Summary of “Horse Camp” by Ursula K. Le Guin

Horse Camp Ursula K. Le Guin Summary
“Horse Camp” by Ursula K. Le Guin: Summary

“Horse Camp” is a short story by Ursula K. Le Guin, first published in 1986 and appearing in her 1987 collection Buffalo Gals and Other Animal Presences. It’s about Norah, who’s going to her first year of Horse Camp with her friend Ev. She’s excited and anxious, having heard lots of stories about it from her older sister, Sal, who’s gone for years. Here’s a summary of “Horse Camp”.

“Horse Camp” Summary

Sal, a Senior, waits for the bus in the parking lot with her younger sister Norah and Norah’s friend Ev. The other Seniors are on the other side of the lot. Norah and Ev are going to be cabinmates and they’re worried about how it’s all going to work out. Sal is calm, having been there before.

She assures them they’ll be shown around right away. Then they’ll have dinner and First Campfire. Sal talks about Kimmy, who’ll be a counsellor again, and old Meredy, a handler who’s figured prominently in her stories about Horse Camp.

Behind them, the doors open on the Junior Girls bus. Across the lot, the waiting crowd boards the Junior Boys bus. Sal says goodbye to Norah and tells her to have fun. She walks over to the Seniors. Norah and Ev hurry on to the bus.

Number Five cabin has four iron cots with thin mattresses and is strewn with belongings. It’s shaded by huge redwoods and a creek runs by the front. Jim Meredith, the horse-handler who used to be a jockey, walks along the path and looks at the cabins.

The counsellors—Ginger, Kimmy and Sue—know the tendencies of the horses and how to keep them on track. They know how to lead the group through the camp activities and they know the grounds.

After the first day’s activities, everyone is around the campfire at night. The counsellors still sing softly as everyone relaxes and falls asleep.

Meredy slaps Philly’s hip, assures her there’s nothing wrong, and tells her to get up. Philly shakes her flank and tests her left foreleg cautiously. She walks on and Norah, still trembling, walks with her. Meredy tells her she’s alright.

Freedom is to run, to gallop. Philly and Norah will slow and come around if Ev and Trigger can’t keep up.

Meredy teaches them to start with the right foreleg. They high-step by him and he’s pleased.

Norah and Ev are shoulder to shoulder as they travel the grounds. Norah is surprised she was afraid before she came here, when she was child. She leans against Ev’s side. Philly grazes and dozes down by the creek. Sue heads for the willows.

Next year, Sal will be a counsellor and Norah will be back as a second-year camper. Freedom is coming back each year in the sun and grass.

The group returns tired, thirsty and blissful from a trip to Stevens Mountain. Norah’s attention is drawn across the alpine field. There’s a line of horses carrying riders and packs. Norah sees her sister leading the line with a young man on her back. Her head is high and she walks with vigor. Norah breaks from the line and runs toward Sal, calling out “No!” as she goes.

Sal doesn’t hear and the distant line disappears into the trees. Norah stops in the meadow and then trots back to her line. She walks along the line, playing with the others. They take off running for Horse Camp, the Long Pasture, Meredy, and the long evening in the field with the sweet dry grass and the creek.

I hope this summary of “Horse Camp” by Ursula K. Le Guin was helpful.