Equestrian Camps

By Sarah Evers Conrad

You can tell when spring is approaching here in Lexington, KY, when Lexington’s Annual Summer Camps and Activities Fair rolls around. If your city or town has an event like this, it is a great way to do some research on local camps in the area and to be able to talk to camp staff and maybe even past attendees. I have attended this fair in the past to see what activities are available for family outings and for camps when my son gets older (he’s only two right now).

I definitely want my son to go to a camp one day, and I am hoping he will want an equestrian-centered camp. I never went to any kind of camp when I was young, and it is the only experience I regret missing as a child. I don’t want my son to miss out like I did. After all, there are so many benefits to attending a camp. Let’s take a look at a few of the benefits for children, and some of these may even fit for adults.

Benefits of a Camp Experience

– First, it is just plain fun. It is almost like a rite of passage for many children.

— Nowadays, many camps try to focus on a specific theme so that campers can have an experience around a sport or hobby that they love. So, what is the best theme to focus on? Horses, of course.

– Camp attendees can experience a feeling of community in a safe and nurturing environment.

– Many camp counselors become role models for their charges.

– Good camps have a combination of activities and experiences that help attendees learn something new, make discoveries, improve upon a skill, gain confidence, and improve social skills.

– All activities have been designed to be developmentally appropriate for campers and should be conducted in a safe manner.

– Many camps encourage campers to reach beyond comfort zones for their own personal growth. And many kids can try new things at camp that aren’t available during everyday life. This helps promotes an adventurous spirit.

– Many campers eventually return to become camp leaders. Moving into a leadership role within a familiar environment allows campers to develop leadership skills and other skill sets that will be welcome within a later career or volunteer activity.

I could go on and on about the benefits of camp for children and young adults. Maybe I will learn first-hand one day. Even though I never went as a child, I may have another shot at the camp experience as an adult. Nowadays, there are camps designed for families and even some designed just for adults-only. They are getting more and more popular, and new camps are springing up each year. Whether you want a camp for your child, for you and some friends, or you and your family, the options are out there.

And speaking of options, there are a variety of options for the type of camp as well. Of course, we all know that a camp must have horses, right? And riding only once a week just isn’t enough. We need an equine-centered camp. And you have come to the right place to learn more about equestrian-centered camps. After all, the Certified Horsemanship Association (CHA) was originally named the Camp Horsemanship Association when CHA was first founded in 1967 by Dan Hempill. And 40% of CHA’s current membership runs a camp. In addition to certifying riding instructors, CHA also certifies seasonal equestrian staff at facilities such as camps, youth organizations, guest ranches, and trail program operators. In addition, CHA accredits equestrian facilities of all kinds, including camps, which must meet certain Standards for Equestrian Programs. To find equestrian camps accredited by CHA and CHA certified instructors at seasonal programs, such as camps, visit HYPERLINK “http://www.CHAInstructors.com” www.CHAInstructors.com. Using the search on the left-hand side of the website, use the word “camp” in the Query box.

In addition to accrediting equestrian facilities at camps, CHA is an Educational Alliance Partner of the American Camp Association (ACA). This means that both organizations work together toward a common educational goal through an exchange of programs and services. This allows educational content about camps to reach more people. The ACA also works with other youth organizations and associations such as CHA. The ACA’s members, sponsors, partners, and others attend its annual meeting, which has already taken place for 2014 (February 9-11 in Orlando, FL). This year, CHA’s CEO Christy Landwehr attended on behalf of CHA.

The ACA consists of 9,000+ camp professionals who work toward ensuring quality camp programs within the United States. Its mission to promote, preserve, and improve the camp experience means that adults and children can participate in continuing education programs on community, character-building, skill development, and healthy living. Just like CHA accredits facilities, the ACA accredits more than 2,400 camps to meet standards in health, safety, and program quality. Out of these 2,400 camps accredited by ACA, 40% (960) of them have horses.

For more information about the American Camp Association and for a wealth of information on camps, visit HYPERLINK “http://www.acacamps.org” www.acacamps.org.

Before you start your research on camps, it is important to consider the options since not all camps are the same. There are traditional camps with riding as a once-a-day activity, equine-centered camps that include other activities for a balanced experience, or camps with a total immersion in equine-centered activities. There are camps for younger kids, older kids, or a range of ages. There are girls-only camps, boys-only camps, or co-ed camps. There are the adults-only camps we mentioned before, and there are family camps. And there are camps who cater to different groups at different times, depending on what session is offered during a particular time frame.

Some camps allow the camper to bring their own horse, allowing the rider to focus on specific goals between a rider and his/her mount. Horse owners should be aware that if a camp allows you to bring your own horse that it may want to be able to use your horse for other campers as well. This is only if the horse owner gives permission. However, most camps provide camp horses, which lets campers experience a variety of mounts. Or a camp could assign one horse to the camper for the week.

There are day camp experiences with no overnight stay involved, weekend experiences, week-long camps, or camps that last part of a summer or all of the summer. And don’t forget about the camps that offer Spring Break sessions. With Spring Break approaching fast, registrations for these sessions will be due soon. Don’t miss out if you think this Spring Break is when you want to go or when you want to send your child. Many camps operate year-round, except for when weather makes it not feasible or enjoyable for campers. Various sessions will then be offered throughout the open times.

If the potential camper is unsure that they would like to be gone very long, try a shorter camp or a day camp. After all, you wouldn’t want to pay for a weeklong camp to have your child frantic to come home after one day. (Please know that some homesickness is normal.)

If you already have a camp in mind, then check when registration and payment is due so that you don’t miss any deadlines. And if you don’t have any particular camp picked out, stay tuned to this blog to learn more about how to pick the right camp for you, your child, or your family.

After all, figuring out what you or your child wants is key to a happy camper.

Sarah Evers Conrad is currently the Digital Content Editor at Horse Illustrated and Young Rider magazines. She also owns All In Stride Marketing. She is an award-winning equestrian journalist with a background in magazine publishing, feature writing, news and event coverage, editing, digital marketing, social media, and website management. Conrad has been published in equine publications such as The Horse, Blood-Horse, Equestrian, Arabian Horse Life, USDF Connection, the American Quarter Horse Journal, Paint Horse Journal, Off-Track Thoroughbred, Stable Management, Camp Business magazine, Lexington Family magazine, and HorsesDaily.com and DressageDaily.com. She is also the current editor for the Certified Horsemanship Association’s official publication, The Instructor magazine. Conrad has also edited several books, including CHA’s “The Equine Professional Manual—The Art of Teaching Riding.” Learn more at HYPERLINK “http://www.equestrianjournalist.com” www.equestrianjournalist.com.