Our horseback program offers campers a chance to explore a new skill in a fun and safe camp setting. Not only do our riders gain confidence, they also develop physical skills such as coordination and balance, and they get good exercise while they’re at it! Our staff are warm and friendly, and they ensure that each camper feels included and engaged regardless of previous riding experience.
Our horseback program offers campers a well-rounded introduction to English riding, and consists of of five two-hour lessons that take place during Interest Group time each morning. Led by our trained staff, campers learn horsemanship skills such as grooming, tacking, and leading from the ground in addition to riding skills.
To ensure the safety of all participants, campers in the program progress through a series of levels that highlight vital skills and build a solid foundation for safe and effective communication between horse and rider. Please scroll down to view Horseback Levels and see a full list of skills we teach and require before allowing campers to move on to more advanced work.
Although we teach an English seat in our horseback program, our riding instructors come from around the world and represent a diverse array of skills and riding disciplines. Two horseback directors manage the stables and are present during every program to assist the counselors and ensure safe conditions for the campers and horses. All of our riding instructors are also camp counselors, which means they have excellent camper connection skills and are experts in making activities both fun and safe.
The horseback facilities at Camp Hayward include a stable with six box stalls and a covered run-in, two paddocks for turnout, and a fully fenced arena. The stables also connect with over two miles of beautiful trails, and we have quiet waterfront access to Spectacle Pond, where campers may get the chance to take a swim with their horse! Our stables are registered and licensed according to local regulations.
Our twelve horses are hand-picked from a ranch in Vermont for their summer vacation on the Cape. Chosen for good temperament and easy handling, they are paired with campers based on size and campers’ riding ability. After each lesson, staff members assess the pairings and make changes as necessary for the following day.
Horseback riding is inherently risky, but we do our best to ensure the safety of every rider in our program. Each camper is individually fitted for an approved helmet, and must wear long pants and heeled, closed-toe shoes when around the horses. All of our horseback staff carry radios at all times, and the stable is located nearby to the camp RN’s office. In the case of inclement weather (heavy rain, hail, wind, thunder, or lightning) campers will participate in an alternate indoor horseback-related activity.
Please review these skill levels with your camper before coming to Camp. This will ensure consistent and realistic expectations of the program, while also giving campers a “sneak peek” of their lessons.
Please note: A camper may only begin working on skills at the next level after demonstrating to horseback staff consistent proficiency at ALL skills listed within his or her current level.
Level 1 riders are able to safely and confidently demonstrate the following skills:
⃝ Approach a horse in the field
⃝ Put a halter and lead rope on a horse
⃝ Lead a horse from the ground, by lead rope or reins
⃝ Tie a horse using a safety knot
⃝ Groom a horse using basic grooming tools (curry comb, bristle brush, mane comb, tail comb)
⃝ Saddle a horse
⃝ Check and adjust stirrup length from the ground
⃝ Mount a horse from a mounting block
⃝ Hold reins correctly for English riding, at a suitable length
⃝ Shorten reins efficiently
⃝ Maintain hands in a correct position at a halt, at the walk, in transitions, and when turning
⃝ Direct a horse to walk forward
⃝ Direct a horse to stop
⃝ Direct a horse to turn right and left
⃝ Walk a horse in a straight line over trot poles on the ground
⃝ Stand in a two-point position while the horse is walking, with hands resting lightly on the mane
⃝ “Post” at the walk with good rhythm
⃝ Dismount from a horse
⃝ Remove the saddle from a horse
Level 2 riders are able to safely and confidently demonstrate the following skills:
⃝ ALL Level 1 skills, plus
⃝ Use a hoof pick to clean a horse’s front feet
⃝ Bridle a horse
⃝ At the walk, independently maintain space between all horses in the arena by passing, circling, or cutting across
⃝ Stand in a two-point position at the walk, with hands not touching the mane or saddle
⃝ Walk a horse in a straight line over trot poles on the ground, in a two-point position
⃝ Direct a horse to transition from walk to trot
⃝ Maintain correct hand position at the trot
⃝ Maintain steering control at the trot
⃝ Demonstrate a well-balanced posting trot with correct rhythm
⃝ Demonstrate a deep- and soft-seated sitting trot
⃝ Trot a horse in a straight line over trot poles on the ground, at a posting trot
⃝ Direct a horse to transition from trot to walk
⃝ Remove the bridle from a horse
Level 3 riders are able to safely and confidently demonstrate the following skills:
⃝ ALL Level 1 & Level 2 skills, plus
⃝ Use a hoof pick to clean a horse’s back feet
⃝ Mount a horse from the ground
⃝ At the trot, independently maintain space between all horses in the arena by passing, circling, or cutting across
⃝ Demonstrate a well-balanced trot in the two-point position, with hands not touching the mane or saddle
⃝ Trot a horse in a straight line over trot poles on the ground, in a two-point position
⃝ Direct a horse to transition from trot to canter
⃝ Maintain correct hand position at the canter
⃝ Maintain steering control at the canter
⃝ Demonstrate a deep, soft seat at the canter
⃝ Direct a horse to transition from canter to trot
Level 4 riders are able to safely and confidently demonstrate the following skills:
⃝ ALL Level 1, Level 2, & Level 3 skills, plus
⃝ Guide a horse over a small cross poles at a posting trot
⃝ Guide a horse over a jump at the trot, in a two-point position