‘Meet a Horse’ event Aug. 24

Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve heard it from someone in your family. It’s a wish many of us may also have had in our day. And it’s apparent the members of the Hood River Saddle Club found an answer to their wish, one way or another.
From paints to percherons and walkers to Welsh ponies, a wonderful mix of horse breeds and colors — and the people who love them — are woven into the historical tapestry of the Hood River Valley. Even though other activities and pastimes have come along, the love of a horse and the unbreakable bond between horse and human remain unchanged — and the 70-plus members of the Hood River Saddle Club (HRSC) would be among the first to agree.
Way back when in 1943, more than 75 years ago, a group of about 20 people, all of whom with great affection for horses, set in motion the creation of the HRSC. These husbands, wives and children enjoyed getting together to ride, but they longed for something more. Soon, their shared dream of creating a place where people of all ages could come to ride horses, learn from each other and, eventually, compete, began to take root and grow.
In July 1955, the club sealed the deal on the purchase of 10 acres of beautiful Hood River property at the corner of Belmont and Country Club Road. Per historical court records, “… The State Land Board ... does hereby grant, bargain, sell and convey unto Hood River Saddle Club the following land ... in consideration of $1,250.” Now THAT was one whale of a good deal! Thanks to the determination and resourcefulness of those founding fathers and mothers, a wonderful equine facility would have a permanent home in the valley.
HRSC still occupies the same beautiful, horse-friendly westside acreage. The clubhouse is the hub for the organization’s meetings, fundraisers and special events and was built by three local families who were among the club’s founders. Over time, an announcer’s booth, bleachers and restrooms, corrals and a round pen were added to enhance the facilities. 
In a world where far too much screen time can consume so much of a child’s attention and energy, handling, riding and caring for a horse or pony can support positive development. Improved balance and motor skills, learning and problem solving, focus and self-control are among the benefits.
Developing and reinforcing respect for others, kindness, self-confidence, self-discipline, responsibility, patience and empathy will last a lifetime.
If you love the idea of taking up horseback riding, but wonder if you’re too old to ride, the short answer is no! Horseback riding is something that can be enjoyed at all ages and levels in a wide variety of ways, long into one’s golden years.
“... When a horse greets you with a nicker and regards you with a large and liquid eye, the question of where you want to be has been answered.”
While the author of this quote is unknown, the message is unmistakable!
For those interested in learning more about horses or the club, HRSC has planned a special event.
“We’re very excited about our first ‘Meet a Horse’ event coming up on Saturday, August 24,” said John Laptad, HRSC member and key organizer of the event. “Kids from 1 to 101 can come to HRSC and meet a horse, perhaps for the first time, pet and groom a four-footed friend, watch a variety of riding disciplines and maybe ride a horse led by the owner.”
New members are always welcomed, and a nominal $50 annual fee per family opens the door to a variety of riding opportunities. The club’s 140-foot by 270-foot outdoor arena hosted many ‘a rodeo back in the day. It is free for members to use for riding practice and is home for club-sponsored horse shows and competitions. A 60-foot round pen is available for training purposes, and a trail obstacle course, used for challenge events, is also perfect for practicing and improving trail riding skills. Cross-country jumps are there for the more advanced riders. With easy in-and-out access, plentiful parking handles all sorts of vehicles, including oversized horse trailers.   
Friendships with people across the country have been formed through HRSC’s offering of overnight camping for travelers hauling horses. Seven 12-by-12-foot corrals, the round pen and the bulk of the property are available for use at no charge, though donations to the club are always appreciated.    
HRSC members are very much like a family and enjoy organizing fun events. Monthly trail rides throughout the Gorge, as well as overnight horse camping outings, are planned during good weather months. One of the club’s biggest charitable group efforts is the annual September spaghetti dinner, which raises scholarship funds for area high school graduates who are continuing their education in agriculture-related studies. 
“Last fall,” said President Neal Thornton, “HRSC applied to the IRS for non-profit 501c3 status. Just a few weeks ago, we received confirmation that our request has been granted, which means that deductions made by individuals or business to HRSC are now tax-deductible.”
Member meetings are held at 6 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month (except January) at the clubhouse, and anyone who is interested is welcome to drop in.
For those interested in joining, membership forms are downloadable at hoodriversaddleclub.org. HRSC’s clubhouse, with a capacity of 85 people plus a full kitchen, restrooms, fireplace, tables and chairs, is available for parties, weddings, reunions and other special events by calling manager Helen Hansen at 541-399-6654.
For more information — whether or not you own a horse — or to ask a question or to share a horse story, email hrsaddleclub@yahoo.com. Our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/HoodRiverSaddleClub) showcases activities, our 2019 calendar of events and much more.

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