Camp Birch Hill Horseback Riding Program
Thursday, May 16th, 2019
Our horseback riding program is one of our most popular programs at camp and it has been for almost a century! Campers have been enjoying horse riding at Birch Hill since the 1930’s! We get a lot of questions throughout the year about what our campers can expect from the program, so we thought we would write an exposé to cover many of the frequently asked questions.
The camp office is always open to answer any of your questions, so feel free to call (603) 859-4525 or email [email protected]
What to pack:
On our suggested camp packing list which can be found on our website here we suggest campers bring hiking boots if they plan to do horseback riding. Campers are welcome to bring their own helmet if they have one, but we do provide helmets of all sizes for our classes.
Below is a picture of campers enjoying horseback riding at Birch Hill in the 1950’s.
On opening day during our rotation of familiarizing everyone with camp, every cabin visits the stables to play a game and learn the rules. Opening day is a great day for campers and caregivers to meet the horses and instructors. All questions and queries are welcome.
Once parents/caregivers have left campers are then given a tour around camp with the counselors.
When visiting the stables the campers are introduced to the horses and are able to feed them treats. The equine director will explain what the campers will do while riding here at camp. This is another great chance for the campers to meet the instructors and start to familiarize themselves with the stables.
About the stables:
We have a beautiful five box stable nestled in the trees near the lake with a wash down area and a separate tack room. The horses are able to enjoy time in the paddock/fields that are on either side of the stables for turnout.
How Our Horseback Riding Classes Are Structured:
We have campers of all ages and levels in each class. Our instructors are sure to take in to consideration which each individual camper wants to get out of their classes. Campers of all ages and experience are welcome to take part in the lessons, each child will be taught as an individual with exercises suited to their level. We are able to do this as our groups are small and instructors are able to plan the lessons according to who is in each class.
On day one kids are shown how to prepare the horses for riding, grooming and saddling up. They are first shown by one of the instructors then are able to get the horses ready. There is always an instructor close by to help the campers with this. One by one the campers are helped upon the horses and are given instruction on basic aids. The campers then spend the remainder of this lesson practicing these skills. For the more experienced or those keen to try, a small obstacle course is set up in the arena for campers to practice their skills.
Day two is an exciting day for campers as we ride out around camp on the beautiful tracks/trails that surround the property. All campers are given the option to be lead by an instructor. Campers enjoy riding past their buddies to say hello, yahoo or tell a quick inside joke. Picking fresh wild berries to eat along the way, trotting along the field, finding small banks to go up and down and playing games are all some of the fun things we can do with the horses during this lesson.
Day three is always a favorite! This is the day we take the horses to the lake! The horses love cooling off in the water and will become quite playful kicking and splashing around. Campers of all ages will talk about this for a long time to come. These special memories made at camp are cherished forever.
Day four is all about choice. The staff give the campers the option to choose what they would like to do with their last day. Many want to try the obstacles again while others prefer a mix of the other options. Whatever they decide campers are encouraged to make the decision as a group so everybody in the class enjoys themselves.
As well as our daily classes, the stables will sometimes be open during Personal Choice Period- during this time we do activities such as; washing the horses, cleaning the stables, cleaning gear, learning about each horse, drawing horses and other creative activities staff and campers come up with.
If your camper decides they want to try horseback riding halfway through the session:
We have an elective based schedule at camp which means campers are able to change their mind about which classes they want to be in after their first day. At any stage campers are welcome to change into horseback riding if there is space left in the class. Everyone in the class help the new campers feel confident to ride.
Where the horses come from:
Camp Birch Hill has long friendship with Pond Lake Ranch in Vermont. The horses are chosen specifically for us and the campers. Each year we often have the same horses return again and again. The horses are dropped off in a big trailer by staff from Pond Lake Ranch during precamp which is a very exciting day! During the year when the horses are not with us they are used for horse trekking over the ranch’s large property and cared for by the amazing staff up there.
Camp Riding Style:
At camp, campers will ride English-style using english gear. The most obvious difference that campers find with western riding (if they are familiar with this) is the gear. The english saddle is smaller and lighter making it easier for smaller campers to lift up on their horse. It also gives the rider a closer contact to the horse, letting them feel the different paces and motion of the horse.
Safety Never Takes a Vacation!
Safety is very important to us camp wide and the stables are no exception. Campers must always be wearing long pants and covered shoes around the horses. Sterilized helmets are provided and must be worn at all times when riding a horse. A full safety briefing is given on opening day and again before the first lesson. At all times there is a first aid kit in the stables.
Everyone is always welcome!
Campers of all levels are encouraged to give horse riding a try at camp, the staff have a wealth of knowledge and will strive to make sure any nerves are settled so campers can learn to ride with fun and confidence. At any time if campers are feeling overwhelmed an instructor will be there to assist.
Staff are carefully selected across all areas of camp, all horseback riding instructors have experience with horse riding and caring for horses. An equine director will be there to oversee the running of the stables and to plan the finer details of each lesson. They are also responsible for the care of the horses – including feeding, mucking out and general maintenance.
Below is our youngest camper, Rich Morell’s granddaughter Aria trying riding for the first time at two years old. At camp you are never too young to learn!
We look forward to seeing you all the this summer! YAHOO!
We want to give a shout out to Shannon Gregory who was a our horseback riding director a few years back for helping us with this special blog post.