HALSEY — 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.
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 Oct. 5 and 6. Dewey Teel, retired UNL 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 Stauffer lost his battle with ALS just one week prior to the ride.
Dawson County UNL Extension educator Bruce Treffer of Lexington was also helping, riding drag, to make sure no one got lost.
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The registrations benefits 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 Oct. 4, the committee and early comers congregated at windmill 125, where all rides have been headquartered in the past. Each year, there is 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.
On Saturday, Teel and his wife, Carla, and son Justin 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 and then another three-hour ride.
Returning to the campsite, all riders settled 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.
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 oversaw her camp staff assemble the a meal, 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, while people enjoyed canned music and a slideshow of pictures from the day’s rides was looped throughout the meal. 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 by the camp staff on Sunday, more than 75 riders went on the two-hour morning ride. Both days were breezy, but sunny and in the 60s, which was 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 brought in was left, which the Lickings took back to use for animals in their corral at home.