For many lucky youngsters, riding camp is the highlight of their year – a time when they can spend time away from home during the school holiday or vacation, improving their riding. Some camps provide theirown horses and ponies, while at others, such as those run by the Pony Club, riders tend bring their own horse or pony.
It isn’t just about riding, of course – camps often provide training in areas such as stable management, especially ideal for people that normally just have riding lessons, and don’t get involved in daily horse care. In these enlightened times, non mounted coaching, for example in areas like sports performance coaching, is also becoming more popular.
In latter years, adults have also been getting in on the action, with senior riding camps cropping up more frequently, worldwide. These have been known to be even more raucous affairs than the kids’ camps, especially during the evenings! Either way, whatever the camper’s age, residential camps help riders develop teamwork and mutual respect, improve their skills, develop confidence, and aspire to achieve more with their riding.
- Look out for camps that offer a range of riding activities, so you can broaden your horizons – aside from the usual cross-country, dressage and jumping training, why not consider a venue that offers groundwork classes, or polo tuition, for example?
- You may also like to choose a provider that has other sports available – as three hours of riding, six days a week may feel very intensive! Look out for water sports (at the bigger venues), tennis, hiking, sports massage, fitness training and arts and crafts, as add-on activities.
- Consider your venue carefully – some will have a natural bias towards one discipline, for example, or may feature a specialist riding coach that interests you. Those near a beach may have a more informal bias, and feature more leisure riding – choose a camp that will help you improve your riding, but also allows some time for fun and relaxation!
- If you are the parent of a child attending camp, make sure your provider is accredited and that its staff are approved to work with minors – schemes such as the American Correctional Association and the UK Government’s Criminal Records Office perform checks on staff members, to make sure they are suitable for the post and have no criminal records. Look out also for accreditation from governing bodies, for example the British Horse Society.
- Check out the camp’s ethos on health and safety – if it is important to them, details will be displayed on their website. For any provider offering facilities for children, safety must be paramount. First aiders or medically-trained staff should be present. Ask about the ratio of supervisors and adults to children, if you are a parent of a potential camper. 4:1 is a common ratio.
- Consider that sending your child to a residential camp could be a great way to help them meet children from other religions, races, social status and backgrounds, particularly if you choose an international camp abroad.
- Make sure you are aware of what you are paying for – your fee usually includes board and lodging, meals and activities. Specialist or one-to-one riding tuition may cost more.
- Bear in mind that younger children may become homesick – although most become so involved in camp life that they don’t have time to miss their families! Pack some familiar items for younger children, whether it is soft toys or blankets, for night time.
- Consider booking your child into a day camp before sending them to residential camp, to make sure they will enjoy it!
- Check out the accommodation before you book – some camps require that residents camp in tents, while many have basic accommodation available – but you still may need to take camp beds and bedding. Some adult camps expect you to camp in your trailer or horsebox, or at local boarding houses, so make sure you are prepared!
What you may need to take –
- A torch and spare batteries
- Swimming costume
- Sleeping bag and camp bed, if required
- A tent if you are camping
- Name tags or a marker pen for kids’ items
- Safety wear such as body protector for cross country riding, and helmets suitable for your discipline(s)
- Comfy riding clothing, including plenty of spare clothes and layers
- ‘Extras’ such as your spurs, whip, back support, knee brace and anything else you usually use when riding
- Smart clothes for end-of-camp competitions
- Any uniforms required, eg Pony Club tie and attire
- Camera to record the fun!
- Chargers for any electrical equipment, such as a camera
- All of your regular tack and equipment, if you are taking your own horse. Browse a range of riding and horse care products in our webshop – the site features many products for all ages of rider, as well as a multitude of equestrian goods and equipment.