APHA’s Ride America and recreational trail rides offer unique experiences for horses and riders of all backgrounds.
Birds sing joyfully, as a breeze gently caresses the pines. Musical hooves clip-clop across the wilderness, and my saddle squeaks in rhythm. The scents of pine, wildflowers, soil, and sage fill my nostrils.
I spy the flag of a deer’s tail and a raptor in flight. Snowcapped mountains, tall rock spires, rushing streams, roaring waterfalls, and lakes like blue mirrors add enchanting beauty to the scene and are complemented by golden sunrises and fiery sunsets. Such are the sounds, scents, and sights of nature on a trail ride.
Why do I trail ride? It’s for all of the above reasons and more. Trail riding makes my horse and me happy and leaves us in peace.
I love the outdoors, nature, horses, and camping. I got my first horse in 1953, and I’ve been trail riding ever since.
But that’s not all – I’ve done about all there is to do with horses. My experiences include breeding, raising, training, and showing Paints, including my 1974 chestnut tobiano stallion, Fly Skip Fly, with whom I earned Superior All Around, Performance Versatility, and American Paint Horse Association Champion titles.
Yet, I still prefer trail riding to the glory and rewards of the show ring.
Trail riding is a great way to see nature in all sorts of places across the country. I’ve ridden in 12 states, from Indiana to Utah and everywhere in between.
And it offers perfect opportunities for everyone. I’ve been on organized rides and pack trips, and I’ve trailed cattle. As far as ride size, I’ve ridden by myself and with as many as 200 riders.
Recreational riding is great for the horses, too. Fly went on many trail rides and pack trips into the Rocky Mountains and was a much better horse for the experience.
Painting the Trails
I was so excited when APHA started putting on trail rides in 1990. Although I missed the first rides at Black River, Missouri, I’ve participated in all of the APHA trail rides at Fort Robinson, Nebraska.
I’ve also attended other APHA rides, including three at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, two in Broken Bow, Nebraska, one at Natural Gait, Iowa, and one in Gothenburg, Nebraska.
APHA rides are a great vacation-just bring your horse! With great accommodations for you and your horse, the best food ever, and lots of activities, all you need to do is care for your horse, show up for meals and events, and ride.
For me, the great horsepeople I’ve met keep me coming back and welcoming new friends.
One friend says going to the Fort Robinson ride year after year was like going to camp when she was little. Fort Robinson is one of my favorite places to ride, as well. I couldn’t wait to get signed up for that first ride in 1996 and encouraged eight of my friends to do the same.
I love the variety of terrain at the APHA Fort Robinson ride. Riders can climb rugged, steep bluffs, cross streams, swim with their horses in a lake, and trek across open fields and rolling hills.
Some days, you can choose which trail to tackle, alone or with a friend, and someone is usually available to help you with trail problems, such as stream crossings.
The trail rides offer more than just saddle time. At past Fort Robinson rides, we’ve had history tours, art classes, music jam sessions, dances, team penning, roping, and clinics on trail riding, working cattle, starting colts, and ranch horse competition.
Every year, we help round up a herd of longhorn cattle, and sometimes even help move a buffalo herd to new pastures. Talk about a thrill!
With varied terrain, the opportunity to interact with fun horsepeople, good food, great staff and wranglers, and a variety of activities, APHA trail rides have it all!
APHA’s Ride America program has been such fun for me.
Then I simply record the number of hours I spend in the saddle. You can record all your time spent riding or driving your Paint at almost any location. And when you ride on state or federal land and on APHA trail rides, your hours are doubled!
All your logged hours are permanently recorded in your horse’s lifetime APHA performance record. In addition to personal pride and satisfaction, a permanent record of Ride America hours has other benefits–the number of hours I logged aboard one horse, a 1994 red dun tobiano mare named Katz Kun Fly, helped me sell her to a buyer in Switzerland.
You can also earn awards and recognition through the Ride America program, based on the number of riding hours you log. Incremental awards start when you reach 100 hours on a single mount, and year-end prizes are also awarded annually. I’ve reached the 1,000-hour award level with one horse–Flys Meow, a 1997 sorrel overo mare–and I’m very close with several other Paints.
When riding, I proudly wear a shirt that displays all of my horses’ names and the Ride America badges each has won.
I encourage everyone to saddle up their Paints for an APHA trail ride. A trail ride can do wonders for any horse and rider. Join Ride America, and see how many hours you spend enjoying your horse.
I’ll meet you on the trail!
Meet Anita Hertner
Hailing from Kearney, Nebraska, Anita Hertner and her husband, John, have been active APHA members since 1967. Anita has been an APHA director or alternate since 1994 and has served on several national APHA committees – including an appointment as chairwoman of the Recreational Riding Committee since 2002. John served on the APHA Executive Committee from 1990-1997 and is a former APHA President.
The couple owns several registered Paint Horses–seven of which are enrolled in Ride America. They’re members of several other equestrian organizations, including the Nebraska Paint Horse Club.
Trail Riding To-Do
- Enroll your Paints in APHA’s Ride America program. Log your hours to earn awards for all those hours in the saddle; double your hours for riding on federal or state land and at APHA-sponsored rides.
- Sign up for an APHA trail ride. You reserve your space online or by mailing in your application and deposit. A list of events is available at apha.com/events/trailrides.
- Condition your horse. Spending five or six hours in one day on a horse on a trail ride versus riding in a class or two in the arena is a lot different for horse and rider. At least six weeks before the ride, ride several miles for a walk. Try to ride about four miles a day, four times a week, and gradually work up to having one of those rides lasting three or four hours. Each week, add 15 minutes of trotting to your rides. Ultimately, your goal should be to ride four miles in one hour. It’s also good to practice traversing hills, ditches, and water.
- Schedule horse health-care appointments. To participate in an APHA trail ride, your horse needs a negative Coggins test, taken within the past 12 months, and a health certificate is taken at least 30 days before the ride. Make sure your horse has the necessary vaccinations, as he’ll be exposed to new horses. I’ve found that it’s best if your horse is shod, due to rocky ground found on many trail rides.
- Bring a buddy. Inviting friends to join you on a trail ride makes it even more enjoyable, and you can share the fuel expense when hauling together.