Beyond My City Life: Horsepacking in the Rockies

Posted by: Molly Herber on 6/11/15 8:00 AM

By Kimberly Germain

kelsey-wicks-horsepack-group-rm Students travel by horse in the Rocky Mountains of Wyoming. Photo by Kelsey Wicks.

I first heard about NOLS through my Summer Search mentor. I hoped I would find some pleasure in a program designed to push me out of mybox. I was excited to learn I would be horsepacking in Wyoming, but then my mentor told me I would be spending two weeks in the outdoors camping. That was where I was worried because I had never been camping—ever—and did not know what to expect.

I had never been camping—ever—and did not know what to expect.

Before coming to Wyoming, I did not expect much from wilderness horsepacking except to ride horses and sleep in a tent. However, I learned so many things about the environment, horses, and my leadership capabilities that being in Boston I probably would never have known.

I learned how to identify geographic features and how to pinpoint those things on a map. In my city life we have GPS, the Weather Channel, and the Internet, and I saw no use for knowing which way the sun came up or weather patterns. Honestly I never really cared for the environment that much and did not pay attention to it, especially with the technology I have to distract me at home. Now that I have spent weeks with the true nature as my home, I want to take care of it more.

Now that I have spent weeks with the true nature as my home, I want to take care of it more.

The most important and most informational part of the whole experience was the horses, or more specifically, my horse Wilson. I was one of the only people on my course who had never ridden a horse, never even slept outside for one night. My knowledge expanded greatly during my course. I learned to trust my horse Wilson because there were some steep passages, and Wilson remained calm throughout. I also learned to give the love and proper care to Wilson, and I feel he came to trust me as well.

I learned to trust my horse Wilson ... and I feel he came to trust me as well.

This course also helped me to find ways to work with people. I had originally enrolled to push myself to become a leader with a group of strangers and to interact with new people as a team member. I learned that being a leader comes in many ways, and I feel that I learned to be a leader. At first I was distant and reserved and did only what I had to do. However, as the course went on, I started taking more initiative, which to me is more of what a leader is. Granted, throughout the course I was not the perfect student. I forgot how to do some things and had poor communication but I just got better and better as the course rolled on. I now feel confident saying I am a leader.

I was not the perfect student ... but I just got better and better as the course rolled on. I now feel confident saying I am a leader.

Kimberley Germain completed her 2011 Wilderness Horsepacking course and returned to complete her junior year of high school. She used her new leadership skills on a community service trip in Guatemala, where she taught English, then returned to finish high school.

Summer Search is one of NOLS' Gateway Partners—organizations and institutions that provide educational opportunities to underserved populations. Learn more about Partnerships with NOLS.


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Molly is a NOLS instructor and writer. She loves the smell of her backpack and does her best writing before 7:00 am. When she's not scouting the next post for the NOLS Blog, she's running and climbing on rocks in Wyoming. Follow her on Instagram @mgherber