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Join the Herd: Riding Clubs Bring Horse Folks Together

Riding alone has its place: It can be a time to work on training yourself or your horse or to enjoy spending time with your equine companion and being outside. But people are social animals, and so are horses. Riding with others, especially when you’re out on the trail, makes your horse feel safer. It’s also safer for you. Riding clubs offer an opportunity to learn new skills, share information with other horse enthusiasts and just have a good time.The Falcon area is home to two active riding clubs that organize trail rides and competitive events during the year. Especially during the spring and summer, these clubs hold a wide variety of activities almost every weekend.The Black Forest Saddle Club is the oldest riding club in the area. Formed in 1959, the clubs has 60 to 100 members, publishes a monthly newsletter and conducts a summer and winter show series. Most of the club’s activities take place at their headquarters on Old Ranch Road in Black Forest, where they have two arenas, a trail course, a snack bar and a playground. Open shows begin in May and run through September, including an all-breed show in September. The shows include judged and speed events in halter, showmanship, English and Western pleasure, trail and the always popular barrels and poles.Four years ago, the saddle club started a winter “Shaggy Horse Show,” with shows running from October through April in the indoor arena at Latigo Trails. The last two shows this season will be on March 19 and April 16. These events are not schooling shows, so show attire is required. Twenty-four buckles are awarded for high point winners at the end of the series.The saddle club has recently added two new events: a roping club and a ranch horse versatility show scheduled this summer. The roping club will be meeting from May through October on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. The club also holds monthly trail rides during the summer, ranging in difficulty from slow and easy to overnight rides in the mountains. Gymkhanas are held every Wednesday night during the summer.A major benefit of membership is the spring shot clinic held every year in April. Randy Parker, DVM, of Rangeview Large Animal Clinic, comes out to the club to give spring shots at a deep discount, and he gives each horse a mini-health exam. Parker donates all proceeds from the clinic back to the club.Included in the club’s charter is their sponsorship of El Paso County 4-H programs. The club donates money every year to support 4-H horse shows, and 4-H clubs can use the saddle club facility at no charge.Yearly individual membership is $75 and family membership is $100. For more information on the Black Forest Saddle Club, contact Lynn Wilkison at 481-1010 ( Kit Carson Riding Club focuses on trail rides and gymkhanas. The club holds a monthly potluck supper and meeting on the third Thursday of the month at their facility at Cowpoke and Black Forest Roads. Beginning in late May, they hold a gymkhana every Saturday night, and they encourage all riders – Kit Carson members and non-members – to participate. In addition, from May through October, Kit Carson holds trail rides for all levels of riders. Last year’s rides included Homestead Ranch, Mueller State Park, Palmer Park and the Air Force Academy. They are still in the planning stages for 2005, but an overnight ride at Badger Flats (near Wilkinson Pass) is planned.The club also holds clinics on topics, such as ranch horse training and rodeo skills. Their parade group participated in nine parades in 2004.Club membership for families is $40 for the first year and $30 for subsequent years. For more information, contact club president Steve Stiltner at 596-8812.If you want to get active in riding clubs in this area, you can stay busy every night of the week and all weekend long. Just tell your family that you’ll see them sometime in November (maybe), and then hitch up the trailer and go! (P.S. Pick me up on your way out.)Next month: How to find the right riding instructor for you.

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