Ask the Expert: Can you earn the 50-Miler Award on horseback?

Not only can trekking 50 miles put a feather in your hat of Scouting accomplishments, but it can also add a patch to your collection.

The 50-Miler Award is a favorite among Scouts who conquer long, multiday adventures. Often, they go on foot, by boat or on a bicycle. But we’ve received a few questions from Scouters who have studied the patch and noticed something missing from the requirements.

Can you earn the 50-Miler Award on horseback? There is a horseshoe on the patch, but the requirements do not mention horseback riding.

We asked the BSA’s Camping Subcommittee if a 50-mile horseback trek would qualify for the award.

The answer

Yes, riding a horse counts, as does riding mules, donkeys or llamas (By the way, if your unit is planning a trek via llama, Boys’ Life magazine would love to hear about it).

The modified requirements will read:

Cover the route of not less than 50 consecutive miles either by hiking, boating, canoeing, bicycling, or by riding horses, mules, donkeys, or llamas; take a minimum of five consecutive days to complete the trip without the aid of motors for the qualification of the 50-mile distance.

Other requirements for the 50-Miler Award will remain the same, such as making plans for the trip, completing a minimum of 10 hours each of group service and the unit leader filing the award application with the local council service center.

If you do plan an equine trek, it’s important to know and follow the safety steps involved. These include wearing proper riding gear as well as handling and caring for the animal. Equine animals have specific food requirements, so bringing hay would be necessary for long treks. Some places require you to have a “weed free” certificate when traveling with hay to show you’re not bringing any noxious weeds to the area, so study local laws before heading out. You can also travel with pack animals in some areas.

Also review this article and this BSA safety moment for BSA’s guidelines; the Horsemanship merit badge pamphlet is also a good resource.

About Michael Freeman 201 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is associate editor of Boys’ Life, Scouting and Eagles’ Call magazines.