Volunteerism in Action: Troop 216 Goes Riding for the Horsemanship Merit Badge

by Andrew Coe

With lots of help from adult volunteers in and out of Scouting, Troop 216 finally got their chance to work on the Horsemanship merit badge on Saturday, May 25th.  And sometimes, it just takes one person to spark an interest, but many people to deliver.  One senior Scout in Troop 216 provided the interest, eventually backed by a total of 23 Scouts, and Betty Ryberg, a first time merit badge counselor, made it happen after several months of planning and excitement and corralling the help of many volunteers.

Betty looked at local farms and those who would be willing to assist the troop with horses and equipment, and they eventually settled on a location in Drumore, Lancaster County to run the session. Horses were trailered in by Karen Gosnell Kennedy, Alyse Stone, and Wendy Lou Herr.

As adult participant Carol Gibson put it: “The entire day was filled with learning, safe practices, good horsemanship and fun!”

A Unit Commissioner from PA Dutch Council, Christopher Gibson, was more than happy to let the Scouts use his farm for the merit badge session.

“When Carol Gibson approached me asking if I would consider hosting the event here at Mt. Pleasant Farm, it was an honor to help out a Boy Scout troop that I wasn’t familiar with”, said Christopher Gibson. “[A] wonderful group of people from Lionville, Pa. I will now be visiting them in a few weeks at Camp Horseshoe!”

“Their encouragement towards one another as they tried something new was one of my favorite parts”, said Zoe Lyristis, referring to the Troop 216 Scouts.  “Hearing them cheer one another on, and especially their caring remarks towards the horses as they started to bond… the boys are clearly being encouraged to foster a caring disposition not only for one another, but for nature and their surroundings and all the critters they encounter.”

Horsemanship merit badge has 11 requirements, including knowing about the 15 main parts of the horse, naming four breeds of horse, and explaining the importance of hoof care and why a horse might need shoes.  On the practical side, Troop 216 Scouts got the chance to fulfill requirements such as demonstrating horse grooming, showing how to properly saddle and bridle a horse, and perform various movements while on horseback.

“We believe the connection between equines and humans was rekindled and nurtured through this experience for the Boy Scouts and the instructors,” added Carol Gibson.

Only 10 of the 23 interested Scouts could take part in this session in May, but Ryberg and Troop 216 Scoutmaster Phil Grant are already looking towards another session in the Fall of 2024.

And along with Christopher Gibson’s generosity, another nearby farmer offered his woods and trout stream to Troop 216 for camping in the future.  The willingness of volunteers to help young people grow in their skills and confidence, even in those not active in the Scouting program, is alive and well in the area.