Horseback Riding

Imagine the Moment

Standing next to a horse as a young child, you cannot help but be staggered by the size of the animal in front of you. It can be intimidating, amazing and exciting all at once. When a child first climbs on a horse, and listens to directions, they will find that the horse quickly responds to their commands. A feeling for the child that no matter the size of the challenge, they are capable of anything

At YMCA Camp Cullen, our barn and extensive horse program is second to none in providing lifelong lessons for our riders.

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Ground Lesson

Our equestrian lessons provide campers with all of the essentials they need to practice good horsemanship and advance through the different riding levels. During an hour and a half session at the barn, they will spend 45 minutes in a ground lesson and have 45 minutes of riding time.

A camper who achieves level 1 has successfully demonstrated the knowledge necessary to enjoy interacting with horses safely, including grooming and leading.

A level 2 camper will be able to tell you all about what distinguishes one horse from another and the components necessary to win a competition in equestrian vocabulary.

A level 3 camper will be able to verbalize the basic health and nutrition needs of horses, how they think and a little more about the mechanics of riding and all the different riding disciplines.

A level 4 camper will have the knowledge necessary to fully care for a horse, understanding all of their health needs and costs. Level 4 campers will also practice critiquing the riding skills of others and giving practical solutions to breakdowns in communication between horse and rider.

Riding Time

During their riding time, campers will compete in relay races and games with their horse partners, show off their skills completing patterns and relax out on the trails. Campers will earn levels as they progress in their riding skills.

A camper who earns level 1 will have demonstrated the ability to confidently mount and dismount, ask the horse to stop and go and steer around obstacles in the arena. A level 2 camper will improve their riding and communication with their horse, learn to trot and have the opportunity to enjoy the trails.

A level 3 camper will confidently steer their horse around obstacles at the trot and learn rising trot.

A level 4 camper will gain experience at the canter, identify correct leads and diagonals and try a new discipline. Campers who have already completed all four levels can perfect a pattern in their chosen discipline and enter the horse show to try for a 90/100 score.

The Equestrian Center

Every camper at Camp Cullen will have the opportunity to choose to visit the Equestrian Center during each of their land activity times.

The Hamill Foundation Equestrian Center includes a 90’ by 300’ partially covered arena with lights and fans, 10 stalls, 30 acres of pasture and over 100 acres of trails for guests to enjoy. The main building houses our tack room, feed room, bathrooms, ice room and a breezeway classroom. The arena can be divided into sections for multiple classes to ride at once and there are several trails of different lengths for riders to enjoy. Guests who visit the equestrian center can take part in a wide variety of activities according to their experience level.

Campers who come to the Equestrian Center will enjoy a wide variety of activities and horseback lessons according to the experience level they have achieved.

We have equipment for beginner games and patterns, playday events, dressage, hunter/jumpers, reining and western trail patterns. Weekend retreat guests ages 4 and up can enjoy hour-long trail rides guided by our capable staff or time spent riding freely in the arena. Ages 4-6 will be led by a staff member whether on the trail or in the arena while ages 7 and up can steer their own horse.

Every summer, campers at Camp Cullen will have the opportunity to choose to visit the Equestrian Center during their land activity times, multiple times during the week. Each hour and a half session they attend will include 45 minutes of time spent on the ground learning about horses and 45 minutes of riding time, whether in the arena or on the trail. Campers attending our Equestrian Camp will spend three hours each day at the Equestrian Center enjoying everything it has to offer.

What to Wear

Helmets: All riders are required to wear camp-provided helmets. Helmets will be sanitized between each use.

Long Pants: All riders are required to wear their own long pants.

Closed Toe Shoes: Riders must wear sturdy closed-toe shoes with a smooth sole.

Boots: Boots are strongly encouraged for main camp and required for Equestrian Camp participants. Camp has a limited supply of boots for campers to borrow. Please let us know your camper’s size in advance if they will need to borrow a pair.

If you have questions about appropriate footwear, please contact our Equestrian Director, Kelly, at

Horseback Riding Safety

Riders are paired with experienced horses appropriate for their level of riding ability. All participants are required to wear a well-fitted, ASTM/SEI certified riding helmet while mounted. Participants must wear long pants and sturdy closed-toed shoes with a smooth sole. Our covered stirrups enclose the toe of the stirrup so the foot cannot slip through.

Saddle Up and Ride

Cullen and Gio, our resident barn cats, are eager to meet you at the Equestrian Center and introduce you to our herd of over 30 gentle horses! Camp Cullen is also home to a couple of goats, a miniature pig and a donkey. We can’t wait for you to saddle up and ride with us!

Don’t miss out

Book your spot today!

Registration for Summer 2022 at YMCA Camp Cullen is now available! We have kids coming back year after year and can’t wait to welcome YOUR camper this summer – see you there!

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