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franklin county times

RBCEP hosts Hodges Hootenanny

Last year, it was the Rock Bridge Canyon Canter. This year, it’s the Hodges Hootenanny. But whatever it’s called, the equestrian park’s endurance ride is a challenge that is open to all who are in it for the long haul.

The Hodges Hootenanny, which is set for April 21-22, will include a 50-mile and a 25-mile ride, as well as a 10-mile introductory ride. The competition is being coordinated by endurance rider Tina Cochran.

The event replaces the Rock Bridge Canyon Canter of last year, whose organizer decided to host her ride in Bankhead Forest. Not wanting to see the park lose its spring endurance ride, “I stepped up and decided I’d do it,” Cochran said.

The “Hootenanny” name was born out of a desire to call it something catchy and alliterative. The ride is sanctioned by the American Endurance Ride Conference as well as the Southeast Endurance Riders Association. It’s one of only three sanctioned endurance rides in the state, the others being the Yellowhammer Pioneer ride in Talladega National Forest and the Raptor Run in Bankhead National Forest.

As detailed by the AERC, “in endurance riding, the equine and rider are a team, and the challenge is to complete the course with a horse that is ‘fit to continue.’ A panel of control judges supervises the equines, each of which must pass a pre-ride examination in order to start the event. During each ride are set hold times, which vary in duration from a simple gate-and-go to one-hour rest holds. During these holds, the equine’s physical and metabolic parameters are checked. The horse must pass the exam in order to continue on the course. Each horse must also pass a post-ride exam in order to receive credit for completing the course.”

The 50-mile ride (7 a.m. each day), a 25-mile ride (7:30 a.m. each day) and an intro ride of ten miles (10 a.m. each day) are designed to attract riders with different passions and skill levels. Cochran said she hopes the ten-mile ride will provide an introduction to interest more riders in endurance contests. Her aim is particularly to attract local riders to participate.

“Most people who come here can ride the loop I’m doing. It’s the purple loop,” she said. “It’s going to be ten miles. Everybody rides it anyway – it’s probably the easiest loop here.”

For the endurance rides, a little more preparation is called for.

“Any horse can do it, but the condition of the horse is going to be the factor in how fast you can do this ride,” Cochran said. “If you’re coming to compete, you don’t need to just pull your horse out of the pasture and come run him to death.”

Cochran said she hopes for a hundred horses in each day of competition.

“Horses love this stuff,” she said. “If you’re conditioned for it, it’s just like a runner – you talk to somebody who exercises in the gym all the time, they get into this stuff, and horses do too. My horse loves it.”

Dennis Seales, RBCEP director, said he is eager to see the participation. Profit made from the ride will go to park operations.

Vet checks will begin at 3 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and all horses must be checked before the ride. Numerous awards will be given, and all riders will get T-shirts and dinner both nights. Cost to participate is $100 for each endurance ride; $65 for the intro ride; and $65 for junior riders.

A number of businesses have donated items for the silent auction, including Tractor Supply, All Animal Clinic, Ray’s Farm Supply, Stidham’s Feed Store, Cowboy Way Western Wear, Handley’s Western Wear and Shoe Repair, Scruggs, Marion County Co-Op, Happy Trails Western Wear, Ricky Miller and Tina Cochran.

For more information or to sign up and make reservations at the park, call 205-935-3499.