With new management AND counselors this year (2018), Wilderness Horse Camp offers three incredible horseback riding adventures for summer 2018: Wilderness Horse Camp, Saddle Club Camp, & the Mother-Daughter Weekend.
I'm writing this review since I could not find any reviews of the camp online so at least people considering it in the future will have one perspective.
My daughter is 12 and has been riding for 4 years. I found this camp online but could not find any reviews. So I spoke with the director (Debbie), the counselor (Sara Jo), and exchanged emails with a parent whose kids have been there. Of course they all raved about the camp (what else would they say) and though it was a long way to go, my daughter was excited about the idea of trail rides every day in a new place. So we plunked down the $700 for her registration.
We brought her out to eastern Oregon and stayed the night at the lodge before leaving her so we could scope it out. (The lodge is, incidentally, a nice spot. Cabins are clean, food is good, beautiful countryside. Sara, the manager, is a gem.) The first thing we noticed in surveying the camp was how poorly the horses were cared for. And during her camp, one horse had saddle sores and another nearly died from colic. They didn't groom them very well and the counselor was inconsistent with her direction to the girls.
The camp counselor apparently not only played favorites, she made it clear to my daughter that she wasn't one. She yelled at the girls a lot and at one point screamed, "I'm not your babysitter!" This, from a woman who is apparently a 2nd grade teacher? (Glad she's not teaching my kids.) And guess what, technically you are their babysitter since you are responsible for the girls while they are in your care. Regardless of her attitude, she wasn't inclusive and she made some of the girls feel bad. My daughter was the youngest of the group, I would expect that she'd pay a bit more attention to her to ensure she was taken care of. That was not the case.
I called a few days into her stay and Debbie, the camp director was hesitant to let me speak with her because she didn't want her to get homesick. I do understand that philosophy and I explained that I wasn't worried that she would be homesick but rather that I was uncomfortable and needed to know she was ok. So she kindly let her call me. I could tell right away that something was wrong but my daughter didn't want to talk about it on the phone. So of course my fears went into overdrive but my daughter assured me it was nothing serious and we would talk about it when she got back.
My daughter has been to a number of sleep-away camps and she absolutely hated this one. She loves to ride and she couldn't wait to leave. That says a lot because I usually can't get her off her horse. She felt left out and bewildered as to how the counselor didn't like her from day 1. She said she was scared to ride sometimes because the horses would teeter on the sides of the trails and didn't take direction well. She's been thrown from horses before and always gotten right back on, but she said these horses felt uncontrollable.
Unfortunately this was an opportunity for me to teach my daughter that not all people are nice or inclusive and that not all adults are respectful, even though they are adults and should know better. It was disappointing for her and maddening for me. What I learned was: stay at the lodge but don't leave your kids at the camp.