Trail Skill #1 – Improvise
1. To compose and perform or deliver without previous preparation;
2. To make, provide, or arrange from whatever materials are readily available;
3. Shawnee definition – To MacGyver while making the best of it.
The Horse Adventure staff had reminded them over and over to check and recheck what was
in their saddlebags. Every item mattered and this was their only chance to make sure they had
all the supplies they needed for the three-day overnight on horseback. Too many “luxury” items
meant a heavy load for their horses to carry, and any forgotten necessities would have to be
lived without in the backwoods for days.
Once all of the packed items were weighed and rechecked, the campers tied on their
saddlebags and checked on their horses they had learned to ride just the day before. Smokey
and Rio just rested their hooves, while Marley and Midnight swished away a few annoying flies.
Then the campers loaded up Dakota, the trusty packhorse, who would be carrying all the food
and gear for the group all week long. Now, each camper had all their supplies ready for the trip,
but they were still wondering what the next three days in the woods would actually be like.
They had been told they would ride four or five hours each day, stopping only to eat lunch and
then to set up their campsite. And, they had been challenged to take responsibility for all of
their own stuff, the health of their horses, and the fun they would be having with their new camp
friends on the trail. Their staff seemed to speak in code when they told the campers they would
be a roving band of gypsies, and many still worried that they hadn’t packed everything they
The morning trail ride was quiet and the horses seemed to just plod along as they slowly moved
farther from the main camp and deeper into the woods. The sounds of the horses’ shoes
changed from the crunch of steps on gravel camp roads to a rhythmic, dull thud on the dirt trails.
So far, their adventure was very uneventful.
Until someone forgot to pack the plastic knives for spreading peanut butter for the very first
lunch on the trail.
At first, chaos ensued and fingers pointed. Who was blame? Duh, knives are the easiest thing
to remember! Some adventure…now we can’t even have lunch? Starvation was inevitable and
cannibalism to quickly follow. Insults flew and someone tossed a rock at the ground a little too
And then the whittling began. It started with one of the boys who was bored with the fighting
and tryied to keep busy by removing all the bark from a thick oak stick. Once the stick was
smooth and clean, he handed it over to one of the girls with a smile. She rushed towards the
jar of peanut butter, triumphant. Everyone stopped arguing and very quickly another stick was
transformed into a peanut butter knife too.
With bellies full of peanut butter and grape jelly, trail mix, and potato chips, the Adventure
campers rode on down the trail that afternoon. They sang songs, forgot the lyrics, made up the
lyrics, and forgot them again. Some gathered black berries right off the bushes as they rode by,
and others put big feathers and leaves in their helmets. A few had to rig up broken saddlebags
with bailing twine, and everyone bushwhacked when they lost their way.
Anyone passing them on the trail knew they were nomads, embarking on a truly epic journey
through deep creeks, over downed logs in the trail, and across deep ravines. It didn’t matter any
longer what they packed along with them because they knew they could make or find anything
they needed—like real gypsies.
Trail Skill #1 – Improvise By Kate Albrecht- Former Camp Ondessonk Equestrian Director