FORT WORTH-The American Paint Horse Association (APHA) took trail riders to new heights recently with three separate journeys on horseback through the thick pine forests of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in northern New Mexico. Fifty-one people from eight states participated in the ride, which took place April 30-May 4 at the sprawling Philmont Boy Scout Ranch, located four miles south of Cimarron, New Mexico.
The recreational riding enthusiasts ventured into rugged territory that has remained relatively untouched since legendary frontiersmen like Kit Carson carved out some of the trails in the mid-1800s. A century later, philanthropist Waite Phillips was responsible for preserving the beauty of the area when he donated more than 127,000 acres of unsettled territory to the Boy Scouts of America.
APHA members had the unique opportunity to ride through the magnificent countryside and up the mountains on horseback. Those journeys have traditionally been reserved only for the Boy Scouts.
Also during their stay at Philmont, riders had the chance to tour the summer home of Phillips and the wilderness ranch of Carson. They also were educated and entertained by a local storyteller who recounted tales of Carson and other legends who called the area home.
To top off the experience, riders were serenaded at the end of the trail with music by R.W. Hampton, a popular singer and songwriter who lives in the area. Hampton rode the mountain trails at Philmont with APHA members and his grassroots cowboy songs echoed through the countryside.
A former wrangler at the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch, Hampton sang from the heart.
"To be able to ride, play guitar and sing old cowboy songs has been a dream come true for me," said Hampton, who will have the opportunity to further live out his dream when he entertains riders at other outings scheduled by APHA this year.
"All around, this was absolutely a fantastic ride," said APHA Executive Secretary Ed Roberts, who rode with members at the event. "Our commitment to members by promoting and hosting recreational riding activities, and just showing them a good time, is stronger than ever.
"It is our hope that members attend these rides and take what they've learned back to their regional clubs and put on rides of their own at the local level."
APHA has 111 regional clubs throughout the world.
In a recent poll of renewing APHA members, the association found that 50 percent said they were recreational riders. While APHA is active in offering services to competitive riders, it is also taking major strides to accommodate members who enjoy leisure activities with their horses.
The addition of the Philmont Boy Scout Ranch ride allowed APHA to offer rides at three locations this year, all within about a day's drive from most of its members. Other rides this year include the Black River Trail Ride, to be held Aug. 6-10 in the Ozark foothills of Lesterville, Mo., and an outing at historic Fort Robinson State Park, planned Sept. 3-8 in the rugged Pine Ridge region of northern Nebraska, near Crawford. In past years, only one ride per year had been sponsored by APHA.
In addition to its trail rides around the country, APHA also serves members with its Ride America® program. While participating in this innovative saddle-log program, members earn rewards and recognition for their individual achievements riding an American Paint Horse.
When riders enroll in Ride America, they receive an official time log and a Ride America patch. They record each hour spent riding their American Paint Horse, and as they move through seven achievement levels-from 100 to 3,000 hours-APHA records their accomplishments and rewards them with special patches. Depending on the number of hours accumulated, participants can also earn saddlebags, halters, lead ropes and saddle pads.
APHA also promotes recreational riding through the free distribution of its Guide to Recreational Riding.
This 36-page guide is packed full of useful information, from the importance of keeping horses in good condition to commonsense safety guidelines. The booklet also contains valuable tips on tack and equipment, saddling up, riding manners, trailering a horse and general horsemanship. The guide also has a special section on trail riding.
For more information on APHA's recreational
riding program, or to receive the free Guide to Recreational Riding, write or
Information on the APHA Ride America" program can be accessed on the association's Web site at http://www.apha.com/rideamerica