, requiring a lot of thought and studying.
In addition to the written test, all WITs and AWITs are constantly being evaluated on their behavior, attitude, and skill level. A formal evaluation is given at the end of the session, at which time any problems will be discussed (though the staff makes every effort to bring major problems to the WIT's attention as soon as possible, so they can try to fix them). AWITs are evaluated a bit more strictly than WITs are, because of their higher maturity level. This can sometimes make WITs nervous, but the truth is that anyone who has a good attitude, works hard, and makes a good attempt to learn will most likely pass her eval.
Of course, a WIT's training doesn't happen exclusively at the barn. On Sundays, they are placed in units to observe and assist the counselors for the day. They can teach games, lead songs, talk to younger campers, and get a taste of what being responsible for 30 younger girls is like. AWITs will also get to help with the check-in of a one-week unit, which gives them the added insight into the world of parents and first-time campers. They may have other opportunities in the future, such as shadowing other program staff, helping with church check-in, or helping to plan an all-camp activity. The WIT staff is always happy to answer questions, share stories, or pose hypothetical problems for the WITs. In addition to barn skills, WITs learn CB codes (always a favorite), how to head and foot a table (they foot tables every night at dinner, and the AWITs will get to head tables at least once), and gain fire-building and outdoor cooking skills, among other things. WITs usually graduate the program with a great work ethic, which will prepare them for any area of life.
The AWIT horse overnight involves a trail ride all over camp with just the AWITs and a few wranglers for about an hour, with the possibility of trotting in the meadows. They then ride to an overnight location (usually Conestoga or Adirondaks, or back to the barn if it is too muddy or rain is in the forecast), where the WITs are waiting. After making sure the horses are securely tied with food nearby, the WITs wake up every two hours in small groups to check on and water the horses. In the morning they ride back to the barn.
The AWIT horse show is designed to let the AWITs show off their riding skills. Families are invited to the barn to watch the show, and each AWIT is usually in three different show classes. The classes are usually some combination of the following, depending on skill and interest level: Western walk/trot, Western walk/trot/canter, Bareback walk/trot, Bareback sit-a-buck, English walk/trot, English walk/trot/canter. A judge, often a former wrangler, is brought in to keep the judging impartial. Participants are judged on the basis of posture, ability to keep their horses in the correct gaits, general control, attitude, and of course, ability to stay mounted.
The WITs are my pride and joy, and I am always looking for ways to improve the program. If you have questions or comments to add, please e-mail Indigo!
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