Horseback riding by its very nature is an activity that teaches children confidence and self-discipline. Riding has been a major part of summer camps across the country, and it’s not without reason. The feelings of adventure, fun, and excitement is associated with horseback riding.  These feelings in conjunction with the life lessons it teaches make it an important component of any camp. Circle F Dude Ranch Camp knew this when it opened its doors in 1952. Unlike many summer camps, Circle F Dude Ranch maintains a barn of 50 or more horses year-round. In this blog, Circle F’s barn staff share a little of the knowledge gained over 65 years of being a horse based camp.

The connection

Circle F Dude Ranch Camp is where many campers first learn to ride. When riding a horse, there is a significant connection camper’s feel with these amazing creatures. Studies correlate horses to the human emotional experience. A common statement is, “horses can sense what your feeling. Especially fear.” A lot of our campers at Circle F can attest to that saying. Fear quickly turns to a mutual feeling of love and respect. One of the first lessons at camp is learning how to respect the horse. Through consistent practice campers will notice that horses will watch their every move waiting for its next command, the attention the horse gives isn’t from fear of humans, it’s from respect. A life skill that many campers can take well beyond the barn.

The skills learned

Many campers think that riding is easy. Maybe they rode a pony or participated in a horseback trail ride. Learning to ride truly requires certain skills and knowledge about horses. These skills take time to learn. Before a camper jumps on a horse at Circle F, they must learn the basics about horsemanship. Lessons start with building confidence on the ground.  Lessons focused on the basics of how to approach, lead, and care for horses on the ground provide great foundations. Building on these lessons helps campers have clear and correct communication with a horse, which is critical both in the saddle and on the ground. From the saddle, a camper learns how to focus their movements, verbal cues, and better communicate with the horse. These cues create a loop of communication that connects the horse and rider. Campers learn to push their horse to trust.   With trust campers learn to break through comfort zones, and at the same time, without even knowing, the rider is learning better communication and growing themselves.

The Benefits

There are many benefits to riding. Then connection a camper creates with their horse or the skills learned during lessons is just the start. On the most basic of levels riding is a physical activity and is a great form of exercise. From the handling of heavy equipment and saddles to working an individual’s core and overall muscles riding improves balance, coordination, and increases joint mobility. Horses are very therapeutic animals. Therapeutic horse programs have risen across the country. A horse’s gentleness and subtle demeanor make for great human companion’s. Circle F campers often find it easy to relate to the horses on an emotional level. The most important benefit of riding is the learning opportunities and personal growth.  Through the level of work and time spent with the horses during the summer, campers are building skills such as responsibility, compassion, leadership development, and self-discovery. Circle F Dude Ranch Camp 65 year history makes it an outstanding place to learn to ride. Summer riding programs include both Western and English riding disciplines and accommodates every level rider from first-timers to advance equestrians.Circle F Dude Ranch Camp is located in Lake Wales Florida. It has a divided array of activities over six departments: Extreme Sports, Climbing, General Sports, Water Sports, Arts, and Horseback Riding. In each department, children can choose a skilled activity taught by counselors with experience and training. Incorporated through all activities are camp pillars of (R.I.P.P.L.E.) of respect, inspiration, play, positive thinking, leadership, and engagement. Whichever department a child may find interest in, there is always an opportunity for learning, growth, and independence to what Circle F views as the bridge to enhancing their self-confidence.

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