At home, Harrison Rockstein considers taking out the garbage and cleaning his bedroom agonizing tasks. But when it comes to his favorite horse, Commanche, dumping horse manure and mucking out the horse's stall are thrilling endeavors. "I feel like I am doing something valuable," said Harrison, an 11-year-old resident of Redington Shores. "Commanche actually has a personality. He's funny and smart.''
For 10 weeks each summer, Country Day School in Largo opens its doors to the community with camps on science, arts, cooking and sports, but the camp that fills up quickest is the Horse and Barn Camp.
"That baby fills up in April,'' said Bruce Danielson, who owns Country Day School along with his wife, Penny, and Ted and Raena Gillette.
During the school year, the private Montessori school, at 11499 Vonn Road, uses horses and other livestock in its daily teachings.
"Animals are an extension to our classroom teaching. For example, if we are talking about animals that lay eggs, we bring in the chickens," said Ruth Metka, who has worked at Country Day for 19 years. "A lot of children in this area have dogs and cats, but they don't have an opportunity to be with livestock."
With that in mind, several years ago, the owners recognized a summer camp involving the horses would fill a niche.
The camp is geared toward the novice equestrian, between 6 and 12, and generally has about 20 participants each week.
Campers include Country Day students and kids who travel from Manatee and Hillsborough.
"Our approach is to introduce riding and caring for the horses all week, and then on Friday, we invite the family in for a show-and-tell day to let the kids share what they've learned all week," said Pam McCall, equestrian program director.
The lesson horses, all geldings, are Doc, Lucky, Commanche, Sunny and Hemi.
"We tried to have mares, but the girls had attitudes,'' McCall joked. "Seriously, the geldings' temperament is more dependable than mares', and we need to be sure the kids are always safe."
Along with the horses, Country Day has dubbed an area its "Little Barn." There's Hugs and Kisses, two baby goats; Eve the mini-zebu (a type of cattle from India), Dusty the lamb, Santana the mini-horse, and Tony, an Icelandic horse.
Asked how he feels at the end of his day at the stables, Harrison, who will be in sixth grade at Country Day in the fall, was quick to respond.
"I fall asleep sometimes before I shower, but it's a good tired," he said. "I've worked and played hard."