Camp Cullen 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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Girl filling out worksheet about parts of a horse

Horsemanship Lessons

Our equestrian lessons provide campers with all of the essentials they need to practice good horsemanship, beginning with a foundation of safety and advancing through the levels over their years returning to camp.

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.

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Riding Lesson

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 riding level achievements 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 to earn their legendary award.

young man with arm over horse
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The Equestrian Center

All campers at Camp Cullen will have the opportunity to choose to visit the Equestrian Center during their land activity times, at least twice 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 in a smaller class with a dedicated instructor and their own horse for the week.

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. Campers who visit the equestrian center can take part in a wide variety of activities according to their experience level. We have equipment for beginner games and patterns, playday events, dressage, hunter/jumpers, reining and western trail patterns.

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What to Wear

Helmets: All riders are required to wear camp-provided ASTM/SEI certified riding 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 are encouraged, but not required. 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  Lauren Scott at

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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!

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Don’t miss out

Book your spot today!

Registration for Summer 2024 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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Echoes from camp

Add Your Echo

See what campers are saying about their Camp Cullen experiences

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