How to… Choose the Best Riding Camp for You

Going to summer riding camp can be amazing fun.

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By: Nicole Kitchener |

You get to meet other kids who love horses as much as you do while you learn about riding and horsemanship. There are many riding camps to choose from. Asking yourself a few questions first will help narrow down the choices to those camps that best suit you and your particular interests.

What type of riding do you want to do?

Does English suit your fancy, or do you want to find your inner cowboy in a Western saddle? While most camps specialize in one or the other, some will have both types of riding.

Are you just learning to ride, or do you want to develop skills you already have?

Certain camps cater to kids who want to learn basic riding and horsemanship skills. Others are for more advanced riders. But the majority of camps are geared toward a range of abilities. Some camps offer sessions that concentrate on a specific level (i.e. competition), particular interest (i.e. dressage) or age. For example, Ravencrest Camp, a girls’ residential English riding camp in Strathroy, ON, has a special week for teens only.

Do you want to stay overnight or come home at the end of the day?

Accommodations at sleepover camps are usually quite rustic – perhaps even just tents. Plus, you’re away from home for a stretch of time. But being totally immersed in the whole horsey experience can be an unforgettable experience. On the other hand, day camps give you the enjoyment of a day with horses and friends, but you can sleep in your own bed at night and be surrounded by familiar things and family.

Do you want to participate in other activities and learn other sports?

If you want to spend all your time with horses — riding and in the barn — then you’re looking for a camp that only offers horse-related activities. But if participating in other activities such as swimming, archery, crafts or drama sounds like fun too, find a camp that has more than just horses 24/7.

What style of camp suits you best? Do you prefer low-key activities, or action-packed adventure?

Mike Radan, owner of Ravencrest Camp, suggests you ask whether the atmosphere of a camp is for you. For example, Radan says, “We are a small camp with a laid-back, no-pressure atmosphere — a place our girls can let their guard down, be themselves and enjoy friendships with other girls who share their love of horses and riding. Girls who enjoy larger groups and more activity would not be happy here.” But how do you find out about a camp’s atmosphere? Well, that leads to the next question…

Have you and your parents seen the camp facilities and talked to the owner and staff?

A reputable camp will welcome you and your parents for a visit. Some camps, like Ravencrest, have open houses in the spring for anyone to attend. Ask the staff lots of questions – and ask yourself some, too:
– Does it seem like a place where you would want to spend your time?
– Are the people friendly?
– Do the horses look well-fed and happy?
– Is the safety of both horses and campers really important to the people who run and work at the camp?
– How many instructors are there compared to campers?

If you’re considering attending a sleepover camp, find out how many campers are in each session. Are there enough beds and enough space in the bunkhouses for everyone, or are the campers crammed in? Also, Radan suggests you check whether the camp is a member of a provincial camp organization (Ravencrest is a member of the Ontario Camps Association.) “All members must meet and maintain standards,” he says. “It’s a two-year accreditation process and then camps are re-visited every four years to ensure they are maintaining the OCA standards.”

By asking yourself these questions and doing some camp homework with your parents – checking the internet, reading magazines, asking friends about their favourite camps – you will find the perfect place to spend a horsey summer!