Growing With Responsibility

Growing With Responsibility


Katja Braun, horse lover and school director of the Ecole d’Humanité, where self reliance and self discovery are core parts of this international schools philosophy, describes both her own and her pupils’ experience of the annual four day pony hike in the stunning Swiss Alps.

Heavily loaded with backpacks and provisions, excited and also slightly tired, we stand at the bus stop right in front of the Ecole d'Humanité: a small group of students from Switzerland, the USA, France, Serbia and Germany, including my horse-loving colleague, her daughter and myself. I quickly push aside all thoughts about what kind of adventure I am embarking on, whether and how it fits with my job description as a school director... no matter: "Here we go"!

We travel by bus and train to nearby Lake of Brienz, which we usually see lying down in the valley from the Hasliberg. We walk along the lake in bright sunshine until we finally meet our already familiar four-legged friends: three Shetland ponies, two Haflinger horses and a happy dog. The adventure starts: We walk for a whole day along the Lake of Brienz with its seemingly artificial turquoise water and collect impressions – Are cars always that noisy when you walk above a highway? – and insights: Horses and their companions need to walk in front, because they are always faster than the rest of the group. We mostly make very pleasant encounters: Drivers just slow down and wait so that we can pass without any problems, often a photo or the mobile phone is pulled out and people ask us where we come from, where we are going and why we are doing this: It is exciting to hear what the different group members then answer. In any case it is friendly, polite and most often accompanied by a "yes, you may pat the horses".


We spend the nights in a hayloft and in a former cowshed, and in the last night as a real luxury in a converted roof loft. We cat wash every day but always clean our teeth. This has to suffice while we are on the move for four days of the hike. Soon we all "smell" of adventure, horse and campfire. Cooking is done over an open fire, and even if the porridge is slightly lumpy and the milk powder is not exactly measured: breakfast has never tasted better than after a little restful night (horses also need food at night and snort from across the street very comfortably and cosily but audibly in our direction) in the cool autumn air of an early morning in the loneliness of the mountains before the sun has risen over the mountains.

When asked about the most important insights and experiences, the students answer: "We discovered a lot about ourselves and of course about the horses, and it was amazing how you simply trusted us and entrusted the horses to us". I can see it with my own eyes: Through their shared adventure and the responsibilities they have taken on, all of them have clearly grown.


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