When Chelsea Karche joined the Chronicle’s Lose The Leathers Facebook group last year, she completed the required 12 rides sans stirrups on one of her horses. But after she read the rules this time around, she opted to take on an additional challenge.
“I remember seeing in the rules, ‘You can even do it on a camel; we don’t care!’ ” she said with a laugh.
Karche is one of the few who could attempt that suggestion. Last year she drove to the Mount Hope Auction in Mount Hope, Ohio, with an empty trailer and came home with Eli, an approximately 4-year- old dromedary camel.
“It was a total impulse buy,” she said. “I don’t even know why I took the horse trailer up there. I know better! They had kangaroos and zebras and all kinds of cool stuff up there. I got up there and was like, ‘Well, I just hauled the trailer up here five hours; I’m not bringing it home empty.’ I’ve always been fascinated by camels.”
Karche, 28, Winchester, Virginia, says Eli has been a joy to have at home. She doesn’t know anything about his history, although he was with his brother at the auction. When she brought him home, she treated him as a rescue and quarantined him first.
“He gets everybody’s attention,” she said. “He’s a total goofball. He destroys the place; he can’t leave anything alone. His favorite game is after feeding time he likes to gather up everybody’s bucket and go throw them in the water trough. He tries to take off the horse blankets and put those in the horse water troughs.”
Over the first few weeks of November, Karche, who does long distance trail riding and some jumping, started riding Eli and posted a photo in the Facebook group.
“I’ve been working with desensitizing him the entire time I’ve had him,” she said. “Camels, their body language is so strange. It’s not like working with a horse. They’re very hard to read. You kind of have to approach them in a different way and work with them in a different way, very slow paced. I would go out there and take a dressage saddle and just flap it on his back and walk him around with it, and he got used to that. We brought home a training dummy, just to get him used to that feeling. Then I started getting him to lay down, and then I would sit on him while he was laying down, and we worked up from there. He hasn’t given me an issue.”
Karche, who owns a vape shop to support her horse hobby, has enjoyed the camaraderie of the COTH Lose The Leathers group. “I usually try to do a little bit of no-stirrup work in November anyway,” she said. “It’s very good for my balance. I get lazy, so it’s a good way to keep yourself in check. We have our beautiful ribbon from last year hanging on the wall. Everyone in the group has been so friendly and supportive. I love that. It’s hard to find that in Facebook groups, so that’s another reason I stuck around.”
Have you signed up for the Chronicle’s #COTHLoseTheLeathers challenge? Ride 12 times for a portion of each ride without stirrups in November, and you can be entered into a drawing for prizes including a lesson with top equitation trainer Val Renihan. The first 250 riders who submit a completed form tracking their rides beginning Dec. 1 and pay $5 in shipping will receive a ribbon. Learn more at the COTH Lose The Leathers Facebook group.
This article ran in the Nov. 23 – Dec. 7, 2020, issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.
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