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Horseback Riding Camp

A horseback riding camp combines appreciation for nature with lessons about animals.

Many youth camps offer lessons in horseback riding. [©Jupiter Images, 2009]
©Jupiter Images, 2009
Many youth camps offer lessons in horseback riding.

Horseback Riding Camp

Horseback riding camps are available for both youth and adults, including those with special needs. Youth camps typically are held during the summer, while adult instruction is usually offered year-round and may be either formalized or less structured. Many camps offer other activities in addition to horseback riding.

Horseback riding camps are available to teach the use of the English saddle, the Western saddle or both. The more familiar Western saddle, used in rodeo, features a metal horn on top. The English saddle, in contrast, features a hornless pommel. It is used in equestrian events such as steeplechase racing and dressage, a multi-leveled competitive performance sport in which the horse is guided through its paces through subtle movements of the rider's hands, legs and weight.

Youth Horseback Riding Camps

Horseback riding camps for youth may be either coeducational or oriented specifically for boys or girls. Two extensive online directories are MySummerCamps and Kids Camps, which also has separate search pages for Western riding camps and English riding camps.

West Metro Horse Camp in Buffalo, Minnesota, located northwest of Minneapolis, is a Western saddle riding day camp for children. The owners have over 40 years experience in raising, training and showing horses. Also a year-round working horse operation, the camps 30 acres of pasture offer boys and girls a chance to develop their character through working with the more than 40 horses boarded at the camp. Lessons include covering horse breeds, colors and herd behavior, as well as demonstrations on horse safety and the correct way to groom, saddle and bridle a horse. About four hours of the day are devoted to riding. Sessions run four days, from mid-morning to late afternoon, during the months of June, July and August. Reduced rates for multiple sessions or two-day sessions are available.

The Farm Arts Camp, located in Camptown, Pennsylvania, covers 200 acres of the Allegheny Mountains. It is a coeducational overnight summer camp for boys and girls from ages 6 to 16. While horseback riding forms the highlight of the camps sports program, it is coupled with artistic activities, such as painting, drawing, photography and printmaking, as well as a music and radio program at nearby Camp Ballibay. Both English saddle and Western riding are taught, with advanced riders given individualized instruction. The basics of horse anatomy and physiology are stressed at all riding levels. Sessions run for two weeks each from June through August, with the option to combine two or three sessions into a longer stay for a discount. Discounts are also available for early enrollment and for 16- and 17-year-olds enrolled as counselors-in-training.

Founded in 1929, Orme Ranch Camp is a 26,000-acre working cattle ranch north of Phoenix. It offers a coed, residential camp program for boys and girls ages 7 to 16. Beginners learn horsemanship from the hoof up, while advanced riders learn Western riding skills like roping and barrel racing and English riding skills like jumping from certified instructors. Accredited by the American Camp Association, the camp offers hundreds of scenic trails, as well as outings to Montezumas Castle, the Grand Canyon and surrounding cities. Daily horse rides are supplemented with a mixture of athletic and arts and crafts activities. As part of the Orme School of Arizona, the camp offers both credit and non-credit academic classes. Sessions run from two to six weeks.

Camp Dovewood, outside of O'Brien, Florida, and northwest of Gainesville, is a nondenominational Christian camp for girls ages 7 to 16 and offers instruction in both English and Western riding, with emphasis on hunt seat and dressage as well as barrel racing. Sessions run either one or two weeks in June and July; trail rides are part of all sessions, with the two-week sessions including overnight trail rides. Girls spend time grooming and feeding horses, as well as doing other physical activities such as ballet, gymnastics and swimming, in a program designed to help them grow physically, mentally and spiritually.

The Greenwoods Camp for Boys in Decatur, Michigan, provides boys aged 7 to 15 with a 60-acre grounds fronting a spring-fed lake and with modern cabins accommodating 12 boys each. Horseback riding is taught for both the English and Western saddle under the Camp Horsemanship Associations riding program, and riders may ride six days a week if they wish. Other camp activities include swimming, waterskiing, golf, tennis and computer instruction, and there are occasional joint activities with sister camp Lake of the Woods Camp for Girls. Sessions run four to eight weeks from June through August; an affiliated two-week program, the Grove, is available at a reduced rate, but does not include riding fees in its cost. Enrollment for either program begins September of the previous year.

Adult Horseback Riding Camps

While many riding camps devote their resources primarily to youth, some also offer programs geared to adults as well. Centaur Rising of Pine, Colorado, southwest of Denver, offers weeklong vacation packages with daily lessons in horse care and trail riding, along with the opportunity to observe dressage. Also offered are monthly dressage clinics, lessons for seniors and group lessons for the entire family.

Miwok Livery Stables of Mill Valley, California, offers trail ride lessons for adults in the spring, summer and fall at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area for groups of one to four, as well as weeklong summer livery camps for children ages 6 to 16. Instructors are certified by the American Riding Instructors Association, have years of experience teaching students of all ages and attend continuing-education clinics.

Special Needs Horseback Riding Camps

Horseback riding offers benefits not just to the able-bodied but to the physically and emotionally challenged as well. Horseback riding moves the riders body similar to the way it moves when walking, while stimulating the riders brain and body, affecting a number of muscle groups. As defined by the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability, the physical benefits of horseback riding include:

  • Greater balance and strength
  • Improved reflexes, coordination and visual perception
  • Increased joint mobility
  • Decreased muscle spasms
  • Improved respiration and circulation
  • Greater self-confidence, self-control and self-discipline

Saddle Up!, located south of Nashville near Franklin, Tennessee., is a nonprofit recreational therapeutic riding program serving children with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, spina bifida, autism and other disorders. Founded in 1990, the camp serves children in the middle Tennessee area with instructors certified by the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA), which has given the camp its Premier Accredited Center designation.

Founded five years before the Saddle Up! program, the not-for-profit Jamestown New Horizons of Florissant, Missouri, is also accredited by NARHA. It offers horseback riding opportunities to people in the St. Louis metropolitan area with disabilities such as autism, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and mental retardation. Instruction is tailored to the students individual needs, with classes formed of students with similar needs while also including a strong component of learning how to take care of the horse. Instructors are accomplished horsemen and educators; the curriculum is overseen by a committee of teachers and physical and occupational therapists.

Mount Carmel Youth Ranch is a working cattle ranch in Powell, Wyoming, just outside of the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park. It helps at-risk boys aged 12 to 18 deal with behavior, self-esteem, family and school issues and to learn to make better life choices. Founded in 1992, the camp offers a Catholic faith/family relationship-based model for its programs, which include a 21-day program and longer programs running from 90 days to 18 months. Boys learn not just to ride horses like cowboys but also to dress like cowboys and perform the various chores necessary to maintain a ranch and care for the animals on it. Contact is maintained with parents during the program by letter; upon completion of the short-term program, parents have the option to have their sons return home or continue in one of the longer programs.

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