Summer Camp Options for Horse Show Participants
How does summer always arrive so quickly? School is out, Memorial Day has passed, and now it’s time to figure out summer activities. For the serious rider, and even for those who ride only occasionally, summer horse camps and horse showing are usually at the top of the summer activities list
Copyright (c) 2007 Kathy Keeley
How does summer always arrive so quickly? School is out, Memorial Day has passed, and now it's time to figure out summer activities. For the serious rider, and even for those who ride only occasionally, summer horse camps and horse showing are usually at the top of the summer activities list
For many horse kids, summer is a time for extended days at the barn where they can hang out with horses and other kids. It is a time for A Circuit riders to chase some points or squeeze in extra shows without the pressures of homework and school. (My vision of summer as a show mom, however, differs greatly from my daughter's vision – I am trying to juggle complicated family schedules with even more trips to the barn and week-long shows.)
Because many show kids have spent so much time on the show circuit during the year, the summer months offer a welcome respite from burn out and permit much-needed down time for both horse and rider. Summer camp gives kids time away from parents and family and permits them to develop a little independence, as well as provides a great opportunity to meet new kids in a supervised setting
Before making any summer plans, sit down with your child and have a conversation about how she should best spend the summer. Are camps and activities the answer, or will some R&R be more beneficial? If you both decide to pursue a summer camp, here are some options to consider:
1. Summer riding camp. There are many different types of summer riding camps for many different interests. Some are truly summer camps with horse riding as just one activity among traditional activities like crafts, swimming, hiking, and evenings around the campfire. Others are horse camps with riding as the main focus. Some of these camps permit you to bring your horse, while others will work on your riding skills. We always looked for camps that focused on horsemanship – learning about the whole experience of caring for a horse, not just showing up at the barn to greet a saddled horse.
2. Trainer camps. Many trainers in our part of the country offer one- to two-week horse camps at their training facility. These are usually day camps with one overnight in the barn. Kids bring their horse or can lease a horse. While they spend much time with their trainer to improve their riding skills, there's also plenty of fun time to watch videos, swim, and make yet another horse shoe picture frame. Some trainers open these camps to the public while others enroll only those already in their training program. Many trainers allow their older teen students to work at the camp and help with the younger kids.
3. Horse camp. For the non-horse owner and the occasional rider, horse camps provide a great time to ride, be with horses and get a dose of real horse experiences. If your child is an occasional rider, make sure to send her off to camp with an approved helmet, as there are tight rules on helmets and chin straps. She will also need a pair of riding boots or paddock boots. The used tack stores are great for "summer" items that might last only a year.
4. Non-horse camps. If you have children with a heavy competition schedule, do not forget other types of camp, which can provide a needed break from horses, the barn and even the barn show group. Over the years, my daughter participated in soccer camp, computer camp, art camp and other summer programs to develop her other interests. It was very rejuvenating for her to focus on something besides horses and riding for a couple of weeks. There was occasionally some initial complaining, but I saw her attitude improve when she had a break from the barn and riding.
5. Your own summer program. Think twice about creating your own summer camp program by just dropping off your child off at the barn in the early morning and then stopping by to pick her up at the end of the day. Hanging out at the barn can get boring for the kids and imposes on your trainer and his staff. Do this only if you visit with the trainer and get permission to set up a realistic and respectful schedule. Remember, most trainers are not in the day care business. While this option might seem ideal to the child in the beginning, your child's summer will be better spent in more organized activities.
Summer camps provide an important developmental experience to kids. It is a great way to "practice" being away from home before leaving for college. The experience builds self-esteem and increases confidence. Kids learn to problem solve and live without the day-to-day interaction with their parents. In a recent casual conversation with my college-age daughter, she told me that horse camp helped her be more comfortable attending a college far from home. Her camp experiences helped her learn how to meet and live with strangers, how to take care of herself, and when to use the cell phone to call me.for help. Summer camp attendance eased her transition to young adulthood.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Veteran show mom Kathy Keeley has six years of horse showing experience from locals to A Circuit to NCCA Varsity Equestrian Shows. Get your free horse show packing list when you subscribe to our newsletter at ShowMom.com , the first online community created especially for horseshow mothers and daughters who want to learn how to successfully navigate the horseshow circuit and maintain a great mother-daughter relationship.