Rid­ers, horses bond in farm’s ‘Cow­boy Christ­mas’

The Washington Times Daily - - METRO - BY RACHAEL SMITH

BED­FORD, VA. | In chilly, 40-de­gree weather one re­cent Sun­day, hearts were warmed at Reba Farm Inn in Bed­ford by the pres­ence of what Ron Gore said may have once been deemed “bad horses.”

Horses that were mis­treated, mis­used or ne­glected are now in the car­ing hands of Mr. Gore and Kath­leen Dono­van, his wife, who op­er­ate the Bed­ford County farm on Reba Farm Lane.

The cou­ple has about 70 horses they have res­cued.

On Dec. 11, 17 rid­ers came to the 300acre farm to take a trail ride, each on a res­cued horse, for a “Cow­boy Christ­mas” — a tra­di­tion the cou­ple has hosted for about five years now.

Each par­tic­i­pant is matched with a horse handpicked for them based on the rider’s per­son­al­ity, age and ex­pe­ri­ence.

“It’s more than an ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s a mem­ory,” Mr. Gore said. “We want to give them that and when we give them that we want to do it cor­rectly.”

The trail ride, set up Dec. 11 by Roanoke County’s depart­ment of parks and re­cre­ation, was about five miles around the se­cluded Bed­ford coun­try­side filled with views of the Peaks, Sharp Top Moun­tain and his­toric build­ings.

After herd­ing the horses into a gate, rid­ers dec­o­rated a “Christ­mas” tree on the prop­erty with pret­zels, marsh­mal­lows with peanut but­ter, candy canes, Rice Krispies and cook­ies for the an­i­mals to munch on later.

Mr. Gore and Ms. Dono­van supplied a home­made meal for the rid­ers at their inn lo­cated a few miles from the sta­bles where a gas fire­place warmed cold hands and feet. Home­made mac n’ cheese, meat­balls, pota­toes au gratin and tortellini filled hun­gry bel­lies while rid­ers con­gre­gated as a fam­ily would.

The farm brings in all types of rid­ers, in­clud­ing chil­dren who have never rid­den horses, adults who haven’t rid­den since they were young and se­nior cit­i­zens.

“The ex­pe­ri­ence is one that gives a sense of ac­com­plish­ment but also it’s ex­hil­a­rat­ing and re­lax­ing at the same time, even on a cold day,” Mr. Gore said.

Linda Shaw last rode a horse when she was 8 years old, and now, as an adult, was ready to try again after see­ing an ad­ver­tise­ment for Sun­day’s trip.

“I am ex­cited to be with the an­i­mals and out in the fresh air,” she said. “It’s nice do­ing some­thing out­side of the box.”

Many horses on the trail ride could not have been rid­den at one point, es­pe­cially by a child, prior to their res­cue. On Dec. 11, four chil­dren rode and han­dled horses weigh­ing any­where be­tween 1,100 and 1,300 pounds, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Gore.

Brother and sis­ter Shae and Steele Tor­rence woke up Dec. 11 hav­ing no idea they would be com­ing to ride horses un­til their mother sur­prised them.

Nei­ther had ever rid­den a horse be­fore.

Shae, 10, rode Zorro, a horse she de­scribed as “funny” and “sneezes a lot.” She was ner­vous at first but Mr. Gore said he watched her con­fi­dence grow as the three-hour trail ride wrapped up.

Twins Cait­lyn and Chelsea Kirk also re­ceived an early Christ­mas gift Sun­day morn­ing as they checked their Ad­vent cal­en­dar and saw they would be horse­back rid­ing.

Regan Kirk, their mother, said she en­joyed tak­ing the ride with them and spend­ing time out­doors.

“This is a nice change of pace,” she said. “I en­joy chat­ting with the other rid­ers, too. That’s the in­ter­est­ing thing about the fam­ily ride; you get to know other peo­ple. It’s a nice ex­pe­ri­ence.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

On Sun­day, 17 rid­ers came to a 300-acre farm for a trail ride on res­cued horses, a tra­di­tion Ron Gore and Kath­leen Dono­van have hosted for about five years now.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.