Young trail riders and horse enthusiasts seeking to help preserve equestrian lands have a new way to get involved. Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA) has revitalized its youth program and welcomes new members.
The Junior Back Country Horsemen pilot program that began in the late 1990s didn’t last long – it was quickly adopted as an official program by Back Country Horsemen of America. BCHA state organizations across the nation are also using the program as a way to get youth involved. Marsha Copeland, who is already active in youth education programs in her home state of Missouri, has recently accepted the position of Junior BCHA Chair, to put new life into this interesting program. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (417) 345-5753 for further information.
Jr. BCHA began as a way to organize and educate the youth that attended BCHA meetings and activities with their parents and grandparents. In only a short period of time, it has become so much more than that.
Individuals 8 to 18 years of age gain an understanding of their legal and moral claim, as American citizens, to use horses and mules on public lands. In fact, 10-year-old Jacob Gamola recently testified in Michigan at a Senate hearing on Senate Bill 578 regarding citizens’ right to ride horses on public lands.
Jr. BCHA members learn about the health and habits of horses and mules, and how to care for and use them in a humane way. They learn skills that enable them to ride and pack safely in an enclosed arena and in the backcountry.
Through experiencing America’s wilderness and through hands-on education, youngsters come to care about the human impact on undeveloped lands. They also learn practical ways to minimize the impact of themselves and their animals.
Not Your Usual Youth Equestrian Club
This BCHA division offers a setting and opportunities different from other equestrian related clubs focused on young people. Adults and kids do activities together, building a deeper rapport between children and parents or grandparents. Interaction with a variety of adult BCHA members allows youth to learn valuable knowledge from experienced horsemen and horsewomen.
Jr. BCHA members learn responsibility by helping out with everyday tasks and learning to handle their horses and mules with little or no assistance. To increase their sense of accountability for their own actions, they are asked to sign a contract that requires them to behave appropriately and safely or leave the program. Older and more skilled children teach the “greenies,” expanding their skills in communication, leadership, and empathy.
All this occurs in a supportive, non-competitive family setting. The cost for membership is low and travel away from the local area is not required. In addition, Jr. BCHA membership becomes regular BCHA membership when the child turns 18. To find out more about the Junior BCHA program, go to www.backcountryhorse.com and access Junior BCHA under the Resources & Info tab at the top of the page.