You may still be on your winter break from school, but it's never too early to start thinking about which summer camp you'd like to attend this summer. Really good camps fill up early, and if you don't start researching camps right now, you may end up on a waiting list or worse-you might not be able to book a bunk at the camp of your choice.
Now is the time to start talking to your parents about summer camps. You need to sit down with mom and pops and figure out the following:
- How long do you want to go to camp? If you've never stayed away from home before, you might not want to sign up for a six-week session. A week is probably long enough.
- How far away will your parents travel to take you to camp? If you live in Virginia, your parents may not want to drive to drop you off at a camp in California! On the other hand, they might be happy to put you on a plane. Many camps will pick up at the airport.
- How much money will your parents spend on camp? Fees vary from camp to camp. You might pay $100 a week or $1000!
Once you and your parents have talked this through, you can start looking for camps. But where will you look? Young Rider Magazine, of course! There is usually a special camps section full of ads in the January/February and March/April issues of your favorite horse magazine. You can also find ads in our big sister title, Horse Illustrated.
If you live in an area with a local magazine, there might be ads in the back of the magazine for camps in the area. Ask your parents if they get a local magazine sent to your house and check it out. There are also camp ads in the newspaper. Ask your parents to keep an eye out for them.
If you want to go to a local camp, take a trip to the nearest tack shop and look on the bulletin board; there may be camp ads stuck on it. You can also ask the sales staff there if they know of any local camps. Tack shop employees are usually very knowledgeable and can tell you lots of information about camps and riding schools in your area-and you can always pick up a bag of horse treats while you're in the store.
Another way to find out about camps is to log on to the Young Rider forums and ask other readers and posters about which camps they have been to and which ones they recommend. It's good to learn about camps from other kids who ride. If they have been to a camp, they can give you the low-down on it and whether or not you should go there.
It's a good idea to choose a few camps, and then look at them more closely. Don't get your hopes set on just one camp, because if it fills up early you'll be disappointed. Most camps have elaborate websites nowadays and you'll be able to get a feel for what the camp's like. Some camps show you pictures of their horses and riding facilities. If you're horse-crazy, you'll want to check this out. Other camps will send you a video of the camp. Simply looking at a brochure won't give you enough information about a camp.
If you are interested in a camp, e-mail the camp manager (his or her e-mail address should be on the site) and find out more about the riding program. Here are some things you'll want to know:
- What kind of riding program does the camp offer? Is it English, western or saddle seat?
- Does the camp offer other riding activities such as trail riding or vaulting?
- How much time will you spend in the saddle every day?
- Will you be assigned a particular horse to look after and ride or will you ride a variety of horses?
- Does the camp offer the opportunity to compete in a show? It's always fun to come home with a ribbon or two!
If you find a camp you like, if you live fairly close to the camp, you may be able to visit the camp with your family to really check it out.
Once you've decided where you'd like to go, it's up to your parents to make the next move. They will have to fill out a camp application for you and they will probably have to send off a deposit to reserve a spot for you. They will have to pay the remainder of the camp fees before you set off for camp, so make sure the check is sent off before you pack your bags.
Now you can start preparing for riding camp.