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What’s noticeable at the Summer Horse Lover’s Day Camp is how comfortable the campers are around animals that are so much bigger than them.

The camp at the La Fleur Stables/Madison Riding Academy in Verona is open to anyone as young as 8. Activities include grooming and washing the horses in addition to riding them. Weekly themes might mean the campers are dressing up the horses. On Friday, when the weekly theme was “Sparkle,” horse hooves were painted, which meant getting underneath the horse.

“Before I came here, I pretty much didn’t know anything,” said Zach Bruce, a sixth-grader at Edgewood Campus School.

Dan and Marlene La Fleur started the business in 1965 in Stoughton and began offering camps that year. Since 1995, the business has been at its current location where Marlene La Fleur designed the stables. Staff and clients of the award-winning La Fleur Stables have competed at Midwest and national levels.

Camps run for nine weeks and signups can be for one day or for a full week and as many of them as desired. There are two more sessions after this week.

Some of the other activities include giving “haircuts” to the horses and learning about the parts of the horse and different breeds and their histories. Campers also learn how to lead, trot and canter and how to do circles and turn with a horse and experience driving a cart pulled by a horse or pony.

In addition to the more tangible activities that go on during camp, the horses can also provide a way for campers to learn more about themselves through taking care of the horses, said Neva La Fleur, the owners’ daughter who is managing the business and runs the camps.

She said more boys signed up this year than normal for most years, and she is guessing the camps appeal to those who want to be outside and might not have another sport.

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Her nephew, Finn La Fleur, a fifth-grader at Mount Horeb Intermediate Center, dropped a couple of the four sports he has been doing and came in with a new outlook after having been away from riding for four years.

“Now I’m just having a lot more fun,” he said.

Chloe Kapusta, an eighth-grader at River Bluff Middle School in Stoughton, said this is her third year attending the summer camp, but she also takes riding lessons during the school year. She said she has learned a lot at summer camp about showing horses, which is something she might want to do.

This was the first year at camp for Elias Bruce, a fourth-grader at Edgewood Campus School, while his brother, Zach, had experienced it one day last year.

“I thought it would be hard,” Elias said about learning how to ride. “It was pretty good in the end. I learned how to ride.”

Nina Henderson, an eighth-grader at Kromrey Middle School in Middleton who started taking lessons at the Madison Riding Academy when she was 8, now boards her horse, Thor, in the stables. In addition to showing her horse, she continues to attend camp in the summer. She said it keeps her in practice of riding a horse and she is still learning.

“We work with the shoe horses in the morning and I really enjoy it,” she said. “Every summer, I definitely improve my skills around the barn.”

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