For many kids summer horsemanship camp is a dream come true. It gives horse lovers the opportunity to hang out with horses and other horse kids full time. What can be better than that?
Organization and imagination can help make even the smallest summer horsemanship camp a memorable experience for campers, making camp the highlight of your students’s year.
The biggest key to a good summer horsemanship camp is good horses. Choose the safest horses available for your program. Horses need to be comfortable with excited kids and more than one child hovering at the same time. And they need to tolerate the mistakes and clumsiness of riders who are just learning to tack up
2. Horse Care
Give campers a horse to care for, either by themselves or with one or two partners. This gives them the opportunity to experience what it would be like to take care of a horse of their own. Limit their care to things like grooming, watering, stall cleaning, turnout and tack up. You still make decisions on scheduling and feed amounts.
Teach lots of ground school. Concentrated summer horsemanship camp time is perfect for covering the basics like parts of the horse, colors and markings, feeding, bedding, tack cleaning, trailer loading, bit’s and bitting, worming, basic veterinary care.
Provide the opportunity to ride every day. Summer horsemanship camp is one of the few times of concentrated attendance giving campers a rare chance for daily riding.
5. Teach games
6. Team competition.
If you have enough campers to formulate teams points can accumulate during the week from riding activities and horse care. Have a special award for the winning team at the end of summer horsemanship camp.
7. Time to Take a Break
Teach a quiet time craft such as painting horse shoes or decorating foam frames with horse motifs. This gives campers an opportunity to rest and visit with friends.
8. Time to Cool Off
Have a cool shady place for campers to be out of the sun. Schedule quiet activities and down time especially during hot times of the day.
Provide a safe place for campers to store their personal items. Check out these plans for making cubbies or try this idea. And if campers are bringing their own lunch, make sure you can store lunches safely.
Provide a simple pre-packaged afternoon snack and drink to help campers recharge.
11. Capture Summer Horsemanship Memories.
Arrange to take a camper and horse photo plus a photo of all the campers together. Photos make great awards.
12. Let them show what they learned
End summer horsemanship camp with a time for campers to show their parents what they have learned. You could hold a simple horse show or provide a demonstration time for riding or let campers put on a skit about what they learned at summer horsemanship camp.
Give simple personalized awards for achievements and character traits at the end of summer horsemanship camp. Make sure you give an award to each child. Ideas for awards would be “Most Improved Trot,” “Best Grooming Job,” “Most Helpful to Other Riders,” “Kindest Hands,” “Perseverance,” etc. A certificate or photo makes a good moment from camp.
Plan out your curriculum ahead of time making certain you have lessons planned and that you have all the tools needed so classes are ready to go. Check out this post on Lesson Plans.
Make a schedule so that everyone has an activity for each hour of summer horsemanship camp, even if the activity is lunch. And be sure campers are supervised.
Have good help and enough of it so that campers are always supervised and no one feels left out. Consider hiring horse loving teachers for counselor positions. Teens make very helpful CITs (counselors in training) to guide students to activities and make sure their needs are taken care of but make sure they are supervised and not left to fend for themselves. Not only is it unwise to use teens as camp riding instructors, it is against the policy of most insurance companies.
18. Keep campers hydrated.
Provide plenty of fluids for campers. Coolers loaded with ice and water and cups or reusable water bottles with campers’ names will prevent disposal bottles and cups from being tossed on the ground. Avoid sugary carbonated drinks that can cause nausea in over heated campers.
19. The Restroom
Be sure the restroom facility at your barn is adequate for the number of campers you will have. Nothing is worse than having a group of kids for camp when suddenly the only toilet backs up and become unusable. Portable toilets are helpful for preventing plumbing problems.
20. First Aid
Provide first aide training for counselors. Be sure everyone knows what to do in the event of a camper falling from a horse. Be sure counselors are aware of the signs of heat stress in campers and horses. Plan emergency route to the hospital and make sure it is clearly posted. Have a counselor meeting to discuss procedures for emergencies such as accidents, and for weather that is unique to your area such tornados or dangerous lightning storms. Keep an emergency contacts list close at hand. Keep a well stocked first aid kit.
Summer horsemanship camp will provide great memories for campers and a good camp will bring campers back year after year.
Do you have some great ideas about summer horsemanship camp? Why not add them in the comments?
Thanks for reading. I hope your summer is off to a great start.
Barbara Ellin Fox