21st 4-H benefit trail ride held Oct. 5-6

Terri Licking
for The Fence Post
Trying to get 85 riders together for a group shot was like herding cats, still missing a few. Riders came from Colorado, South Dakota, Kansas and from all over Nebraska.
Photo by Terri Licking

HALSEY, Neb. — Horse trailers were a common sight going up and down the highways and byways in central Nebraska the second weekend of October. Burwell was the sight for riders to come enjoy a Fox hunt, aka coyote hunt, complete with jumping over obstacles while galloping after an elusive coyote or fox, whichever the hounds scared up.

At the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey, the riders enjoyed more leisurely travel on their four-legged friends at the 21st State 4-H Camp Benefit Trail Ride Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 5 and 6. Dewey Teel, retired University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension educator, and Monte Stauffer, newly retired from UNL Extension, came out early and mapped out this year’s trails. Stauffer’s brother, Gary along with Teel, had ramrodded the rides until last year, when Gary lost his battle with ALS just one week prior to the ride.

Also helping, riding drag, ensuring no rider gets lost in the trees was Dawson County UNL Extension educator, Bruce Treffer of Lexington. The registrations benefit the Nebraska 4-H Foundation, and helps the State 4-H Camp located in the western hemisphere’s largest hand planted forest near Halsey.

The day before, on Friday, the committee and early comers congregate at windmill 125, where all rides have been headquartered. They have a panel party, setting up the portable corrals that have been loaned from some of the forest permit landowners. “This has always been a plus of this ride, having a choice ­— a pen for the horses or staking out your own,” Treffer said.

Saturday, Teel, wife, Carla and son Justin from Bassett led the 85 riders out the gate for the morning ride. Though they had no official signs, Justin was the gate opener as they went through many pastures on the rides, while Treffer or his son, Greg were the official gate closers. They returned for a sack lunch at noon, an hour rest then another three-hour ride. Returning to the campsite, all riders tended to settle their mounts in for the evening. Certified weed feed hay, a necessity for any federal lands was baled by Russell Licking, from hay ground in Logan County and brought in by his dad, Wayne. A free-will donation offering for the hay was collected for the Lickings.

The riders then went to the State 4-H Lodge for a great steak supper. Steaks were donated by Tyson Fresh Meats of Lexington, while grilling was done by Mike and Kris Wolff. Jodie Swisher over saw her camp staff complete the meal with the side dishes and dessert. Camp director Sean Gunderson was present and for the first time the meal was served upstairs where the silent auction items were spread around the room. “Yes, it was more work for the staff to bring the food up (the camp does have an elevator which helped), but not all people would come upstairs to look over the auction items. That was remedied by having supper upstairs,” Gunderson said.

The auction netted over $1,000 for the camp. Canned music was enjoyed, a slideshow of pictures from the day’s rides was looped throughout the meal or a few die hard Husker volleyball fans got to watch the Lady Huskers get swept by Wisconsin. Riders retired to the cabins or back to the camp site for the evening. After a hearty breakfast prepared by the camp staff on Sunday, some 75 riders went on the two-hour morning ride. Both days were breezy, but sunny and in the 60s so still pleasant for riding.

The 21st ride concluded as it always has, with a reverse panel party, putting the loaned panels back on their perspective trailers, and spreading out the equine fertilizer. Only a quarter of the two bales of hay that was bought in was left, which the Lickings took back to use for animals in their corral at home. ❖