I'm starting as a camp counselor at a horse back riding camp next week. I'm so excited but also pretty nervous. I love kids and horses so I figured I'd give it a shot. I've been riding since age 6 and am now 19. I attended horse camp up until I was about 14 at the same camp where I will be a counselor.
I was wondering if you guys had any tips on activities and things I could do with the kids, both on and off the horse. Games, arts and crafts, barn activities, etc.
I'd really appreciate all the tips and ideas!
Craft ideas: draw their camp horse; paint up horse shoes; make treats
Unmounted: we had a "hose party" with swim suits to wash the trailer (yes, it was child labor in disguise, but the trailer got clean); "Pin-the-Part-on-the-Pony" went over well, too
Mounted: my more advanced kids loved when I had them do a pattern like they do in AQHA equitation (few and far between in hunter land); for the more beginners, "Mother May I?" was a surprisingly HUGE hit.
"Radar, the man's ex-cavalry: if he sees four flies having a meeting, he knows they're talking about a horse!" Cptn. BJ Hunnicutt, M*A*S*H Season 4, Episode "Dear Mildred"
Unmounted activity: fill up water balloons,and put little horsey trinkets in about a fourth of them (ex- cheapo mini plastic horses from craft store, etc) and have the kids get in swimsuits and throw them at each other. The person who winds up with the most horsey trinkets wins, and gets a prize/gets to pick from a list what they are going to do that day on the horses
Get washable paint and let them paint all over the horses. We did that on rainy days and the kids always had a blast.
We also did little "tournaments" with tasks like backing up x number of steps, picking something up off a barrel etc. The group was divided into teams and whoever could successfully do all the tasks quickest won.
One game the kids at the camp I am a counselor at is the 'Balloon Relay-Race'.
(Better for younger beginners)
For example if you have 10 kids in the 'lesson' you make 2 teams of 5 and have them line up behind a cone holding their mounts in-hand. A bucket of water-filled balloons should be by the cones and put a chair for each team at the other end of the arena. The riders will have to pick up a water balloon, mount their pony (with a stool if needed) and get to the other end of the arena, holding the water balloon, as quick as possible. They then must dismount, put the water balloon on the chair and plop down on it so it pop.
Little kids love this activity because not only is it a confidence booster for a kid who may be nervous about trotting or cantering, who now has a motive to do so in order to win the game, but they just love popping the water balloons and getting a little wet
When I worked as a riding instructor at some summer camps-we had the kids do pattern classes, dressage classes and had mini camp shows at the end of the sessions to show case what the kids had learned.
Probably the most favorite event of the shows was the counselors donut race. We got some of the other counselors (most of them who never rode) involved. We assigned them horses and they had to trot (or attempt to trot) down to the end of the arena where we had donuts (boston cream) sitting on a plate. They had to dismount and eat the donut without thier hands. Once finished-they had to run back with thier horse leading it. We would take "bets" with the campers to see who would win and the winner got a crown and sash! Campers & Staff Loved it!
I remember we made stall signs in arts and crafts when I was little and I loved that. To tell you the truth, I wouldn't mind getting a piece of wood and some paint right now and painting some stall signs!
I'm teaching at a camp next week too! It's a TON of fun! However this year I am in charge of the Jr's(Ages 6&under). So they don't ride. I'm trying to come up with age appropriate lesson plans! So far I've got leading, grooming, (basic) pony parts, colors, and markings. Any other ideas?
At my camp the favorite game is usually the ABC game. Riders go around in order naming a horse item that starts with their letter, A-Appy, B-Bridle, C-Canter, etc. Pony Club games are also always a hit!
Scavenger hunts are always a big hit, especially on days when nobody can sit still. Run-around-games can be things like learning a dressage test on foot (if you have a full sized sand arena, that'll wear them out fast!), or jump a course on foot. Have them run a barrel pattern on foot. Wheelbarrow relay races - set up a course of cones and have them push a wheelbarrow with a bale of hay in it through the course and back to the next person.
On the day you teach colors and markings, divide them into two teams. Each team has to describe a couple of horses in a pasture (good game for standing outside the fence!) by color and markings and the other team has to figure out which one it is.
A good game to have "in your back pocket" is a jeopardy game for that last 30 minutes on a hot afternoon before the parents come. Sit under a tree, divide them into two teams, and (now, while you're thinking about it) come up with a list of questions that go along with what you're doing that week -- colors and markings, tack, first aid, parts of things, whatever.
Another thing kids seem to love, if you have an extra half hour and you're struggling to fill it, is to have a grooming contest. Be as picky as possible! and watch them grimace when you tell them their mare has gunk between her udders and they need to clean it out!
Most of the kids I've had at camp have a strong drive to MOVE as much as possible, and want to have a real live horse in front of them as much of the time as possible. Yes, these two do seem to contradict each other...
When I was a counselor I made three ring binders with different "chapters" like parts of the horse, colors/breeds/markings, tack, feed, grooming etc. We had a little quiz at the end of the week. Also, the kids loved sticking their hands in all the different grains and feeling all the hay, etc. I love the painted shoe idea and the hair bracelet (or keychain?). It's really cool when thy can take something home.
These are all great ideas and sound like a LOT of fun! But are you planning any sort of drill work - you know, just going around the ring on the rail learning to post, stop, start, make a half circle?
I ask this as someone who has taught summer camp, at both well established camps, riding schools and backyard stable programs (and taught the rest of the year too). Games have their place to practice what the kids have learned, but very often kids get so caught up in the games that their position and skills go out the window. Kids can be very abusive (in the sense that they are unintentionally causing their mounts pain because they don't yet know how to ride) so I always made sure there were certain skill levels that had been met before game playing.
~Kryswyn~ Always look on the bright side of life, de doo, de doo de doo de doo
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One of my favorite games from my camp years (went from ages 10-12) was a gait race. Our counselors taught us the rhythm and footfalls of each gait. Then we paired off to make "horses," with one person for front legs and one for back. The back person put his/her hands on the front person's shoulders and we could also count the rhythm to stay together. The pairs raced in each "gait" to see who could be fastest and correct. It was a fun, easy way to learn about gaits and it has served me well ever since.
My horsey camp was a bit more educational then most, but we were also older kids who had had a few years of riding. I still loved it.
We went over parts of the saddle/bridle, anatomy of the horse, different breeds and ways of riding. Then went around the barn and taught about grains and hay, proper daily care of a horse (Turnout, stall cleaning)
We also had a day with the vet, farrier and even went to a horse show and talked about different classes and preperation invovled.