No reining in these ridersWhen Jessica Bockovich heard that the Renegade Riders Saddle Club in Two Harbors wasn’t having shows last year, she was surprised. The club had been holding shows regularly since Tom Gow started the saddle club over a decade ago.
By: Sonja Peterson, Lake County News Chronicle
When Jessica Bockovich heard that the Renegade Riders Saddle Club in Two Harbors wasn’t having shows last year, she was surprised. The club had been holding shows regularly since Tom Gow started the saddle club over a decade ago.
Gow was involved in the horse community as a 4-H leader and member of the Lake County Fair Board, but he also saw the need to give more people opportunities to ride, such as those too old to participate in the 4-H Horse Show. The club flourished, making enough money to buy equipment including timers and jumps that are still in use.
Gow passed away in 2007 after a long struggle with a bone marrow disease. Cathy Butler was in charge of the club for many years but took a sabbatical a year ago. That was when Bockovich contacted her wondering what was happening to the shows.
“I had planned on going to the shows, but I couldn’t find them anywhere,” Bockovich said. When she heard the club needed new leadership, she volunteered to step in, with Butler mentoring her and serving as vice-president.
“She’s been doing a great job,” Butler said.
Other horse lovers pitched in, including Kristin Napper, Nancy Gustafson, and Steph LeBlanc. They formed a group of officers for the saddle club and began fundraising.
They collected money from local businesses, including Northshore Mining, Wilderness Family Naturals, and Bayview Realty. They also had a bake sale and a Ride-a-thon event, where sponsors pledged money for every hour participants rode.
With some money in the bank, they named the resurrected club “Reigning Riders” and started planning shows. Since May, they’ve had one each month, and will have two more in August and September.
As in the past, the shows mainly involve gaming—short events where riders careen around barrels, weave through poles and dash over small jumps. Riders have to race the correct pattern and avoid knocking over jumps to avoid being disqualified, but other than that the rules are simple: the fastest time wins.
“This is kind of gaming country,” Butler said. Other types of riding, such as English dressage or show-jumping, aren’t as common in this area, but gaming has always been popular.
The shows are open to all ages. “We’ve had riders from just about zero to people in their seventies,” Butler said. The youngest kids participate in a class where an adult leads the horse on a line, walking them through the event.
“They get a participation ribbon, which usually gets them very excited,” Butler said. “Ribbons are important at that age.”
The shows are held at the Lake County Fair Grounds in Two Harbors. They serve as practice for the 4-H Horse Show held every year at the Lake County Fair. At that show, the best riders win trips to the state horse show, held in September after the Minnesota State Fair.
Bockovich and Butler both said that there’s a lot of interest in horseback riding in Lake County. “The horse industry here is much bigger than people realize,” Butler said. Many horse farms are located in Clover Valley. Those who live in town and don’t have space to keep horses often board them elsewhere or lease them.
Bockovich said that where she lives near Silver Bay, there seem to be more people who want horses than have places to keep them. “So many people contact me to get boarding,” she said. She runs a small horse ranch, but doesn’t have space to board any more horses.
“Riding horses in Lake County can be a little challenging since it isn’t really a farming area,” Bockovich said. “But it’s a beautiful area to ride in.”
“We could use a few more designated horse trails,” Butler said. She said most riders use trails on private land, since hiking and ATV trails usually aren’t open to horses.
The Reigning Riders group is still fundraising and accepting donations, and their next show will be August 26 at the Lake County Fairgrounds. It’s free to watch, and Butler says they welcome visitors. “We love to show off,” she said.