I had the pleasure, on Saturday, of attending the Wickenburg Horsemen’s Association annual Jerry Hanson trail ride and steak cook out. And this year’s turnout was the biggest ever, with more than 70 riders and 100 people for the cook out.
The Wickenburg Horsemen’s Association (WHA) is a group of horse enthusiasts who get together regularly to ride. The riding season in Wickenburg starts in October and runs through May. Throughout the season, the WHA board of directors and members set up a ride schedule that usually includes rides every two weeks or so. Members meet at predetermined parking areas, saddle up, and ride out behind that ride’s designated leader.
The WHA also sponsors the Land of the Sun Endurance Ride on the last weekend in January. This event, which is well-attended by endurance riders from all over the southwest, is an extremely well-managed fundraising event handled by WHA member volunteers.
Jerry Hanson, who has departed to that great trail ride in the sky, was instrumental in keeping WHA alive years ago when membership and activities were failing. The WHA hosts an annual trail ride and steak cook out for its members every December, shortly before Christmas, in remembrance of him.
The weather for this year’s ride was perfect. Cool and slightly overcast, but considerably more pleasant than recent years. A record turnout of 73 riders showed up at the Rodeo Grounds parking lot to saddle up and ride out. Nancy Halsey, WHA Treasurer and the new Endurance Ride Manager, led the ride. She followed one of the Endurance Ride trails south from the Rodeo Grounds, taking us along twisting trails on ridges and in washes, past lichen-covered rocks and cactus-covered hills. For most of the ride, the trail was wide enough for two horses to walk abreast, so many of us rode side-by-side with our partners, friends, or new acquaintances. My husband and I were riding in the middle of the big group of riders, where we could see the string riders in front of us and behind us, winding through the desert.
Back at the Rodeo Grounds after our 2-hour ride, we unsaddled our horses, brushed the sweat out of their thick winter coats, and tied them up to our trailers. Then we joined other WHA members who hadn’t ridden with us for a huge potluck steak dinner. The WHA provided the steaks, which were grilled by volunteers over charcoal and mesquite on the Rodeo Grounds’ big barbeque pit. The members provided a wide assortment of accompaniments, from breads and salads to potatoes, beans, and vegetables. And for desert, there were pies, cookies, cakes, and the precious kringle sent to the group by Jerry Hanson’s son in Wisconsin each year.
It was a great event (as usual), made even better by the big crowd of riders and friends. A wonderful way to welcome in the Christmas season in Wickenburg.
Interested in joining the WHA? Membership is $20/year and includes a monthly newsletter of past and upcoming rides and the annual steak cook out. Call President Hans Ryser at 684-1405 or Secretary Pete Vergalla at 684-2245 to learn more.