Reviewed by Georgia Cassimatis
When 29 year old Australian Horse Trainer Alycia Burton, who was brought up in New Zealand, opened up her own horseriding school called Free Riding NZ, and posted it online, little did she realise that not only would it become a viral sensation with over 21 million views on her youtube channel to date and 300,000 followers on social media, but that teenagers would fly in from around the world to do her camps: a reason she has taken her horse riding camps worldwide.
Having recently performed her shows in Horsley Park Equestrian Centre Sydney she is now touring Australia, before going to the US, with the promise she will be opening camps up in Sydney due to popular demand.
‘Firstly, teenagers come to my camps because they love horses and are amazed that I can ride bareback with my arms in the air, but also because when they read my own story, they realise I’m someone who came from nothing, and made it to where I am now. They want to know how I did it.’
Realising a lot of the girls attending her camps were teenagers working through emotional issues, she changed her camps to also include seminars on personal development.
‘Working with these girls, I learnt a lot of their issues were based around bullying, families splitting up, and body image. Struggling with their identity is a big one. I teach them that a normal life involves failure and struggle, and that it’s important to really follow what their talents and passions are in life.’
Another reason teens work well with horses, says Alycia, is that emotionally animals don’t lie.
‘There’s no backstabbing, betrayal or judgement so the kids automatically feel safe. It’s ultimate acceptance.’
The camp has two parts; the first is learning about connection through grooming, patting, and riding. The second is personal development: learning how to deal with pain, failure, how to develop confidence, find a career they like, and being the best they can be.
‘I reiterate to my students that 2% of my own success is due to 98% hard work and struggle, not to compare themselves to anyone else and that when they really enjoy doing something often they are gifted in that area. In turn they learn relationship and leadership skills while showing compassion and understanding: qualities someone needs in order to be around an animal, as well as a great leader.’
To find out more about Alycia’s horseriding camps and seminars check out www.freeridingnz.com and Facebook.