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Breaking down the barriers to becoming an “outdoorswoman”

Judy Breland has gone horse packing before, in fact, her husband Andy Breland is teaching the back country horse packing workshop she’s taking. Plus, the family has a store, Trailhead Supply, that sells horse packing equipment.

“I’m slowly learning. He’s the one that’s done the packing, and I haven’t really had too much interest in the horses, but I’m starting to get more interest in them. So, I figured I’d better learn, and I also have had to fill in at the store when he’s gone, and people come in, and I’m like ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about, so I figured I’d better start learning a little more if I’m going to be able to help there,” Breland said.

Andy Breland said he’s been leading this workshop for several years, he contracts as a packer with the Forest Service, Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and for private interests, but when this workshop breaks up into small groups for the hands on learning, one of the other packers will be working with Judy.

“Cause all good arguments start at the tailgate, and it’s really hard to teach your wife, and that’s why a lot of these women are here. They either had a significant other that they used to pack with, that never let them help, and they have that interest in the backcountry; let it be a significant other, or dad, and they would like to continue on, but no one ever let them practice it, so they just need that confidence. Or, the ‘it’s just faster if I do it all,’ which is the case in my househould,” Andy Breland said.

Breaking down barriers keeping women from hunting, fishing, boating, mountain biking, or any other of a list of outdoor-activities is the goal behind Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

“Becoming an Outdoors Woman” program. The program operates in more than 40-states and Canada, and has been going on in Montana for 20-years. Many of the women at this Fish, Wildlife and Parks “Becoming and Outdoorswoman” Workshop, like Judy Breland, have some knowledge; of horses, of back packing, of the back country, but they don’t have detailed knowledge about the how’s of leading a pack string of horses into the wilderness.

Andy Breland says there’s really one thing they’re lacking.

“If you could take it down like in a nutshell is, confidence,” he said.

This is one of the underlying goals of all the Becoming an Outdoorswoman, or BOW classes. State coordinator of BOW Liz Lodman says the BOW program itself started out of the University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point in 1991.

“They were looking at why more women don’t hunt and fish, and what are the barriers to women participating in outdoor activities. So, really the BOW workshop was designed to help encourage women to get outdoors, and to break down those barriers,” Lodman said.

Today, Lodman said the BOW workshops range from horse packing to firearms shooting to mountain biking.Those are the 1-day skill-specific workshops. FWP also offers a 3-day event every summer with courses including angling, canoeing, and more. Lodman said the biggest classes are outdoor survival and using a map and compass.

“I think women have a fear of getting lost or getting in trouble outdoors, and how are they going to help themselves. So, they really like to sign up for those two particular classes just so they know that they could survive a night outdoors in the woods unexpectedly,” Lodman said all the courses are geared toward those already with knowledge, as well as beginners.

“From a college student to a newly married lady who has a husband who does outdoors stuff and he wants her to come and join; we have moms come, they want to learn things that they can bring back and share with their children, newly retired people, empty nesters who have more time on their hands,” Lodman said.

At the BOW Horse Packing Workshop the teachers have been showing tips and tricks for how to wrap up and pack gear, how to balance the load on the horse, how to know by looking at the horse if the gear is balanced, and ways to successfully pick up heavy boxes to pack on the horses.

Varada Veum of Ronan says she went packing with an outfitter last year, and got hooked.

“I can’t carry a backpack because of my neck, so, this is a way of getting out in the woods. I’m 58, and it’s a way to get out there at my age,” Veum said it’s also a way to have a good dinner at the end of the day, and a soft chair.

Andy Breland did give a disclaimer during the class- horse packing is addictive. With each of the BOW classes FWP hopes to spark some outdoors-addictions in Women from all walks of life.

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