Our 2018 Junior Volunteer Training
Written By Nancy West – Back of Beyond Volunteer
Junior Volunteer Certification
I had the pleasure and privilege to assist at Back of Beyond during the 8 day Youth Leadership Training certification program in July. This program is for 8 – 14 year old’s, who were interested in learning fundamental horsemanship and leadership skills.
There were both current volunteers and new trainees in the program. This gave the current volunteers the opportunity to teach what they had already learned during their time volunteering to the new “recruits”. Then all the participants had several opportunities during their program to teach young people coming in from local camps about the various aspects of horsemanship that were on the agenda for the campers to learn.
Although it looked at first glance that the training was all about horsemanship, it became apparent as the week went on that the focus was really on leadership skills. Participants learned to: assist each other with tasks, model good behaviour, show patience and empathy when learning and helping to learn, be observant of their surroundings, and to respond – not react. I believe the leadership skills were the most valuable ones learned during the 8 days, as they are skills most transferable to whatever a young person’s goals happen to be down the road.
But – we cannot neglect the fact that what made this leadership training stand out was it involved horses – and what great training tools they were!! Just some of the things they learned about horsemanship was caring for horses (how to feed, water, and give medication to horses, hoof care, and grooming), the different breeds of horses, how to measure their height and weight, how to read a horse’s body language, how to saddle and lead a horse, and how to be safe around horses. But they also learned how to get a 1500 lb. horse to move, how to overcome their fear of horses, how to respect these great creatures, and how to stay calm around them.
I saw bonds developing between the young people and the horses – and it was amazing to watch how quickly they became confident in handling these massive animals. The more confident the participants became, the better the horses responded to them. Friendships also developed between the participants, always such a great benefit from this kind of team training.
Whether all the participants who came to the program will end up volunteering at the farm over the summer – while it would be great to have them – is not ultimately the point. It is the personal growth that was so evident over the 8 days that makes this program a success.
Now, please find me a horse to groom!