girl leading a horse


Getting ready for your wilderness riding trip

Learn how to safely enjoy a backcountry trip with your horse or mule. Get the guidance that you want to help you feel more comfortable planning and completing your wilderness experience. From horse behaviour to proper packing, you will learn the necessary theory, and get the hands-on learning that will enable you to improve your confidence and help you make your future horse camping trips an enjoyable safe experience.


The Backcountry Horsemanship Course Schedule


  • Introduction – Riding the back country, horse savvy and the art of packing
  • Preparation – How to plan for a safe successful trip
  • Back Country Horsemanship – A matter of balance and timing
  • Wilderness safety & First Aid


  • Getting ready for the trail: Catching, haltering, trailers & tack
  • Demonstration of packing panniers & pack horses
  • Trail manners – Using the back country trails responsibly
  • Balanced riding – The proper seat, lateral bend, mounting & dismounting
  • Navigating obstacles – Unstable footing, deadfall, water & steep terrain


  • Practical exercises in packing panniers, tacking the pack saddle, loading the packs and tying the diamond hitch
  • Horse Camps – picketing, high lines & hobbling  
  • Camp knots and feed
  • General review of responsible practices in the Back Country, minimum trace  horse camping, wilderness safety and compliance with government regulations
  • Conclusion – final questions and review

Course Details

Course Dates/Times

Dates TBD

Delivery Method 

On Campus

Course length 

2 days + 1 evening






Olds College Campus


$395 (includes 2 nights of stabling & handbook)

Other fees

None - optional stabling is included in tuition 

Required Text & Materials 

Handbook included in tuition

Registration Deadline

n/a - registrations accepted as long as seats available

Other details

  • You may bring your own horse (optional) - see Horse Requirements below
  • Appropriate footwear - no runners
  • Stabling is included in the cost of the course
  • Stalls are located in the McClellan Arena Complex
  • Stalls are bedded with shavings, and shavings will be supplied for topping up
  • Your horse must be calm, well-broke and tie.
  • No stallions are allowed on campus
  • Please ensure the health of your horse (& up to date vaccinations) before bringing your horse on campus - One week prior to arrival, please ensure that you have submitted the required Biosecurity Agreement 

Bryan (BJ) Smith Bio:

BJ is an Equine Canada & Certified Horse Association riding coach. An experienced horse trainer, packer, coach, clinician, survival expert, and Canadian Ski Patroller, he consults on equine wilderness topics at the College & University level. Following a full career in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Bryan became a crowd favourite at Cowboy Festivals all over Canada & the USA. He operates Diamond Hitch Adventures offering various equine services, packing clinics, coaching, training and boarding.


He routinely guides groups of wilderness travelers on horseback through the Rockies, often on trips of a hundred miles or more. His skill and knowledge as a packer and horseman has been recognized by the Alberta Trail Riders Association and he has conducted clinics in Western Canada. His lectures and presentations are never boring or difficult to follow as BJ is a well-known western entertainer.


Continuing Education

Frequently Asked Questions

If I cannot bring my own horse, am I still able to participate in this course?
Yes. You are still able to attend the course if you do not bring your own horse. The instructor brings a horse which students will also have the opportunity to work with for the hands-on experience.

Can I still to participate in this course if I do not want to ride or mount a horse during the course?
Absolutely. You are still able to attend the course. The focus of this course is on safe and effective planning, preparation and the skills required to pack your animal and have a comfortable, safe back-country camp. 

Can youth take this course?
For our equine short courses, there is technically no age restriction. As long as a student is 13, independent (no parents along to oversee) or over and feels confident with the subject (in this case they are comfortable/experienced handling horses), then we will allow them to enroll. We have had a number of teenagers take most of the short equine courses over the years and they have been successful.




"This course was spectacular! It helped me in so many ways. BJ Smith is an excellent instructor. His focus on safety was really impressive. I believe that this course should be available to many more people for a long time." ~ Martha Birkett (May, 2015)

"A very good course for anyone wanting to Backcountry Ride & camp. Lots of very important information. Keep this course in your curriculum. Everyone that camps in the bush should take this course." ~ Deb Miller (May, 2015)

"A very good course - great facility. BJ is a great instructor - very knowledgable with great sense of humour" ~ Dwight Beynon (May, 2015)

"The experience that BJ brought to the course was phenomenol" ~ Christi Bustard (May, 2015)

"Great course for all levels, not only does Brian go over safety for the backcountry, but also insight of what to expect. Awesome weekend" ~ Debi Quartly (May, 2015)

"An excellent course for all levels of horsemanship, with a very knowledgable subject matter expert. Verty enoyable & entertaining" ~ Don Turnbull (May, 2015)

"I've spent 30 years as an outdoor recreation enthusiast with lots of experience canoe tripping and hiking across Canada. I was interested in learning about horse-based backcountry travel and greatly enjoyed this introduction to this form of outdoor recreation. I will definitely be exploring more horsemanship training as a result of this very positive introduction!" ~ Robin Bloom (May, 2015)

"If you are interested in taking in the trails and mountain views with your horse, then consider the Backcountry Horsemanship course to ease your knowledge of preparation, horse savvy, packing and equipment. BJ Smith is an excellent resource - and can guide your process to make this happen." ~ Keith Hickling (May, 2015)



For More Information:

Continuing Education Department

Toll Free: 1-800-661-6537 

Olds College leads real-life, hands-on education in Canada. We help you explore your passion.