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How To Choose the Right Horse Camp   Written by: Kirsten Bendt

CLOUDLAND, Ga. – Thinking on sending your child to summer camp? There are probably a million questions running through your head.

This article will guide you on how to begin the search for your child`s summer escape. Before investing too much time in a massive search, you should first analyze whether your child is ready for an overnight camp experience. If you think they would do better staying closer to home, consider allowing them to attend a day camp. Both options offer vastly different experiences, and have various benefits and factors to consider.

Valley View Ranch CampYou must narrow the field, discuss what type of summer program you child is interested in and then begin your research from there. If you have already decided that you want to send your child to horse camp, then many questions are eliminated. If your child is interested in a summer camp with a horse program, you must decide between a generalized camp with a variety of activities, or a camp with an equine emphasis. Some camps offer many activities your child can choose between throughout the day, from horseback riding and water front activities, to sports, crafts and archery. For those wanting to spend more time on the back of a horse, search for a specialized horse camp with several hours a day dedicated to riding. Consider what style of riding your child prefers and research what programs are available at different camps. Some camps focus on one style of riding while others branch out allowing campers to ride in several different programs.

Questions you should consider as you continue the camp search would be, do you want the camp to be located close to home and within driving distance, or further away expanding the search field? Do you want the camp to be co-ed or single sex? What type of sleeping quarters would your camper do best with; would they enjoy teepee or tent camping or would they do better with cabin and bunkhouse style buildings? Do you want a smaller private camp, or something larger and run by an organization? Does your child have any specific or special needs such as allergies, dietary restrictions, behavioral concerns, and how does the camp accommodate for those needs? Are there visitation days? What are the religious affiliations? What is the structure and schedule of a normal day at camp like? Is you child physically fit enough to participate in all of the camp activities?

Once you have limited the field to a few camps you are ready to do your final research. You want to have a really good idea of the type of place you are sending your child, and know who is in charge and who is going to be responsible for them during their stay. Connect with the camp leadership by visiting a camp fair or having a direct conversation over the phone. Prepare your questions in advance, camp directors are more than happy discuss all your thoughts and concerns. Ask thing like; is there a camp nurse, how do you handle homesickness, how are campers organized in to cabins, what is the camper to counselor ratio, what happens in the case of an accident, how is the staff screened, and what is the cell phone policy?  If you want to see things for yourself, you can plan to go to an open house, or ask to schedule a tour of the facilities.

After you have chosen the camp for you child, you might think that all there is to do is sign up and wait for summer to arrive. Preparations range from packing, planning, and scheduling transportation, to filling out medical forms and finding out how to stay connected with your child. Camps usually provide a suggested packing list, with items you need to bring and also what needs to be left at home. Many camps limit the use of electronics and even ban items like cell phone and laptops in an effort to provide a better and truer camp experience. To stay in touch with your child, many services such as bunk notes are available, allowing you to send emails and see pictures of what your camper is doing.

To better prepare for a horseback riding camp, consider helping your child get ready for the rigors of the riding aspect as well. If you child is not currently taking part in some sort of lessons program, consider signing them up for introductory lessons to get them familiar them to the sport. Depending on what camp you choose, your child might need to be ready to spend multiple hours daily in the saddle. If your child is already taking lessons, discuss your upcoming summer plans with their instructor to see if they have any suggestions on how to best prepare.

 While waiting for the big day to come, one last bit of advice to keep in mind is to eliminate potential problems before they even begin. One of the number one reasons campers have a bad experience at camp is due to homesickness. If your child already has successful sleepovers and visits with family members with little trouble, they are probably ready for the overnight camp experience. Do not put ideas in your child's head by saying you will come pick them up if they are not having fun, or tell them to call if they need anything. Rather send them off with a positive attitude, knowing they will be in good hands and making friends within the hour.

As you begin your search, here is one horse lover’s paradise to consider. Valley View Ranch is an all girls, sleep away, equestrian summer camp located A ‘top beautiful Lookout Mountain in Cloudland, Georgia, two hours north of Atlanta. Celebrating their 60th anniversary, the Jones family offers each rancher a unique and memorable experience focusing on the connection between horse and rider, with four to six hours daily with their horse. VVR is proud to offer excellent camp leadership with Staff who have been a part of the ranch for generations. Sessions begin June 1st and end August 1st, offering one to nine weeks to choose from. Camper’s range from age 8 to 17 and enrollment is limited to 50, allowing each camper to have an individualized experience.

Upon arrival, campers are matched up with a western horse that will be their own to care for and ride during their stay at the ranch. With 75 horses to choose from, your daughter will have a horse that is appropriate for her level of experience. She will ride that horse in either the Stock Seat or Pony program, depending on her age, as well as in the Rodeo/Gymkhana program, and on as many trail rides as they wish. VVR is proud to offer over 600 acres and many miles of beautiful, Scenic Mountain trail rides. Many campers who come have ridden horses for years, but have never been on a trail ride through the woods. This is where riders are able to practice the skills they have been learning in their classes and get some extra time with their horse. Separate from the Western programs, there is the Hunt Seat program. Riders are assigned to one of VVR’s English horses, which are used only in this program, and placed in a class according to their ability. Beginner and intermediate classes are held in the Hunt ring, while advanced classes move out to the front field. At the end of each two-week session, campers and horses
get to show off their skills in fun shows. First, they are timed performing two of their favorite patterns against other campers in their level on Rodeo Day. Then, the next day they compete against their classmates jumping and on the flat, taking part in the Hunt Show.

In addition to the riding programs, other activities such as sports, swimming, canoeing, crafts, pottery, archery, drama are available during activity hour. Evening programs offer fun group activities where campers work with their cabin playing games, preparing skits, competing in scavenger hunts, making tie dye and performing air band. Meals are served buffet style and taken together in the Chuck Wagon where the dinner bell calls all to come and enjoy. 

For more information visit Valley View Ranch`s web page at valleyviewranch.com or call (706) 862-2231

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