While most 20-something-year-old women are planning a weekend that may include shopping, eating out, movies, and spending time with friends, there is one Marion woman who is thinking about loading up her horse trailer and venturing out into the wilderness on horseback.
Steph Jensen of Marion has been riding horses for as long as she can remember.
“I don’t remember when I started. I just remember always being on a horse,” the experienced equestrian said May 5.
She has been on trail rides since she was 5 or 6 years old.
Currently she is part of a small group of friends who ride trails throughout the state in the spring and fall months. Some of the group’s favorite state parks in which they ride and camp include Kanopolis, Hillsdale, and Elk City.
“Some have horse campgrounds with tie-ups and electricity available,” Jensen said. “Some even have pens for the horses.”
The group will load up on a Friday evening, travel to a state park, pitch a camp, and ride most of the day Saturday.
Jensen said she and the riding group ride two to four hours at a time with short breaks, which are beneficial for the rider and the horse. They might average 5 to 8 miles per day.
Even though she has more than 20 years of riding and trail experience, Jensen doesn’t take the planning for granted.
“Weather is a factor,” she said.
Modern technology helps, including portable global positioning systems. Rain doesn’t deter them, but more severe weather does.
“A lot is dependent on weather conditions and the conditions of the horses and the riders,” she said.
Heat and cold weather affect both man and beast.
Jensen recalled a spring ride when there was a cold rainstorm.
“Everything was wet and the horses were shivering,” she said.
The group was planning a trail ride earlier this spring but decided not to, which was a wise decision because 4 inches of snow fell that weekend.
Jensen’s 17-year-old horse is a seasoned trail rider as well, having been on trail rides for 11 years. She and others in the group typically take an extra horse in case of injury.
Spending time riding horses with friends in nature’s playground can be relaxing and entertaining — for the riders and for the horses.
“Horses like new scenery and challenges,” Jensen said, “just like people.”
Having proper equipment is the most important part of the planning and riding, she said.
“A proper-fitting saddle for you and the horse is imperative,” Jensen said. “The rider should always take the horse’s comfort in consideration.”
Some riders put boots on horses’ feet to protect them from rocks and thorns. Jensen’s horse has always been shod, so she continues to do so. If she had her way, her horse would be barefoot with boots.
There is safety in numbers when trail riding and for Jensen it’s all about having a good experience and not leaving anything to chance.
“Never go by yourself,” Jensen advises. “Always go with at least one other person.”
Cell phones are great but aren’t always reliable in remote areas. Riders should be aware of where they are and a way back.
“Trail riding is for confident horses,” she said, and riders.
The trail should match the experience level of the group and for Jensen’s group, trail riding requires both horse and rider to be seasoned and experienced. Jensen said she is confident her horse will not leave her should she fall off, which is important.
Regardless of the dangers, the 2002 Marion High School graduate finds trail riding to be a stress reliever.
“I enjoy living in the moment. There’s more out there than people realize,” she said.