NCAC Scouts and a few leaders have successfully completed the Fall Cavalcade 2019 at the Buffalo Trail Scout Ranch (BTSR) in the Davis Mountains of West Texas!
It was an incredible adventure. Our crew consisted of seven Scouts and two adults from three different troops across the National Capital Area Council. We completed a shakedown campout and trail ride at Red Gate Farm in Bluemont, Virginia from September 28-29, 2019 to build familiarity amongst our team, to test all of our gear, and to assess the riding and horse handling ability of each crew member.
Following a successful shakedown, we embarked on our cavalcade adventure on Friday October 11. We flew from Washington to Midland, Texas where we were met by members of the BTSR staff. The staff then drove us an additional 2.5 hours to the ranch where we had dinner and bedded down for the night. Early the next morning, we arose to feed the horses and review tacking procedures. Once each of the crew prepared his horse, we set out for two days of backcountry horse camping along with our two wranglers from the BTSR staff.
The terrain through which we rode in the Davis Mountains was both spectacular and challenging. We rode across epic ridgelines and down lush valleys. We rode our horses across narrow rocky ledges, through rushing mountain streams and into dense valley forests.
Along the way, we dismounted to see some amazing local sites, like ancient Native American rock paintings and glorious picturesque waterfalls. All in all, we rode about 25 miles over two days (with about six hours in the saddle each day) including almost 2,000 feet of change in elevation. This riding experience was not for the faint of heart. During the course of the ride, three of our crew were thrown from their horses (including the Scout with the most riding experience, one of the adult wranglers and one of the adult crew advisors). None sustained serious injuries, and all were able to continue on with the cavalcade.
The Scouts worked together magnificently. They bonded well during the shakedown campout and that sense of teamwork carried through the cavalcade itself. Whether helping each other with tacking their horses or making their meals together on the trail, the Scouts functioned as a strong team. More significantly, each of them demonstrated exceptional fortitude for young people as well as good horsemanship skills. Many of the challenges on the trail presented by the terrain were significant, yet the Scouts did not shrink from them. They learned how to partner with their horses as well as how to direct them to negotiate obstacles in field. Finally, all of them grew as people and deepened their reservoir of courage and character from which to draw when facing future challenges. The boys completed a true “high adventure” in fine fashion.
This experience would not have been possible without the assistance of our partners from the Middleburg Hunt, Red Gate Farm, and the BTSR.
The Middleburg Hunt, one of the oldest foxhunting clubs in Virginia, graciously donated $1,000 to provide camperships for needy families and to subsidize the overall cost of the trip. With advanced planning and frugal budgeting, we were able to keep the cost of this four-day horseback riding adventure to $765 per participant (including air fare and all horse fees). Nevertheless, this was still an expensive trip and the donation from Middleburg Hunt was greatly appreciated.
Red Gate Farm provided us with amazing facilities and staff to perform our shakedown campout and trail ride. They let us camp right on their property and gave us incredibly reasonable rates for the use of their grounds for camping and for a practice trail ride. Without their generous support, we would not have been ready for the cavalcade.
Everything about the experience at the BTSR was exceptional. The staff were incredibly welcoming and accommodating, from picking us up at the airport, feeding us upon arrival, and making us feel very much at home. All of the horses that we rode were physically sound and without behavioral vices. The tack was serviceable and the terrain was fantastic. Most importantly, the BTSR Cavalcade Program Director Bob Hansler and his wife Shauna were nothing short of superb. They taught our Scouts with deep knowledge of the horses and the terrain.They had a great sense of the experiences that the environment and our timeline could offer the Scouts even as they kept foremost in their minds the safety and well-being of our crew. The program that Bob and Shauna are responsible for building and maintaining at BTSR rivals any equine experience available to Scouts anywhere in the country, including at Philmont Scout Ranch. Further, the fact that the BTSR offers its cavalcade program all year around in addition to in the summers (as is only the case at Philmont) makes going on a horseback high adventure over a long four-day weekend during the academic year a unique opportunity. The BTSR Cavalcade should definitely be considered as an exciting high adventure opportunity for other Scouting units both during the summer and throughout the academic year.
The Chain Bridge District now has a bona fide horsemanship program for Scouts in the entire NCAC. Since 2017, we have helped over 50 Scouts (both boys and girls) to earn the Horsemanship Merit Badge. We have successfully completed a high adventure horseback riding activity. We have identified partners both within our council and across the country to support this program. Most importantly, we have helped youth to see how they can learn and live the values of Scouting through the equestrian arts.
For information contact:
Chain Bridge District Horsemanship Program Director