As daunting as a 19-hand Clydesdale horse could be, Bilbo was a sweet gentleman to his young rider Wednesday.
"He was actually really easy to ride," said Olivia McDermott, 12, a horse camp participant at William Woods University this week. "He's pretty responsive, and he's really well trained."
For 25 years, young riders and horse enthusiasts have participated in the Summer Riding Program at William Woods University, according to Tiffany Smith, the college's director of content and publicity.
This year, 76 riders came to William Woods to improve their equestrian skills. The first session took place last week, with 47 riders ages 1418 learning popular disciplines. The second session of camp for riders ages 1013 ends today.
Participants took riding lessons in the hunter, saddle seat and western disciplines, and their skill levels ranged from beginner to advanced. Students rode experienced William Woods horses, and they received lots of hands-on training from the university's equestrian faculty and students. They also had lessons about tack and equipment, anatomy and horse health.
The students also organized and competed in camp horse shows to demonstrate what they learned.
The staff was as enthusiastic as the students.
"I am very excited to be a part of the 25th annual Summer Riding Program," said Jennifer Petterson, associate professor and chair of the Equestrian Studies division. "We've strengthened the program a great deal over the years.
"I can't think of many summer horse camp experiences with the quality of instructors, the facility and the horses that WWU offers. Campers may be riding a horse who has won a world championship."
Camaraderie was very noticeable.
"Every camper is a horse-crazy kid, and that means instant friends and a common bond between everyone," Petterson said. "We emphasize safety and learning, while working to make sure that they have opportunities to create lasting friendships with campers from all over the country who ride all kinds of horses."
Molly O'Connell, a 17-year-old competitive hunter and equitation rider from Blue Springs, has attended the camp for the last eight years.
"Camp has helped me become more well-rounded and flexible as a rider," she said. "I have learned different techniques and styles to successfully ride all kinds of horses. Everyone at the camp is welcoming and energetic; it's easy to make friends from all walks of life and riding disciplines. This is truly a fun and special learning experience."
McDermott, who has two horses at home, said she was stumped when asked about her favorite camp moment.
"I learned so much I can't list them all," said the first-time camper, who added she's coming back next year.
Fulton Sun editor Jenny Gray contributed to this report by Tiffany Smith, William Woods University.