SUBMITTED BY LORRAINE BEAUDETTE
The Saskatchewan Paint Horse Club hosted their first APHA approved Trail Ride and Outdoor Trail Challenge Competition on June 30 and July 1, 2012. The event was held at Trails End Guest Ranch in the beautiful Arm River Valley and just as their name indicates the guest ranch is tucked into the beautiful valley – at the end of the trail. Owner and operators of the Guest Ranch, Lyle and Chris Benz were most excellent hosts for this family friendly event. The weekend event was open to all breeds of horses and ages of riders and folks could come for the guided trail ride on Saturday, or the Trail Challenge on Sunday. Most folks came for the weekend and made a family holiday out of it. The facilities easily accommodated campers and RV’s and boasts a motel, showers and cabin rental options.
Lyle led a relaxed group of 28 riders on a three hour ride on Saturday, June 30. With rolling hills to ride in, river crossings and natural history to enjoy, this was an unforgettable trail ride for many.
Lyle led the group through the coulees; silver sage and buck brush past a huge buffalo rub stone and a buffalo jump site. Tee pee rings are still evident on the hill side and buffalo bones found in a dig site have been dated back 2000 years. A ride to the peaks of the valley rewarded you with fields of waving grass and pastureland. You could easily imagine herds of buffalo grazing on them in another time.
Horses over came their fear of water as they attempted and succeeded with numerous river crossings and later the swim hole. They encountered cattle and dealt with difficult and varied terrain. For the show horses on the trail ride, it was a welcome change and you could see the pleasure in their expressions.
After the last river crossing the group came upon a small herd of red Angus steers belonging to Trails End Ranchs. This provided an opportunity to expose horses to a nice quiet herd of cattle and to test their cow sense.
One of the highlights of the weekend came after the trail ride and during the heavy heat of the afternoon. Faced with the question of do we go and ride on the hills again or do we go for a swim? The swim won out for many hot horses and riders. Lyle advised everyone to ride with a simple halter and lead rope and to take it slow with their horses. One rider declared she could cross one more thing off her bucket list, an exchange student from Finland said she had never done anything this much fun before in her life! Wondering down the riverbed towards the swim hole gave horses a chance to become acquainted with the feel of water all around them. The swim hole could accommodate quite a few horses at a time. It was pure entertainment for those who were not riding and sheer joy for those who were on the horse’s backs. Some horses loved it so much they played hippopotamus and would plunge their whole heads under water as they swam with just their eyes peeking out.
The ranch staff set up a beautiful steak supper with all the fixings. Following supper folks saddled up and rode over to the large outdoor arena where a mounted shooting demonstration took place. This was a good opportunity for people to expose their horse to the gun fire and see how they would react. Following the mounted shooting many folks choose to hit the hills and the river for a little more riding or to work on certain skills in the arena in preparation for the Trail Challenge the next day. Later that evening after horses were fed, watered and put to bed everyone gathered round the huge bon fire to listen to a trio of talented local musicians play guitars and banjo and sing songs. Some folks simply enjoyed the starry sky from the hot tub.
The Open Trail Challenge took place on Sunday, July 1, with Judge Chris Larsen of Crooked River, Steward and Laura Martin, and Edam directing competitors. A total of 40 riders signed up to compete in four separate divisions. The challenging course was situated along the river banks of the Arm River, across a meadow, up a hill and was approximately ¾ of a mile in length. The first obstacle was a jump, followed by a ramp, then a fallen log drag, a river crossing, lope along the river bank, a second river crossing, a lope up a hill to ride under several large hoops, lope back down the hill to a ground tie area for a dismount and walk around then dependent upon the division you were competing in you would either load and unload your horse in a trailer or pick up a slicker and carry it to another post.
The top riders in each of the four divisions were: Youth, Taylor Gardner of Saskatoon, Ladies, Stephanie McMillan of Cudworth; Men\’s, Robert Barbour of Warman; APHA – Bruce Martin of Edam. Each was awarded a beautiful custom Gist Buckle.
A huge thank you goes out to the Trails End Guest Ranch for their hospitality, to judge Chris Larsen and to generous buckle sponsors; APHA – Painted River Ranch Posse; Men’s – Cindy Borhen & Trevor Mikolajczyk ; Ladies- Taze Consulting (Al & Trish Fisher); Youth – Tech Ops Pipeline Consulting (Rick & Sue Layh). Many congrats also to the SPHC Board for the taking on this new initiative and to Laura Martin who coordinated the event.
The Second Annual Trail Ride and Outdoor Trail Challenge with take place on July 20 and 21, 2013 once again at the beautiful Trails End Guest Ranch. Check the Saskatchewan Paint Horse Club website www.saskpainthorse.com for future updates on the next big challenge.