Monday, April 11, 2016

Back Country Horsemen of California Teach Youth Winning Packing Skills

April 7, 2016

By Sarah Wynne Jackson

Back Country Horsemen from coast to coast volunteer their time and resources protecting our right to ride horses on public land, so our children and our grandchildren can travel the landscape as our ancestors did, on the backs of horses. BCHA members regularly share their knowledge and skills with youth, so they can enjoy the horses and the countryside safely and responsibly.

The Mid-Valley Unit of Back Country Horsemen of California holds youth camps to teach packing and responsible recreation to kids aged 9-17, as well as trail skills exercise days, where young members practice packing and camping. Mid-Valley BCH also provides training and support to the Modesto Junior College Mule Packing Team, who won the 2015 Interscholastic World Champion Packing Competition.

Dare to Dream

The MJC Mule Packing Team started in 2014, as a dream in the mind of Anna Baglione, a Mid-Valley Back Country Horsemen member and Modesto Junior College student. She approached her BCH unit’s board of directors with an idea that would give them an effective way to educate youth about packing, Leave No Trace principles, and gentle ways to enjoy our wild lands while also encouraging youth membership and participation. The board readily agreed. Anna invited three fellow students to join her, and the Modesto Junior College Mule Packing Team was born.

Invaluable Instruction and Support

Mid-Valley BCH President Carl Perry, and Dave Moser, Stanislaus Wilderness Volunteer Committee Chairman, took the reins. They volunteered their time, stock, and equipment to instruct team members, some of whom had never even heard of mule packing.

Mid-Valley BCH members Debra Mason and Michael King also invested in the team. Debra made leather chaps for all four students and Michael supplied team jackets with the BCH logo, outfits that made the team look sharp and organized.

The Team to Beat

The hard work of the BCH coaches and MJC team members paid off. They beat six other teams and placed first in all four of their interscholastic events – scramble, pack relay, pack ’n load, and even an entertaining comedy load – resulting in the first all-girls team to win the Interscholastic World Champion Packing Competition.

In 2014, their first year competing, they bested 10 other scholastic teams to place first in the packing contest, and beat eight other teams to place third in the scramble and in the comedy class.

More Than a Championship

Adventures like this have far-reaching benefits for everyone involved. The students gain useful skills, discipline, and confidence, along with friendships and cherished memories. They learn the vital importance of treating animals and the land with care and respect.

They’ve also become more involved in their communities. Anna returns to work every summer at Rock Creek Pack Station, and another team member now serves on the Mid-Valley Back Country Horsemen board of directors.

The members of the MJC Mule Packing Team were driven and motivated from the start, but they credit the guidance and support of the Mid-Valley Back Country Horsemen for helping them achieve their goal.

About Back Country Horsemen of America

BCHA is a non-profit corporation made up of state organizations, affiliates, and at-large members. Their efforts have brought about positive changes regarding the use of horses and stock in wilderness and public lands.

If you want to know more about Back Country Horsemen of America or become a member, visit their website:; call 888-893-5161; or write 342 North Main St Ste 301, West Hartford CT 06117. The future of horse use on public lands is in our hands!

Erica Fearn

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