You may still be digging yourself out of holiday celebrations, but it’s time to start thinking about how you’re going to spend your summer! Now is the perfect time to start talking with your parents about attending a summer camp, and what better way to enjoy the summer than by doing so on horseback?
Summer camps are the best way to focus on improving your riding, to learn a new discipline or skill, or to just enjoy being around horses more while school is out for a few months. We strongly suggest talking with your parents early about camp and think about the following questions:
◆ Do you want to go to a sleepaway camp?
◆ If so, how long do you think you can be away from home?
◆ Do you want to focus only on horses, or do you want to experience other activities, while also getting to ride?
If you’ve never gone to a horse camp, it’s important to talk with your parents and have them do some research with you so you can make the right choice and find the best fit for your needs and goals.
There’s no such thing as starting summer planning too early! Some of the more popular camps will open registration between the end of the previous year or closer to the start of the new year. And if they’re not open for registration now, you can get prepared to register early so you don’t lose your spot.
Here are the top five questions to answer in order to choose the perfect summer camp.
1. What Location Do You Want?
Are you lucky enough to live in an area with lots of different riding barns that offer day camp? If not, you might have to plan to travel somewhere for camp, which requires a lot more planning than a day camp.
If you’ve never stayed away from home and your family for more than a night or two, but you want to try a sleepover camp, consider one closer to you—definitely within your home state—just in case you want to come home before the end of the camp. Ready for a big adventure? Then seek out a camp where you can travel and learn to be more independent from family.
2. Who Will Be Your Instructor?
If you want to spend a week (or more) riding and learning about your chosen discipline, make sure that your instructor/trainer is very knowledgeable in their chosen field. To best help you choose the best instructor, see if the camps you’re looking at have Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA)-certified instructors.
“The large majority of individuals who are CHA certified work at camps that are specifically an equine camp,” says Jaqueline Tiley, CHA’s interim chief executive officer and mother to a couple of campers herself.
3. What’s the Cost?
Have you been saving your allowance for camp? Camp can be expensive because of the cost of insurance—which is a good thing for them to have.
Your parents can always ask camp organizers if they offer any grants, discounts or ways to help cut the cost of the camp—but be prepared to do some extra chores to help pay, especially if you’re looking to travel for camp this year.
4. How Experienced Are You?
Are you a horse lover that just wants to start learning to ride horses, or have you been taking riding lessons for a couple of years and want to expand on your experience?
Camps for riders should always stress learning how to care for horses from the ground first and foremost. Learn about the horse’s anatomy and how to properly clean a saddle—yes, it’s learning, but it’s fun learning! Plus, it’s an important part of becoming a great horseman. Never turn down a chance to learn more about the horse, no matter how experienced you already are.
5. How Do You Know You’re Making the Right Choice?
Kids, this is for your parents: Do your research! Talk to your child’s current riding instructor for recommendations, ask fellow horse parents, and ask questions on social media.
“I always tell parents to go see the camp before they drop off their kids for a week or more,” says Tilley. “If they can’t because it’s too far away, they need to do some research online by finding reviews of the camp, facilities and instructors, as well as asking parent groups on social media.”
Things to look at when looking at camps:
◆ What condition are the pasture fences in?
◆ How tidy is the barn?
◆ Are all riders required to wear helmets?
◆ What’s the condition of the horses?
Camp should be about experiencing new things, no matter the level of rider you are. It’s the perfect chance for you to step out of your comfort zone, so keep that in mind while searching for the best camp for you!