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