If you have little experience with horses, that’s ok. Being eager to learn with a good attitude makes up for a lot.
If you have a lot of experience, remember that you are still deferring to the Horseman. You are there to help, not criticize.
Make sure you can get on a horse. For adults, this can be difficult. This is also true for the youth. The Horseman and the Wrangler are not there to assist you (and your crew) on to your horse. If you can’t mount on your own, then unfortunately, you aren’t going to go on the trek.
What if you or your youth have little experience with horses and would like to get some before you leave for Philmont? Good question. I wish I had an easy answer but it hinges on your own available resources.
For me, I had horses that I could get the participants out on for the first cavalcade. For the second cavalcade, neither of my horses were appropriate for beginners. Fortunately, most of my participants were experienced riders. However, I had four boys who had not ridden much nor had they been on my three previous cavalcades. Using my mares, I taught them how to use a rope halter, lead the horses, groom them, pick hooves, saddle and bridle them. They just couldn’t ride them. I can honestly say that the boys did great when we got to Philmont. I also had the Crew Leader partner more experienced kids with less experienced kids.
If you have no access to horses, call a few stables in your area. I had one stable offer to do a 2 hour workshop for scouts. The kids would learn rope halters, grooming, saddling etc. and then go out on a short ride for about $50. A two hour workshop may not seem like enough but it would at least give you a starting point.
When I originally put this website together, it never occurred to me that anyone would go on a Philmont Cavalcade without camping experience. If it has never occurred to you either, you can skip the next paragraph.
So, I have been contacted by different people who have commented on the fact that there have been Philmont Cavalcade Crews where at least half of their youth have…never….. gone…..camping…… That just flummoxes me. I can understand one youth with no experience. A last minute addition in to an already experienced Crew is easy to work with. Two inexperienced youth would be pushing it. But several kids and even adults??? A good portion of the cavalcade experience is camping. The backwoods of Philmont is not the time to learn how to use a backpacking stove and to put up a tent. Cavalcades are not all about happily cantering across the meadow. Jeeves is not there to collect your horse, put up your tent and make you a meal. I don’t mean to sound harsh, but there is no excuse for taking a Crew without any camp experience. Camping isn’t that hard and unlike gaining horse experience, it should be easy to find resources. Do not be a burden to your Horseman.
So, let me get down off of my high horse now. If your Crew is inexperienced, it is time to go camping. If your Crew is experienced, it is still time to go camping. You need the bonding experience. I highly recommend going camping near a COPE courses. COPE courses are all about team building and I am willing to bet that your Council has one. The low COPE course is a brilliant way to bond Crews. They have to work together and figure out puzzles in low COPE. It is always a hoot to watch the kids. The high COPE course is a brilliant way to face fears and have a lot of fun. I mean, geez, who doesn’t love a zip line?
As for camping experience, spend the time doing several weekends. The kids won’t know how to put up the Philmont tents, but they still need the experience putting up two man tents. Obviously, this goes for adults too. They should know how to put up a dining fly, use backpacking stoves, cook backpacking food and how to clean up using a sump. Understanding the basics behind bear bags is a good idea too.
Philmont has a shakedown guide on their website. A lot of the information is for backpacking crews. However, they do cover information with regards to the dining fly, sumps, food etc.
If you are feeling clueless, go to any Roundtable or Troop in your district. I can guarantee you that you will find several Philmont enthusiasts who will happily go over bear bags and sumps with you.
All of us, of course, need to meet the health requirements and not exceed the maximum weight to height restrictions that are on the medical form. For a cavalcade, there is also a 200 pound body weight limit. For some people, this is an issue. I once had a dad who said, “Doesn’t Philmont have big horses?” No, they don’t. I am sorry. For women, it is easier to qualify because we are shorter. It is hard for some middle age men who are over 6 feet tall to be under 200 pounds. I sympathize and unfortunately this has prevented some really great dads from going with us.
However, by far, the worst part is when you have parents who don’t want to admit that their kid is over 200 pounds and they desperately want their kid to attend Philmont. Oh geez…. and apparently this happens every summer. Philmont has to send these kids home (at their parent’s expense). What a crappy position to be put in. The answer is simple: don’t take kids who don’t qualify. Sounds easy? It isn’t. All kids, whether they are heavy or not, are awesome and should be able to experience a Philmont Cavalcade. Unfortunately, reality is a bit harsher. I hate it when a parent puts me in the position of rejecting their child (and they do). It makes me feel like I am saying, “You’re not good enough.” I hate that.
Emphasize this before you start signing people up. Make it clear to all parents that it is unfair for them to put you or their kid in that position. If you are saying it to everyone in a crowd, then it isn’t personal.
Also, keep in mind that you only have to register and pay for the minimum of ten participants. If you have twelve participants, you don't have to pay for the other two until the day of your trek. This was still Philmont policy as of 2017. I don't work for Philmont, so you may want to double check with them. Obviously, as long as you have enough participants, this gives someone time to loose the weight without putting money on the line.
I have had two youth and an adult commit to loosing the weight before Philmont. We all sweated with worry, but they pulled it off. I think I worried more than anyone. Can you imagine a kid working to loose the weight for months and still not getting under 200 pounds? Stuff like that kept me up at night. If you are working with a kid who is over 200 pounds, I really, really wish I could make it easy for everyone. All I can say is kiss a good night sleep good bye....