Summer Horse Camps a great experience for Central Montana youth

Central Montana youth enjoy their experience at Horse Camp this summer. The Youth Empowerment Project, the Boys and Girls Club and Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch put on the camp.      

Photo courtesy of Deanna Stevenson

Chokecherry Jam street dance supports Horse Camps

The Youth Empowerment Project recently wrapped up its fifth year of Summer Horse Camps for Central Montana youth.  Horse camp – put on in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club and Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch – is a three-day camp where local youth learn about, and interact with, horses and other farm animals. The camp consists of three rotating stations in which youth participate in horseback riding lessons, garden/farm animal education (collecting eggs from not-so-friendly chickens, harvesting produce from the garden, learning to milk the cows), and experiential teamwork initiatives with the horses. 

Youth learn to be respectful of others, the animals, and themselves and take on the responsibility of maintaining their own personal safety. They learn about responsibility by helping with feeding, grooming and exercising the animals. 

In addition to learning about the animals, participants learn a lot of things that have very little to do with camps themselves. A primary purpose of horse camp is to teach things that are difficult to teach in a regular classroom setting; cooperation, honesty, healthy communication, confidence, frustration tolerance, leadership, relationships and the value of hard work, for starters. Through experience at horse camp, youth learn a lot about themselves and how to function effectively in relationships with others. 

Many of the youth served through Horse Camp likely would not otherwise have a chance to learn about these animals and all they have to teach us. Youth gain confidence in the moment when they realize they are the “driver” of a 1,000-pound animal. They learn frustration tolerance as horses very quickly and effectively teach the art of “asking nicely.” A first-grader cannot make a horse do anything. They must ask and do so calmly and assertively to be effective. Youth learn the value of perseverance and cooperation in reaching goals as they work through experiential ground initiatives designed to necessitate teamwork. 

Youth previously identified as aggressive and oppositional demonstrate empathy as they learn to read, identify and respond to the emotions of the animals, fellow group members and staff members. They often make connections between their experiences with the horses and problems they face at home and at school. 

These Horse Camps could not take place without the generous support of our great community, including grants from the Central Montana Jaycees, Central Montana Foundation, Walleyes Unlimited, our hosts, Sally and Charley Karinen, and our amazing volunteers, who give freely of their time, horses, and expertise. 

An upcoming and exciting opportunity for the public to support Summer Horse Camps is this year’s Chokecherry Jam street dance/concert. This event kicks off the Chokecherry Festival weekend and will be held Friday, Sept. 8. The concert features Kyle Shobe and the Walk ‘Em Boys, with all proceeds benefitting local youth programs including the Youth Empowerment Project, 4-H, and the Boys and Girls Club. Tickets can be purchased at Don’s Store, the Extension Office, and the Boys and Girls Club. Please plan to attend this family friendly event to help keep Summer Horse Camps and other great local youth programs going strong.

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