by A. Rock
Darkening days and wintery chill mean most riders have retreated to welcoming barns, leaving memories hoof printed on our hearts of merry times and fun rides from early spring to the glow of autumn. Despite the near drought conditions of the past riding season, the unusual but ominous threat of rain did not deter participants in a very successful Second Annual Fun Ride at the New York State Otter Creek Horse Trails on Sept. 10.
The popular New York State Horse Trails in Lewis County were once “a best kept secret” when started in the late 1980’s. Now thousands of riders come to enjoy 65 miles of intertwining trails at the edge of the Adirondack Mountains. With years of use and heavy weather, maintenance and improvements have long become difficult. Thus, a local group, Friends of Otter Creek Horse Trails, sponsored the Second Annual Fun Ride to obtain donations for equipment and materials for their volunteer trail work.
The two-hour ride consisted of following a trail from the Assembly Area to five stopping points along a well-marked, leisurely seven-mile course. At each point a costumed character asked a comical or simple equine-based question. Then horse and rider performed a basic task, such as going through parallel bars on the ground, side stepping, passing a helium balloon, putting a ticket in a bucket, or the like. While the clouds hung widespread and gray, the temperature was mild enough for a comfortable ride. No slickers were needed; no winter garb: only laughter and a good time.
In all, 56 riders participated. Riding along with her mother was the youngest: a petite gal, who rode her very best friend/pony, “Kit.” Later Andi McMahon, 5, from Carthage NY, won “The Best Future Rider” award as her mom, Tonya Passage, looked proudly on at the luncheon/raffle/ awards ceremony which followed.
As for the eldest, who could tell, but one must state that the twilight years are golden for the many secretly senior citizens riding enthusiastically along on sturdy steeds many had raised from a foal or owned lovingly for years.
Many riders hauled from local properties or neighboring areas such as Watertown, Ogdensburg, Vernon, Syracuse, and Rochester. There were, however, riders from more distant locales, such as California, South Carolina, and Canada.
The Second Annual Fun Ride was planned and organized by the Friends of Otter Creek Horse Trails. This stewardship group formed a few years ago and is recognized by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation for its continued efforts to assist DEC to maintain and enhance these trails that have become favorites for so many riders.
Richard and Deborah Robbins, from their home in South Carolina, “have traveled all summer.” From the mountains of Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Western New York, “and now the Otter Creek Horse Trails of Lewis County, NY, we’ve had a great time with our horses,” said Richard.
They rode two 19-year old Arabians: Durango, a “freckled” Arabian, and Rhythm, a chestnut, as splendid as an autumn leaf. The couple had been vacationing at these trails since Aug. 27. “We have ridden over 100 miles here so far,” said Deborah.
Several Pominville gals from the Clinton, NY area rode with Flossie Malbouf of Copenhagen NY, a small village about 20 miles away. Shayla Pominville, 13, rode “Genesis” a beautiful black/white paint, 19. Her mother Laura rode nearly identical “Journey.” Mother and daughter were on father and son and had come to Otter Creek “at least 10 times so far” this past season. Shayla received the trophy for youngest teenage rider.
Shayla said, “It’s great to ride here. There’s a variety of sun and shade, and, although the Assembly Area may be crowded, there are so many trails that we seem alone. It’s cool to see the pretty views. I’ve been riding here since I was about two. It’s wonderful to ride with friends and really connect with my horse.”
Every participant received a raffle prize. Among them, Mary Melny from east of Toronto, Canada, received a cement statue of a reclining black foal. She exclaimed, “It is wonderful here. This is our third trip this year. My friends and I purposely plan to come. We appreciate what ‘Friends’ is doing, such a wonderful job. Canadians appreciate it, and there are a lot of us.”
Thus the day went well; the rain deferred, and the grand time persisted. Liz Hirschey, leader of Friends of Otter Creek Horse Trails, has reported that the group made $4,000 on the ride. $2,100 was from sponsors and $1,930 on rider entries and donations. One hundred percent of the funds, through the New York State Horse Council, will be used on trail maintenance and improvement at Otter Creek Horse Trails, Lewis County, NY.
Winter’s chill and predictable snows mean riding trails and further maintenance must await spring’s renewal, but one can still hug a horse and dream, can’t we. And the next Fun Ride (Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017) should be even better. So too, are the memories and times together, with a faithful steed upon which to ride.