Horse trail riders pleased with event, Fairgrounds
NEW CASTLE – The Craig County trail riders’ group that hosted its first competitive trail ride had hoped for 30 horses and riders, and was happy to get 50.
“We were very pleased with the turnout, especially with it being our first event,” said county resident and veterinarian Marge Lewter, president of the Back Country Horsemen of the Eastern Divide. The American Competitive Trail Horse Association trail ride weekend on July 20-22 raised about $2,000 – as well as money for the Misty Mountain Mane-iacs 4-H Club, the Craig County Fairgrounds Association and the Craig County Public Library.
Back Country Horsemen will use the money help keep trails open for horse riders, bicyclists and others who enjoy the outdoors, Lewter said.
“The Fairgrounds Association was wonderful,” said Lewter. “We got many comments from the riders about the facilities, the clean restrooms, the food.”
“The Fairgrounds Association should get credit for having such a great facility for the trail ride,” said Craig County Tourism’s Diane Givens. “There were a bunch of large trailers and RVs that overnighted there, and a horse ring set up where demonstrations were done,” Givens said.
Primitive camping was offered at the Fairgrounds, “but with bathrooms, lights, and food, it wasn’t too primitive,” Lewter added.
Participants had two breakfasts provided by the Back Country Horsemen of the Eastern Divide, the 4-H club provided lunch and the Fairgrounds Association put on the dinners, she said.
“Our objective was to use the Fairgrounds and include the 4-H Club in the event, and to provide some educational opportunity for some local people to come and join in, and a lot of them did,” Lewter said of the July 20-22 event that concluded with a Cowboy Church service that Sunday morning.
Kirsten Edwards coordinated the efforts of 4-H’ers and parents for the lunch on Saturday and cleanup on Sunday.
The weekend also had music, a Natural Horsemanship clinic, vendors, and Mugsy, the Salem Red Sox shaggy dog mascot joining in story time and entertaining children and adults on Saturday morning, coordinator Jennifer Mulligan said.
“It was a wonderful event – everyone made money, including the Fairgrounds Association, the 4-H club, the Back Country Horsemen and the Craig County Public Library which held a bake sale,” added Mulligan.
“We wanted it to be a community activity, not just for people with horses but to involve everybody,” she said.
Offering a whole weekend of activities provides more than just a trail ride in the morning that many Competitive Trail Challenges offer, she said. The ACTHA has created a whole new category, the Scout Division, designed to allow riders to compete and get scored, but not be eligible for prizes. That starts in August, said Mulligan.
“I would prefer the camaraderie of riding with people but don’t want to be ranked in the state.”
The competitive trail ride attracted riders from Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia and other areas. “The ones who came from the farthest away were a woman and her granddaughter who came from Pine City, N.Y.
Some local people competed for the first time. “Four riders who did it because it was local and they wanted to try it,” said Lewter.
The 7-mile-long competitive trail ride was based out of the Fairgrounds in downtown New Castle and mostly on Lanier Frantz’ property nearby.
Mulligan explained horses and riders in first through sixth got ribbons and a choice of prizes donated by local businesses. The prizes ranged from some of Mulligan’s handmade pottery to really nice sunglasses.
Lewter said the trail ride “tried to simulate what riders might find out on the trail, and create the fixed obstacles and challenges.” Some of those were stepping across fallen tree trunks, and approaching a bridge across Craig Creek where an “injured victim” – in that case, a stuffed animal – waited for help.
Judges gave a score to the horse and to the rider; each could get a score from 1 to 10.
The clinic Saturday night was put on by Joe and Penny Most from Madison, N.C. They taught such things as “Communicating with your horse, building trust between horse and rider,” Lewter said, “backing up their horses. “There’s a way to do it without your horse resisting, with subtle cues that your horse understands. You tell him what you want.”
Mulligan and Lewter added that there are similar competitive trail rides that take place every weekend until the dead of winter, all over the United States.
“People like to earn their points, which show as evidence if you want to sell your horse that he is trail worthy,” Lewter said. “Of course, most of marry our horses; we don’t sell them.”