Summer is here, and millions of children are clamoring, “Mom, I want to go to horseback riding camp this summer. Please??”
Parents, take heart. There are many wonderful camps out there for you to investigate that offer educational, productive courses for your horse-happy youngster to participate in.
Hundreds of camps across the country offer riding as a primary focus or as an activity. According to the American Camp Association (ACA), of the camps associated with the ACA:
o 692 camps offer Western riding
o 441 offer English riding
o at least 137 camps offer riding as a targeted focus – compare this to just 35 camps that focus on the visual and performance arts!
But, regardless of a child’s interest, according to Harriet Lowe, director of communications for the ACA, “Every parent needs to do due diligence.” She went on to say that this “diligence” can include visiting the camp the summer before a child actually goes off to it and listening to what other parents have to say about a camp. But, as well, Lowe noted, what is pleasing and exciting for one child and her parents may not be at all a suitable fit for every child.
For sleep-away camps, sessions are offered in anywhere from a long weekend, to two- to eight-week formats and are single-sex and co-ed. Ages range from eight years of age to mid-teens.
But “sleepaway” isn’t the only option. Many, if not most, local stables offer a summertime day-camp in weekly or bi-weekly sessions. Like sleep-away camp, horsemanship is the focus, with emphasis on proper care and handling of the horse. As well, there is usually ample riding opportunity, often with riding twice a day, opportunities to ride bareback, trail ride or even take the horses swimming. It’s also a wonderful chance to make friends with children with a shared interest – and friendships centered around horses often last a lifetime.
It’s not only the tangible experiences with horses at summer camp, such as the sights, aromas, and sounds, that will help your child – it’s the intangibles that come from being at the barn that can make the experience so important. It’s the interaction with nature, learning about responsibility for another being, and the chance to experience interacting with a large animal safely and with respect.
What sort of equipment or attire should a child take with him or her to camp? It usually is the same as it would be for a riding lesson. In most cases, the child should be equipped with an ASTM/SEI approved riding helmet, proper riding boots (paddock-style are the most versatile), and either riding pants or pairs of jeans. If possible, equipping your young rider with a pair of half-chaps (knee to ankle leather leggings) are a very useful and functional addition to his or her camp-riding wardrobe.
As most camps offer an array of activities, once your horse-crazy youngster has had her daily fill of horses (if that’s possible), he or she can go on to swimming, tennis, arts and crafts, and a host of other activities, activities that will make your child not only a better horseperson but well-rounded and appreciative of the many possibilities life holds.
Many youngsters return year after year to their camp, and as they become teenagers, they often return as a camp counselor. For those with the horse bug, this is an excellent chance to learn how to be truly responsible with horses, to acquire senior barn management skills, learn advanced riding, and to learn how to become a skilled instructor, all without the expense of personal ownership of the horse.
Summer camp and horses are a natural mix, and by the numbers noted above, there is no shortage of opportunity for children or interest from them. Below are a few websites of summer camp organizations that will open the door to making the best selection for your child. So, get ready for a summer filled with excitement for your child, memories that the whole family can share … and maybe some pleas at the end of summer of “Can we bring Red home with us? Please??”
Some helpful camp websites and contact information:
American Camp Association at 765/342-8456 (IN) or visit:
DISCLAIMER: This article is not a substitute for expert advice in the selection of a summer camp for one’s child nor is it an endorsement of summer camps as a suitable activity for children. Please consult summer camp professionals to determine if a camp is appropriate and in making a selection of a camp.
Note: All prices in US Dollars