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It's June! Let's Talk Summer and Horse Camp Schedules

Updated: Jun 13

The weather is warming up, the school year is coming to a close, and Summer Horse Camp season is about to begin. At this point you’ve marketed your summer camp program and know whom your sign-ups are (and hopefully their ability level). Let’s make sure you’re fully prepared for the day-to-day of this fun but hectic season.


Setting Up Your Schedule


Before you start to build out your daily camp schedule, there are a few things to consider: 


How many kids at a time will be in each camp?

How many instructors/counselors will you have?

How many hours a day does camp run and how many days is each session?

What is the riding level of attendees?

Attendees’ ages?

Are they mostly beginners, or established students in your program looking for that extra boost to their horse experience?

What will the weather be like during camp?

What spaces on your farm are ideal for a group the size of your camp sessions?

Do you have a space for everyone to sit at certain points during the session?


All of these elements will influence how you structure your summer and camp schedules.


Our Summer Schedule


For example, here is the Summer schedule we run at Little Bird Farm, with lessons and camp:


Monday - Friday:

7:30 - 8:30am: Lesson time

9am - 12:00pm: Summer Camp

12:30 - 1:30pm: Lesson time

5:00 - 6:00pm: Lesson time

7:00 - 8:00pm: Lesson time


Our camps are a half day so that we can continue to teach our regular lesson clientele. We don’t teach from 1:30pm - 5pm because that is the heat of the day where we are. The arena is outdoors and in full sun. This schedule is safer for humans and horses alike and reduces the likelihood that lessons will need to be canceled due to weather. 



Summer schedules and camp


Our Summer Horse Camp Schedule


You will also need to set your actual camp schedule, here is what we built and why. Please copy, take pieces, or use it as inspiration for your own camp schedule.


Little Bird Farm specializes in teaching beginner riders. The bulk of our camp students are beginner to beginner-intermediate riders between the ages of 7 and 12. Our camp goals include introducing kids to both the responsibility of caring for a horse for the week and different disciplines within our sport. Camp sizes max out at 6 kids, 1 instructor, and 3 horses with only 2 horses in the arena for the riding portions at a time.


Monday

9:00am: Intros (include name tags students can decorate while getting to know one another)

Horse Safety Basics

Farm Tour / Farm Safety & Rules ending in the “hang out” area with helmet sizing

Awards for the End of the Week - see Friday for the awards we give

Horse Selection (like the sorting hat from Harry Potter - 2 kids per horse)

10:15am: Mindful Grooming (learning how to catch and lead their horse; how to behave around horses and why; learning how to groom their horse)

Every once and a while we would get a fast group so we learned to have a back-up plan to keep these kids busy. We pull out rubber bands for mane braiding and hoof dressing, but be forewarned that the kids are likely to ask you for these supplies again every day during grooming time for the rest of the session.

11:00am: Snack time (If you can, check with parents beforehand about allergies. We kept stuff that was generally healthy on hand - strawberries, grapes, carrots (they could feed leftovers to the horses), pretzels, rice cakes, and cheese and crackers)

We put the horses away while kids are eating their snacks

11:15/11:30 Barrel Balance (Think cornhole but while balancing in a saddle balanced on a barrel. We even have different colored bean bags based on horse selection and our board is actually a feed bucket. We have 3 barrels, each with a different “saddle” to align with our discipline-focused days during the upcoming week.)

Occasionally you may have a disinterested group, so it is important to have a backup plan. We keep blank sheets of printer paper and the colored pencils from decorating name tags out as a back-up plan.

Either way, you want these last activities to be something where campers can easily pick up and leave in case their guardians get there to pick them up a bit early.


Tuesday:

9:00am: English Riding Disciplines & Tack Intro 

9:15am: Groom Horses (always based on camper’s horse selection on Monday)

10:00am: Riding / Activity Rotation (Horse 1 Group > Horse 2 Group > Horse 3 Group)

This portion is split into 2 groups: 1 group of 2 that ride and 1 group of 4 that participate in an activity that can be monitored from the arena. 

The first “Riding” group rotates each day until all groups have gone first once. A different combo of horse pairs are used for the riding portion each day, with all 3 being used on Friday. 

Riding on this day focuses on the basics (getting in the saddle, holding the reins and how to use the legs, cueing walk, halt, and turning) The Activity for today is a collage. We save up our Horse Illustrated and Young Rider magazines that come throughout the year and the kids have fun reading the articles and cutting out pictures they like to make their collages.

11:30am: Snack Time and Collage Share

11:45am: Free Play until guardians come to pick campers up (Here at Little Bird Farm kids can practice their barrel balance, play with the goats, spend time with the horses without going into their stalls (like giving them treats or petting them), or draw with the leftover paper and colored pencils from Monday.)


Wednesday:

9:00am: Western Riding, Tack Intro, Intro to Roping (I’m a terrible roper but we enjoy introducing the discipline to campers and it’s a fun activity to add for kids who finish activities early and are looking for something to do until the next thing.)

9:15am: Groom Horses 

10:00am: Riding / Activity Rotation (Horse 2 Group > Horse 3 Group > Horse 1 Group)  

Riding time includes making a circle, doing a figure 8, and steering through a cloverleaf barrel pattern.

Activity time focuses on practicing roping, with the option to try it balanced on a barrel in a western saddle. Paper and colored pencils and two balance barrels are also set up as options for kids not riding.

11:30am: Snack Time

11:45am: Horsey Trivia (We did a Jeopardy style game with horse topics in the columns, but you can play any horse knowledge game you would like.)


Thursday

9:00am: Make Horse Cookies (We bring a portable convection oven out to the “hang out” area and the kids make horse cookies for their horses. While they are grooming their horses I bake the cookies)

9:45am: Groom Horses 

10:15am: Snack Time

10:30am: Riding / Activity Rotation (Horse 3 Group > Horse 1 Group > Horse 2 Group) 

The Riding portion introduces bareback riding

The Activity group gets to decorate a horseshoe (Leave enough time for horseshoes to dry. We tell campers to make sure they’re done decorating by the time we’re done with riding  rotations so it has time to dry.)

If you don’t have enough horseshoes on hand around the farm, consider asking your farrier if they will save some old ones for you.

11:45am: Campers show off their horseshoes and can feed their horse a cookie (We package up the extra cookies with a recipe card to go home with campers during this time.)

This day typically has the most intensive clean-up. Make sure you block out some time after camp this day to clean up.


Friday: (We start Fridays with all camp horses already tacked up and ready to go)

9:00am: Games on Horseback: (campers pick their horse for each game. Start in alphabetical order then by horse selection)

The Brush Game (finding grooming brushes on arena posts in order and putting them into a bucket toward the center of the arena (2 riders at a time, each with half the arena space))

Pole Bending (Serpentine pattern at a walk and trot through cones; one horse/camper at a time.)

Ride a Buck (Ride a small pattern in the arena at either a walk or trot (eg. turning, riding around a barrel, over a pole, and halting) while holding a dollar under your thigh. If you hold it the whole time you keep the dollar; ridden by one camper/horse at a time.)

10:30am: Snack Time (We untack and put away horses while campers enjoy their snacks)

Awards time (All campers get an award for a different quality they exemplified during the camp week and a mini model horse)

11:00am: Paint Horses (Campers are instructed not to paint on their horse’s face but can decorate their horse for the week with their grooming kits, hair chalk, and braiding supplies until guardians come to pick them up.)

Give yourself some time to at least quickly bathe any horses being used for lessons following the end of camp.


Got a great camp schedule already?

Share below and help inspire fellow riding instructors.


Happy Riding!


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Blog posts from Little Bird Advising are not meant to replace individual professional legal advice.

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