Horse lovers and those who ride will be happy that it’s time for the Pahrump Equine Trail Riders Association to start its Saddlebag Santa Trail Rides for charity.
For the past two years, the trail rides have benefited “Cowboy Christmas,” an event organized by “Cowboy” Ken Pyle to provide a hot meal for families in need and toys for the kids.
The culminating event and party has been held at the Maverick Dance Hall & Saloon on Mesquite Avenue for the past two years. Due to Pyle’s change of direction and the closing of the Maverick, the recipients of this year’s fundraising will be Freedom Reins Ranch.
The facility, which provides therapy for mentally challenged and disabled children is located on the south end of town at 2281 E. Traci St.
PETRA spokesman Doug Shaw said, “We checked it out pretty thoroughly and it’s a good organization.”
The facility, run by Julie Schmidt and her daughter Sheila, is also a nonprofit and depends on grants and fundraisers to keep them going.
Julie said, “We are so grateful. It’s important to create an environment where children and families can experience behavioral, physical, social and emotional growth.”
She said, “Horses have loving hearts as long as they are well treated and we believe horses can teach responsibility and increase trust and confidence.”
The Schmidts have not embarked on Freedom Reins Ranch goals alone.
Schmidt said her organization has joined forces with Southern Nevada’s Affiliated Physical Therapy and Mobile Mental Health facility and is looking to expand services within the community.
“We started contracting with Affiliated Physical Therapy to do physical therapy on horseback. We are contracting with Mobile Mental Health to do behavioral lessons with therapists. Both of these are going to be supervised by the therapists themselves but our dream is to reach more of the community. We actually want to do some after school programs for kids that have working parents.”
She said the facility is not a riding stable. “We are teaching kids to have a relationship with the horse. We hold group lessons as well as those for children.”
The facility is open to anyone who can handle and lead a horse.
Schmidt said the instructors are certified and can teach basic riding skills and the proper care of a horse.
“We also teach proper tack maintenance.” The dirt, salt and sweat from the animals can ruin a girth and leather is susceptible to over-drying in the desert.
Shaw said he feels the organization is worth funding and has provided a list of ride dates and activities for participants. The first ride, slated to begin at 4 p.m., Dec. 6 at the ranch on Traci Street, will be an evening ride. Participants will be treated to barbecue brisket with all the sides when they return to the ranch around 6 p.m.
Also planned is a bonfire, hay rides and recorded music.
The cost is $20 for ride participants and $10 for non-riders.
The rides are also scheduled for Saturdays Dec. 13, 20 and Sunday, Dec. 21.
Dec. 13 the riders will meet at the HUBB on Bell Vista Road. This one is early, riders should be mounted by 10 a.m.
Shaw said the details of activities following the ride “are forthcoming.”
The ride scheduled for Dec. 20 will be a competitive arena event. All of the rides are $20 except the “Inspirations” ride Dec. 21, which Shaw said, “is just for fun and it’s free.”
Riders thrill the residents of Inspirations Senior Living on Java Avenue by decorating the horses with bells and ribbons and get decked out themselves.
The event is a competition for best costume to be judged by the senior residents.
Shaw said there may be a short ride planned with the decorated horses but the details are not yet available.
Shaw said, “We would appreciate people making advance reservations, especially when there is food involved. To participate or obtain additional information, call Shaw at 775-764-8004.