Gallop Off to Riding Camp
Its that time of year when kids are packing to go off to summer camp. If you are especially lucky, you get to go to a horseback riding camp!
Parents have questions, so I asked around to find some answers.
You may decide to send your child to day camp, or overnight camp. If your child has never spent a night away from home, this is a good time to try it out. It will be supervised, and they will be entertained, plus have the company of other children. Let them enjoy the experience. It really is best not to call every day or night asking your child if they are lonely or homesick. If you put the idea into their minds, it will surely happen. Let them find their own place and learn to get along with others. Most camps will allow children to send postcards home, but discourage phone calls and email. The child is at camp to do new things and meet new people, so let them do that. Children who are away for the whole week will often become homesick at night when activities are a little more low-key and mom isnít there to tuck them in, but come the morning sunshine, when its time to brush their pony and get back in the saddle, a smile will return to their faces.
So what should you bring to riding camp? Your camp will have its own set of rules, so check with them first. A certified riding helmet is mandatory for children to ride at all reputable places, and most insurance companies demand it. Some camps provide them, some require you buy your own. There is a huge variety of styles and price ranges, but remember your childís safety is on the line here. Donít be tempted to borrow your adult neighbourís helmet from when she was a kid. First of all, it wonít meet todayís certifications and secondly, if the helmet has been through a bad fall, it is no longer equipped to do the job.
You will also need a pair of low-heeled boots. Rain boots will do in a pinch, but are sloppy on the foot and makes balanced riding very difficult. Running shoes have no heel and run the risk of sliding through a stirrup. And donít wear sandals. Horse hooves and bare toes do not mix. You really need footwear with about a one inch flat heel. Proper riding boots come in a tall style or short paddock style. Both are excellent choices.
A light pair of gloves is also a great idea. Reins can rub your fingers raw if you are riding every day. You will also need a stretchy pair of pants. Riding breeches are perfect, or course, but if you are on a budget, any leggings with stretch will do. Sweat pants tend to be a bit baggy for the job. Nylon rain pants are too slippery in the saddle. Shorts are out of the question for riding, but pack some for after hours if you are going overnight. A sun hat, bug repellent and sunscreen are musts. If your child requires daily medication, donít forget to give it directly to the Camp Director, with full instructions.
What should you NOT bring to riding camp? Candy, cell phones, gum, pocket knives, matches, lighters, etc. Gum can cause choking, either by the child riding, or an animal that eats it when your child throws it on the ground. Please donít pack it. Candy sounds like a treat, but causes a lot of conflict among the kids and most kids donít need the extra sugar boost. Sharp objects and animals are not a good idea. Anything that will start a fire should not be around a barn.
With this advice, remember that the most important thing to bring to camp is a smile and a good attitude. And warn your parents that if you arenít already a regular rider, the Horse Bug might just bite you!
Heather Spencer is the owner of Harrowsmith Horse Country, a retail store selling equestrian equipment and casual country clothing.
4930 Hwy #38 in the heart of Harrowsmith
This article appeared in the June/July 2008 issue of The Scoop Newspaper.