Anything to do with horses was close to her heart.
So, where does one start in remembering the most-dedicated, best-known and truly-talented horsewomen?
Obviously in the beginning, as Arletta Flory’s earliest recollections of growing up during the depression related to horses. And, she had close affiliation with horses and all horse people for the rest of her life.
Journalistically correct, one should refer to her as “Mrs. Flory,” or by some styles: “Flory.” Yet, everybody who had any contact with the horsewoman knew her as: “Arletta.” No further description was ever necessary.
Arletta lived on ranches in the Lone Star community of Douglas County, until being confined to a Baldwin City care home, where she passed away recently.
So diverse in every way, complete encompassing Arletta’s life is impossible. But, everything involving horses and horse people was dear to her with never prejudice for breed or discipline. She “loved ’em all.”
Many times, Arletta recalled: “My Dad moved our personals from Leavenworth County with a wagon and team of mules, when I was just a year-old. I rode a horse to school, to church, to town, everywhere. I loved driving horses doing field work for my Dad.”
Then, she always quickly added, “My late husband, Ben, courted me on horseback.”
An important wedding present from Arletta’s father, Elmer Downing, was a mare out of one of the family’s favorite horses.
Horses remained a mutual affection for Arletta and Ben as they farmed, milked cows, did ranch work and were involved in horse activities, including trail riding throughout the Midwest.
Their only child, daughter Kathryn, was riding in the saddle alternately with her mom and dad before she could walk, with those horsemanship skills engraved in her genes forever.
With a college degree in horse management, Kathryn continued the family’s horse affiliations further, extending to Arletta’s five grandchildren, and now six great grandchildren.
It was heartbreaking for Arletta when her beloved Ben passed away in 1977. However, the couple had developed horseback riding trails at Clinton Lake, and Arletta continued diligently working them until mounting her horse to do so was impossible
“There are 75 miles of trails at the Rockhaven Horseman’s Area, the only horse and hiking trails of that kind in the state, and just a few nationally,” proclaimed Arletta, who knew every inch of them.
Much of the land, Arletta and Ben, or her family, owned before the government took it over for the reservoir.
“I love working on these trails,” Arletta often said.
“I’ve spent about 1,000 hours a year since 1980, working on these trails,” she noted, while riding them in the early ’90s, always equipped with nippers in her saddle scabbard to pull out for trimming branches.
“The Benjamin Trail, of course, is in memory of my husband, and I named the others in recognition of the families who previously owned the land the trails now cross,” she reflected.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers presented Arletta a special award for opening and maintaining the Clinton Lake trail system.
“Ride-For-Alive” has been a fundraiser for the Topeka Chapter of the National Kidney Foundation of Kansas, and Arletta was instrumental in its leadership, many times guiding the annual trail ride.
“I rode every year, along with Kathryn, and my grandchildren, who were each recognized at one time, or another, as being the youngest rider on the ride,” Arletta proudly recalled.
Beyond trails near home, Arletta frequently traveled to Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kentucky and additional states to horseback ride trails and make friends.
Honored as a “Kentucky Colonel” for trail riding leadership in that distant state, Arletta was a “Native Kansan of the Year” finalist for her trail blazing and maintenance, as well as her rich agriculture heritage.
One of Arletta’s greatest thrills was being on the White House lawn in 1988, receiving a certificate from President Reagan recognizing her work in his “Take Pride in America” campaign.
Always boarding horses at her ranch, Arletta often helped in selection of the appropriate mounts for owners. She never missing an opportunity to attend a horse sale, or make a horse deal, or “swap.”
Offering public riding lessons, Arletta was a 4-H horse project leader and served the Douglas County Trailer Riders enthusiastically. Wherever there was a horse show in reasonable driving distance, Arletta attended.
Her grandchildren were continually well-mounted, collecting many horsemanship titles.
Riding all horses, Arletta had a fondness for Foxtrotters and become attracted to the Rocky Mountain breed for the spark and endurance .
She showed one of her Quarter Horses to collect a yearend highpoint award in the Kansas State Horse Show Circuit.
Say “Arletta,” and whoever it is responds: “horses.”
The words are synonymous for Arletta Flory’s vast network of friends throughout the Midwest, each with their own cherished memories of her and horses.