Summer camp season is nearly upon us!
Day camps are a staple of the riding school industry for good reason:
But weeks of tie-dye, pony painting, and endless beginner lessons can take their toll on your energy and creativity. And if you put all your time and resources into traditional camp sessions, your regular students may miss out on the fun.
Keep burnout at bay, generate extra revenue and reward your loyal customers by spicing up your camp season with a variety of fun, themed specialty camps
All of our camps can be molded to fit your schedule, your horses and your clientele. You can also adapt specialty camps for your students’ experience levels when you use Learning Levels to set camp requirements: e.g., “Students must have achieved Red Horsemanship or above to participate in this camp.”
We’ve put together some sample schedules for you, compiled from successful camps we’ve hosted in the past — you’ll find a link to a free, downloadable PDF at the end of the post. Feel free to copy all the parts that work for you, and change the activities that don’t!
Our students’ favorite specialty camps include:
#1 - EVENTING CAMP
Eventers have three times the fun! You don’t need a fancy cross-country course — or English saddles — to host your own equestrian triathlon.
Beginners and Western riders can enjoy a modified version with:
If you have qualified, energetic assistants to help you, you can even accommodate beginners by allowing them to practice riding in the open while on the leadline.
We recommend allowing four or five days for this camp, with each day devoted to a different phase of eventing.
Add some fun unmounted activities related to each phase, using challenges in our Resource Center:
The final day of camp should include a friendly three-phase competition with ribbons for all and an open invitation for friends and family to watch.
#2 - HORSE SPORTS CAMP
Prerequisites: Beginner riders are welcome, provided you have enough assistants to keep everyone safe in a group setting!
Suggested requirement: Red Horsemanship Level.
The horse world is wide and full of fun activities! Break students out of their usual bubble by introducing a series of different horse sports over the course of a week-long camp.
Invite your local vaulters, reiners and show jumpers to give demonstrations; visit a breed show or a polo match; and let students try their hand at as many different activities as possible, both in the saddle and on foot (or trusty hobbyhorse steeds.)
#3 - GROUND GAMES CAMP
Prerequisites: Enough horse handling experience to practice groundwork safely in a group.
Suggested requirement: Red HorseSense Level.
Show your students how much fun they can have with a horse on the ground by devoting two or more full days to unmounted horseplay.
This camp is a great fit for months with less-than-ideal riding weather, as the scheduling is flexible and doesn’t have to require a lot of physical exertion.
Activities might include:
Ground Games Camps that integrate our HorseCentered Levels might include:
Although groundwork is often appreciated more by an older audience, there are plenty of games and activities you can practice with children. The Pink Level lessons for the HorseCentered curriculum are full of ideas!
#4 - MOUNTED GAMES CAMP
Prerequisites: Ability to ride with balance at the walk and trot.
Suggested requirement: Red Horsemanship, but you can absolutely do this camp with Rainbow Level students if they come equipped with energetic Ground Buddies to leadline.
Let the games begin!
Mounted games are one of the best ways to improve balance and communication in riders at all Levels, and one of the few horse sports where students must truly work together as a team.
Plus, they’re just plain FUN – and with dozens of relay games to choose from, you’ll never get bored!
Students form teams of two, four or five riders and spend two to five days learning how to:
Unmounted sessions can include:
At the end of the camp, host a fun games tournament with prizes for all and a cheering audience.
This activity can be equipment intensive! Plan your itinerary well ahead of time so you can assemble some inexpensive supplies. You’ll find tips for games and equipment in the rulebooks for IMGA and MGAA, United States Pony Club’s mounted games and gymkana rulebooks — and by browsing our Horsemanship lesson plans or the #FridayHorseFun tag on our Facebook page.
#5 - QUADRILLE CAMP
Prerequisites: Walk/trot riding ability, with an emphasis on handling a horse independently in a group.
Suggested requirement: Yellow Horsemanship Level.
Dressage meets drill team with a theatrical twist in THE most satisfying summer camp experience!
Open your camp with a meet and greet, followed by a group ride that introduces some basic drill team skills and terminology. Then entertain your captive audience with a fully-costumed demonstration ride choreographed to music.
Once students are suitably inspired, the real work of the camp begins. Teams must work together to:
On the final day of camp, everyone puts on a show for friends and family.
You can run this camp as a traditional 5-day camp session, practicing routines in the morning and keeping the horses fresh with varied afternoon activities such as trail riding, horse agility and bareback games.
More often, however, we held it over a Fri-through-Sunday long weekend, making it easier for our adult students to participate. This intense schedule requires campers to compose their performances in just three mounted practices — an impossible-sounding feat, but our students never failed to dazzle us with their creations.
And yes, quadrille camps with both adults and kids not only work well, but are fun and memorable.
We loved this camp so much, we scheduled it as the summer finale so it could serve as our reward for surviving all the previous camps. And clearly we weren’t the only ones who felt this way — the 12 available slots were often booked before April!
#6 - RISING RIDER CAMP
Prerequisites: We recommend that you require one or more introductory lessons for these prospective campers, allowing you to assess their readiness for participation.
Younger children require shorter lessons and a different approach – but if they are old enough for Rainbow Level lessons, they can enjoy summer camp, too!
Schedule a half-day camp to run for a few morning hours, just enough time for students to:
Include a printed Rainbow Level coloring book in each child’s tuition and finish camp with a non-competitive show and prize-giving ceremony.
Unless you have an army of qualified, capable assistant instructors, keep this camp very small!
For safety’s sake, each child MUST be accompanied by a horse-savvy helper at all times, even if they have previous experience riding independently.
Create memorable camp experiences that keep campers coming back every summer
Designing specialty camps of your own is as simple as choosing a suitable theme and creating a schedule of mounted and unmounted activities for each day. Look through our horsemanship lesson plans, equitation patterns and course maps for inspiration.
Of course, there’s more to camps than just riding, which is why most of the challenge materials in our Resource Center were originally created for our own summer camps. You’ll find teaching guides for unmounted lessons, ideas for games, worksheets, and Level Up flashcards, question cards, and quizzes you can use to fill out your camp schedules.