The end of the school year is near and the weather is getting hot and you have a horse-crazy child. Your child may be a seasoned camper, or this may be her first foray into summer camps. There are a wide variety of summer horse camps around and choosing the right one for your child can be a confusing process. Finding the right camp can create lasting memories and friendships that she’ll appreciate for years to come.
Intensive or Casual Riding Sessions
First, consider your child’s level of interest in horses. There are many camps that are “specialty” camps, which focus on horses and horseback riding. Other camps may offer horseback riding as an activity in combination with a more traditional summer camp experience. In choosing between the two options take into account your child’s skill level and whether she has been around horses before entering the camp. Is she already an avid rider, or is this going to be her first time interacting with horses and riding? If your child is a beginner, you’ll want to make sure that the camp is designed to introduce horses and horseback riding. Depending on your child’s enthusiasm, you may want to consider horseback riding as an auxiliary activity at a more traditional camp. This can be a great option to introduce horse crazy kids to horses as a preview to a regular riding lesson program. For more experienced riders, an intensive riding camp can be the jumping point that allows them to become better riders, gain skills and knowledge in horse management.
The level of riding instruction should also play an important part in choosing an equestrian camp. Ask about the instructors who will be teaching at the camp. Are they certified by any organizations? How many years experience do they have as riding instructors, or working with horses and riders? There is no single entity within the US that certifies riding instructors, but there are several organizations that offer training programs and certification including ARIA, CHA, and various discipline associations.
You’ll also want to see how many hours, or what portion of the day will be spent riding, or with horses. Many riding intensive camps offer multiple riding sessions per day interspersed with horse management sessions. More casual camps where the camper has chosen riding as an activity may only offer riding once a day for 30 minutes to an hour. You’ll also want to see what type of riding is offered. Most camps will have a particular discipline or style of riding on which they focus. You’ll also want to look at how the instruction is offered; is all of the riding done inside a ring with a focus on competitive riding, or do they offer trail riding, and fun rides? If the camp is aimed at competitive riding, do campers compete in shows during their stay at camp, and if so, are competitions held at the camp, or will they be off property. Note that if campers will be competing at shows this will often incur additional fees and campers may need additional show attire in addition to regular riding attire.
Type of Camp
Summer camps tend to be held in two main styles: day camp and resident camps. Day camps, as the name implies are held only during the day and children return home during the evenings. Resident camps are held overnight and the campers stay at the camp through the duration of the camp session.
Another consideration is whether the camp is co-ed or single gender. Most co-ed camps will have separate sleeping cabins for boys and girls, but they will have shared activities.
Other Interests & Experiences
You’ll also want to consider the other experiences available at the camp beyond horses. Swimming and crafts are available at many camps, but others may offer music, drama and sports classes. You’ll also want to see if the camp offers excursions or day trips to other locations, such as museums or local cultural events.
Thoughts to Consider When Choosing a Camp
- Has your child attended camp before? If your child is completely new to the summer camp experience, a resident camp that lasts a week or more can be intimidating for some children. For others, an overnight camp is an exciting, immersive adventure. More than anything you’ll want to talk it over and listen to your child.
- Location & Scheduling: If you are planning to drop off and pickup your child from camp everyday you’ll probably want a camp that is reasonably nearby, whereas a resident camp that is farther away is not going to be as much of a concern. For day camps you’ll also want to make note of the time for pickup and drop off to make sure that it works with your schedule; many camps do offer extended care, but there may also be an additional fee for such services.
- Type of Riding: If your child wants to ride English and do hunter/jumpers then sending them to a camp at a ranch with horses trained in Western riding may not be the best fit. On the other hand, if your child would prefer to be out trail riding and having fun with her friends, an intensive camp that competes at horse shows isn’t going to be the best fit either.
- Friends: Some children will have a more enjoyable time if they are able to go to a camp where their friends are attending, others will enjoy the chance to make completely new friends. (Your child will likely make new friends even if they do attend the same camp as their “normal” friends).
- Length: Many camps have different session lengths, or campers can attend consecutive sessions.
- Price: Budget is something that will, of course, play a factor in choosing a camp for your child. Typically, day camps are cheaper than residential camps. If your child is currently enrolled in a lesson program, check and see if they offer a summer camp, these are often less expensive than private, permanent camps.
Not sure what gear your child will need for camp? Check out our Summer Camp Survival Guide.