Phillip Dutton Event Camp takes place annually at his farm, True Prospect, in West Grove, PA. Photo by Holly Covey

Phillip Dutton Event Camp takes place annually at his farm, True Prospect, in West Grove, PA. Photo by Holly Covey

So, you’re looking for something to help you prepare yourself and your horse for really getting this “eventing” thing right. You know the courses are getting harder and you want to just take time off of work, away from the kids, for just you and your horse.

What about a camp? Is there such a thing as an “event” camp? But you’re not a kid, and you don’t want to waste your time. So, why not see if somebody really good is putting on a camp for people like you – someone like an Olympic gold medalist and 12-time national champion event rider, trainer of champions, author of the greatest book on the sport ever written? Why not Phillip Dutton?

You’re in luck. Phillip Dutton does indeed put on an event camp each summer, and it’s not only held right on his own farm, True Prospect Farm in West Grove, PA. He personally teaches and directs the entire week’s activities and welcomes anyone to attend and audit; the only requirement of participants is that the rider and horse be at least Beginner Novice level.  It’s really a phenomenal undertaking and to our knowledge, the only camp of its kind in the sport, and it’s now in its seventh year. It’s so popular that many campers return, and many volunteers take time off work to attend each year and just watch!

On the Phillip Dutton Eventing website, the camp has its own page, this year being held starting Sunday, June 16, and running through Friday, June 21, 2013. “ Hone your riding skills, meet new friends and learn all thing eventing,” the description says, and according to my sources, that’s about the biggest understatement ever about what you will experience at Phillip’s camp.

First of all, Phillip does all the teaching. That’s right, he personally gives each camper a private dressage lesson, and then group show jumping sessions, group cross country sessions, and gives hands-on help to everyone every day. If you have a question, you are encouraged to ask, no matter what the subject or how dumb it may sound – the atmosphere is all about learning.

Personal instruction by Phillip. If you come with a ditch problem, you won't leave with it!

Personal instruction by Phillip. If you come with a ditch problem, you won’t leave with it!

You will ride all three phases and believe me, your weaknesses will come out quickly! Once the groups are set, instruction every day will cover both dressage and jumping. One day involves walking a show jumping course, watching Phillip school it on one of his horses, then schooling over later in the day with his assistance on your own horse. There are cross-country schools right on the property, all lessons are meant to cover your needs with your horse, and lead up to the final Event Derby day.

My friend, Karen Rubin, helps to organize and takes a week off her busy work schedule to assist with the catered lunches and dinners, to audit the many sessions, and enjoy the camp feeling. And many others do the same, auditing is only $25 a day for non-campers and it’s a terrific way to give yourself a full day of Olympic gold medal instruction! She says that watching the sessions and following the flow of the teaching from beginning of camp to the end is an extremely educational and gratifying experience. “The difference in most riders and horses from the beginning day to the last day is absolutely amazing,” she said. “Phillip usually moves everyone up a whole level during the week and they have totally changed by Friday.”

Every rider is pushed to excel, and given the chance to try again — but not beyond your limits. A camp like this stretches your knowledge and your riding, and increases your  horse’s understanding of his job. As a result, you both come away with confidence. Phillips’ many exercises actually are designed to develop confidence from start to finish.  He is very much involved with the progress of each rider and horse. From dressage to show jumping to cross country schooling, including all sorts of cross country jumps from ditches to water to drops to skinnies and arrowheads – you get it all.

In recent years, Karen said, most of the riders attending have been at the three lower levels: training, novice, and now beginner novice levels, she feels because the courses are getting harder at recognized events, and people are realizing they need more tools to compete. Camps usually number 15 to 20 riders, a manageable number for sessions and one-to-one help, yet enough folks to have fun together. Campers help each other and most importantly, watch each other’s training sessions. That’s a major part of the educational process, Karen said.

Watching other sessions is a big part of the educational experience. Photo by Holly Covey

Watching other sessions is a big part of the educational experience. Photo by Holly Covey

Second, the camp camaraderie is well-known. You and your horse are simply folded right in, becoming a part of the international eventing stable family for a week, and Phillip’s staff, while they go on about their daily work, often help and assist with the educational program.

This year, upper level rider Kaitlin Spurlock will give a galloping/pace lesson, his acclaimed farrier Steve Teichman will give a shoeing demonstration, and Phillip’s international grooms will take riders under their wings for personal guidance in braiding, grooming, quarter marks and other special, secret tips for top turnout. More than one camper has found an entirely new way to wrap a foot, fix a tack problem, manage a horse’s turnout, etc. just by the osmosis factor – being around top level people and soaking up what they know and do every day for the top level horses international horses in the True Prospect string.

It’s not all about riding. Phillip’s sponsors also provide wonderful gifts to all the riders and usually give excellent seminars on subjects like nutrition for the horses in work, shoeing the event horse, fitting tack,  and special shopping excursion to nearby Bit of Britain. Breakfast, lunches and a few dinners are included, along with stabling for your horse right on the farm. Volunteers, like Karen, help the whole week to keep things organized. It’s a really full week.

This event camp follows a popular “immersion week” format that many vacations and camps in other sports and recreation industries have developed for the baby boomer generation. Many industries offer these intensive training session camps over several days or a week to people who want to experience the hard work and thrill of white water rafting, mountain climbing, or other sports or hobbies. (Many are very expensive.) Dutton’s camp includes everything for a price just about equal to what you’d pay to enter, get coached, rent stalls and compete in a couple of recognized horse trials.

For more info about the camp:

Duttonized – phrase coined by Cherie Chauvin, camp alumni 2009 Mary Jordan’s USEA article

YouTube videos of schooling linked on this page, also grooming videos by Ecogold:

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