Spending seven days in nature learning camping and wilderness survival skills from enthusiastic guides sounds like one heck-of-a good time. But on July 8th, the Cottonwood Institute sweetened their course experience by throwing in a little something special (a sugar lump, if you will…okay, a BIG sugar lump): horses.
This year’s Horse Caretaker Project was located outside of Nederland, CO, and led by guides Steve McCue, Ashley Garrison and Eric Ellison. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains, the all girl course participants were able to experience a truly unique blend of horseback riding, adventure and wilderness survival. Cindy McCollum from Sundance Lodge instructed the group in the basic skills of horseback riding, caretaking, and how to load packs onto their steeds before they left for an overnight trip in the backcountry. Between the stables and their remote camp, they helped to improve trail conditions for horses by performing several trail-maintenance projects. As the guides shared their knowledge of wilderness survival, natural shelters were raised, students learned about the local area’s ecology and each participant was able to help start a friction fire using a bow-drill. Congratulations, ladies! By the end of their course, the participants were able to carry out a horse caretaking service project with the Sundance Lodge stables. Working as junior wranglers, they assisted a visiting summer program of kids aged 5-10 on a backcountry trail ride.
It was a hope of the guides to assist these adventurous young women with becoming more comfortable in the wild. When asked how she was impacted by her experience, Centaurus High School student Belen Colin of Lafayette, CO, shared that “…in regards to the survival skills; if I were to go hiking today, I would feel safer…Not only am I more confident about going out to the wild, but I am more confident with my urban life.” For Belen, who was a recipient of a Griffith Scholarship this summer, she says the Horse Caretaker Project was “…very interesting and definitely something new. I got more than I expected to get from it!”
Check out the Horse Caretaker Project video!