If you have a horse and an arena available to you, along with a flexible schedule, you’re sitting in the middle of the perfect opportunity to start a horse camp.
Children who grow up with a love for horses but lacking the time or money necessary to have their own, or even to take regular lessons, will adore the opportunity to spend some time with equine friends. There are a number of resources to help you get started in your venture, like guides for first-time camp directors and educational programs for aspiring equestrians. If the potential cost makes you balk, don’t worry; just as there are grants to help teachers fund field trips, there are funding opportunities for camp directors.
While it may seem like a huge undertaking, adding a horse camp during the summer or on occasional weekends isn’t as difficult as you might think. With a little planning, organization, and some business savvy, you can establish a program that keeps your horses active, puts money in your pocket, and creates a haven for horse lovers.
Assessing Your Resources
When evaluating the potential of your time, horses, and land for hosting a horse camp, there are several factors to consider in terms of your hosting capabilities. Primarily, the number of campers you’ll be able to entertain will be limited by the number of horses you have. More horses equals more potential campers, or, if you have light riders with beginning skill, horses could do more than one lesson per day if you have the resources to break campers into two groups. If you only have one horse, don’t worry; you can still effectively hold a camp on a smaller scale.
Second, consider how much time you’re able to dedicate to the camp. You won’t just be putting time in while children are there; you’ll have activities to prep, lessons to plan, and clean up to do. Even though you’ll be getting money from this venture, you need to be sure the time you’re investing is worth it, and that you still have enough downtime to avoid burnout. Your horses will appreciate this, too.
If you have the horses to accommodate it, consider hiring a barn hand to help with extra duties or to be an assistant instructor during riding lessons. An extra set of eyes is always welcome around kids, especially when there’s livestock involved. You don’t necessarily need another trained professional with a lifetime supply of experience; help can be as simple as a teenager who’s been around horses and has a reasonably responsible head on their shoulders.
Planning Your Camp Activities
Riding lessons will be the main draw for your campers. Generally, each camper should receive 45 minutes to an hour of lessons per day at camp. If you choose to run your camp over the course of several days, the lessons can build on each other and work towards proficiency in an area of riding. Parents will be more at ease knowing that lessons are structured. It will also be important that you, and any of your assistants, are certified equestrian instructors. This also mitigates liability and may reduce insurance costs.
If you already teach regular lessons, you’ve got part of the preparation down, but running a successful camp will require more than time in the saddle. Horse-themed ground lessons are a good way to impart knowledge on a clearly related subject. You can teach lessons on the different gaits, breeds, colorings, facial and leg markings, anatomical names, tack types, or disciplines of riding. Each lesson should last about an hour and you should have visual aids (other than pictures) to help maintain the interest of your pupils.
Campers interested in owning horses someday should have a grasp of what owning a horse entails beyond just riding. If possible, engage your students in feeding, mucking, or other barn chores to create a well-rounded experience. This part of camp should be shorter than the others and have a distinct educational purpose to avoid being misconstrued as exploiting campers for labor.
Managing Your Newfound Business
Once you’ve determined how many campers you can entertain and worked out the logistics, it’s time to consider some more business-y aspects of this venture. First and foremost, you need to make sure you have your liability bases covered in case of an accident. Even with the soundest horses, accidents do happen, and you want to be protected just in case. Look into insurance options and make sure you have a strong liability waiver that is filled out by each camper’s parent. Being a certified instructor will help with insurance costs, and if possible, get your facility evaluated and licensed. You’ll also want to keep your First Aid and CPR certifications up to date.
With the legal business out of the way, it’s time to talk money. You’ll need to determine how much to charge for your time, and how you’re going to bill. Keep in mind that you need to cover the overhead of keeping the horses, any food or supplies you provide to campers, any wages you pay to hired hands, your insurance and certification costs, and your own time as well. It may feel like it adds up quickly, but you’re providing a labor intensive service in a highly undersaturated market. As long as your fee isn’t exorbitant, people will pay it.
When you’re providing a service like a horse camp, it’s wise to collect payment before services are rendered. However, this isn’t always possible for some families, and you may find yourself sending invoices or setting up payment plans. While financial compassion can go a long way in establishing rapport with clients and obtaining great word of mouth, you need to be sure you’re structuring documents and contracts appropriately so that you can collect the money you’re owed if it comes down to it.
Get to Horsing Around
At the end of day, all the business talk in the world won’t do you any good if kids don’t have fun at your camp. Put emphasis on having fun and the excitement of learning and campers are sure to love spending time at your establishment. Prioritizing safety will keep parents at ease, and you’ll see your business venture grow before your eyes. Jump in and go for it!