A Summer to Remember

What could be more fun than summer?

Hmmm… how about: Summer Camp??

Choosing a camp can make this summer one to remember … or one to forget. How will you know which to choose?

There are summer camps of all kinds, and it can be a tough choice to make. Cost is not the only thing to look at when choosing a camp. Now camp is just not camp without horses. Right? Right. At least not for a horse-crazy kid. So that's the first thing you'll want to ask when you call a camp you are interested in.

Some horse camps let you bring your own horse, others have plenty there. That's another thing you'll want to ask about when choosing a camp. Also you'll want to ask about how many hours a day you will actually spend with the horses. Some programs have so many activities that only two hours of the week are actually spent with horses. Now if you love all sports, then that would probably be just fine.

You will also need to decide if you want to stay overnight for the week (or two, or the entire summer!), or just go during the day. If you decide to go to day camp, you'll need to choose one that is close by (or close to a favorite relative), but if you decide to stay all week you could go almost anywhere. You can choose a beach camp, a hill and valley camp, a flat plains camp, or a mountain camp.

Camp is a place to have fun, to learn, to experience, and to make friends, as well as to ride. Find out how many other children the camps allow (some take only 8 while some take over 400!) and whether it is all girl, all boy, or both, if that matters to you. Ask if the camp belongs to an accredited program such as the NCA (National Camp Association, Inc.) or the ACA (American Camping Association) in the USA, or a similar organization in your country. Accredited camps have been evaluated for health, safety, and quality programming, and they must meet strict standards. In addition, a good camp offers friendship, fun and rewarding experiences, opportunities to develop skills, opportunities to become more responsible and independent, lots of activity for both day and evening, and also time to relax.

Ask about your favorites - will there be ring riding, trail riding, jumping, vaulting, bareback riding, gymkhana, etc? Will they teach natural horsemanship, and ground skills as well as riding? Or will they just plop you on a string of nose-to-tail horses and traverse a narrow mountain path that the horses (and you) could walk blindfolded? Ask them that too (unless you like that sort of thing…)

Some camps provide brochures, and some even have videos. If you see something you like in them, be sure that it will be available when you will be there. Ask about the facilities, such as housing (cabin, tent, bunkhouse), showers, toilets, and what they do if the weather is bad. Ask if they accommodate dietary preferences such as those of a vegetarian. Are the people you talk to friendly and helpful? Are they open year round in case you decide to never leave? (Just kidding.)

There are a lot of other things to find out about that your parents will want to ask, such as a refund policy if you have to leave early, insurance, medical care in case of emergency, and references (reports from others who have been to the camp). Then you and your parents will have to decide together which camp is best for you.

Start your search for a camp early because many places fill up well in advance. There are many listings on the internet or you can call or write to the organizations below.

For more information, free guidance and referrals, online camp selection guides, and tips on how to choose a summer camp:
National Camp Association, Inc. (NCA):
610 Fifth Av. PO Box 5371
New York, NY 10185
212-645-0653 outside US
Fax: 845-354-0653
Email: info@summercamp.org

American Camping Association (ACA)
5000 State Road 67 North
Martinsville, IN 46151-7902
Fax: 765-342-2065