I’m looking for input on summer riding camps for my daughter. She’s 12, has been taking lessons at least weekly since she was 5 (and has been riding 3-5 times per week for the past two-plus years), and has been pretty successful in limited show experience. She has big dreams – would like to be selected for the EAP, ride in the Maclay Finals, ultimately be a professional rider or trainer, etc. My wife and I are not horse people (though I'm picking a lot up), but if we can find a way to support her pursuit of those things without having extra hundreds of thousands of dollars lying around, we want to do our best to do it.
I’ve done some searching online for summer camps that might benefit someone in her position, but most camps seemed geared to beginner riders and it’s hard to evaluate the others. (And I couldn't easily find another thread here addressing the question. My apologies if I missed it.) So I’m wondering whether there are camps that are designed for someone like her. (Location is probably not an issue.) Or would it be better to double or triple her lessons with her current trainer (who I think is outstanding)?
I'm not aware of any riding summer camps geared toward a rider who has big aspirations in the "A" show world, but I know Camp Tecumseh & Camp Kippewa have fun summer camps with competent equestrian programs. At both camps, the equestrian girls are together so she'd get to bunk and hang out with horsey friends all day and they still get to do lots of other regular camp activities (arts/crafts, lake, hikes, etc) in addition to spending a few hours each day with the horses.
I really think the best preparation for Maclay and EAP is being with a trainer who has experience and expertise in those programs and who can be flexible with a budget by allowing your daughter to be a working student or offering horses to shareboard or co-lease. But, two weeks away at a summer camp where she can ride horses and do other fun camp activities would be really fun for her. Even if the training isn't geared specifically toward her level and goals, you learn something from every horse you ride and every instructor.
Also, as the daughter of non-horsey parents who have been and continue to be supportive of my lifelong passion for riding, thank you for being so invested in your daughters goals!
Really nice riding program! They will evaluate your daughter and put her in an appropriate group for her age and skills. If she is really good, she will do cross country and have extra riding time in the evening. The facility is SUPER nice and the horses are well trained. Check the pictures!
Location is probably not an issue
I know it is is Québec but the year I was there, there was people from the US and one from Egypt!
She could also have the opportunity to learn french!!!
www.bestcamp.org has a show team (though I'm pretty sure kids have to be at least 13 to join). I was a counselor there back when it was Allegheny Riding Camp. I know its changed hands since it became Grier Summer but I'd be happy to provide input if you like.
Less geared towards showing but with a fantastic riding program where you actually get to RIDE, not be lead around on a lead line is www.campstrawderman.com . Its basically your quintessential American summer camp experience but with extra emphasis on horses!
Avoid camp friendship. please please please. At least, unless it has changed ownership and drastically improved in the last 5 or so years, which I haven't heard it has. PM me for details on that too.
I know Foxcroft School is doing some kind of riding intensive camp since the camp I worked at stopped running when its founder/director retired, but I do not know anything else about it. I can highly recommend Foxcroft School though - goes without saying awesome facilities and fantastic horses. I used to babysit a girl who is (was? she may have graduated by now - terrifying! Means I must be old!) a student there and loves the riding program.
I can go on to recommend a few in the UK too - PM me for those or ask on here, I don't want to bore anyone.
"Choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance the tides" - Garth Brooks
"With your permission, dear, I'll take my fences one at a time" - Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Second the vote for Stoneleigh-Burnham, I went for 2 years and loved it. Beautiful facilities and the chance for a variety of learning experiences. I also competed in the big eq, and while I wouldn't say I got there bc of SB, it certainly was a good experience for a relatively accomplished rider (please don't take it that I'm being pompous, simply that I wasn't riding in maiden/novice divisions). Plus it was a well-rounded camp experience.
Depend on what she's doing now, she may want to check out some of Auburns Summer Riding Clinics, though I'm pretty sure they're geared towards people looking to be on a NCAA equestrian team or doing Big Eq.
Or even better save your money and find her a trainer that will let her be a working student and has nice horses she can ride.
Thanks for these terrific responses. Lots of good looking programs.
Maybe this should be a separate thread, but I'd welcome any more general input on how best to position my daughter to navigate the path to the top without access to the near-infinite resources that seem to be typical of those who train with a BNT/ride Big Eq (I hope I've got the lingo right). My daughter's very focused and motivated - she reads everything related to riding that she can get her hands on, and will watch video of (for example) a George Morris clinic or the Maclay over and over again. She's been like this long enough that I don't think it's going to go away. As I said, I'm not a horse person, and this world is quite a bit more opaque to me than that of your typical high school sports.
So, for example, I'd be interested in knowing more about working student gigs (is 12 too young for that?). Is it possible to get one with a trainer with whom one does not have a prior relationship? What other things, beyond simply focused hours in the saddle? How does one catch the right people's eyes?
If her current trainer is suitable and willing to help her reach her goals, I would stick with them. She probably doesn't have the experience to convince another trainer to take such a risk with someone her age. Nothing against her, she sounds motivated and hard working.
Many schools have a PE waiver program, so instead of "wasting" an hour of school in PE class, she could get out from school an hour early and go to the barn. I didn't have any trouble getting approval from my high school, but other districts weren't as willing to approve an equestrian program. I don't know the details of getting such a program approved as my trainer had many other students from my district before me who used the waiver. But this could be a way for her to get some more time at the barn.
Have her ask her trainer if there is any thing she can do around the barn: set jumps, fill/scrub water buckets, sweep, clean tack, tack up training horses, help with lessons, set up at shows, first aid, pull manes...there's so much she should be competent in on the ground if she wants to go pro. Honestly, I'd rather have a trainer that was a good HORSEMAN first, riding skills come second because I can do the mounted work myself with assistance on the ground. Even if she does this work without getting extra rides, she'll learn so much and if she doesn't enjoy the work, maybe she'll learn going pro isn't what she wants to do.
You didn't mention if she has a horse of her own. If you could even half lease something, then she could have a consistent horse/pony to show. Concentrate on gaining experience on the local level; what she needs now is just time in the ring. If she can catch ride ponies that need to get in the ring before their owner shows it, this would be a good opportunity as well. Even if she can't take a horse, she should ask to assist the trainer over the weekend and wear riding clothes (polo tucked in with a belt and show appropriate helmet/boots) in case a catch ride opportunity presents itself.
And to stay on-topic, does anyone know anything about Camp Merrie-Woode in North Carolina? Feel free to PM me.
Thanks, Toxicity. I appreciate the input. She does have her own horse, and the situation she's in is, I think, a very good one. I'm just trying to educate myself as much as I can, because we only get to do this once ...
HorseFather, no mention of where you're located, but Sans Souci looks awesome and seems to be just over the border from Plattsburgh, NY.
Foxfield in CA??? I met their drill team at Belmont Horse Fair a couple decades ago and all I can say is "WOW!" Close order drill on horses of all sizes, at a canter, over fences, no saddle, no bridle. JAWDROPPING!
I’m looking for input on summer riding camps for my daughter. She’s 12, has been taking lessons at least weekly since she was 5 (and has been riding 3-5 times per week for the past two-plus years), and has been pretty successful in limited show experience.
And of course Camp Friendship in Palmyra, VA (between Richmond and Charlottesville, more or less).
The program director, Skye, is amazing. I don't know if she carried on with it (or can in this day and age with liability), but when her mom, Davera Ackenbom, was in charge, the equestrian campers would go to the VHSA Associate shows regularly. In fact, the session that was lucky enough to be around in July would go do the local day at the Keswick Horse Show. Again, this was moons ago, and don't know if Skye's taking a team on the road or not, but even if she's not, it's a Beautiful facility, great horses, and being on Skye's watch, your daughter would get an amazing, well-around education.