“It could only be appropriately described as a dream come true.”
There were some who even proclaimed “beyond the wildest dreams.”
It was the 19th annual Dream Ride in the Flint Hills.
Sponsored by the Better Horses Network, bulk of the coordination legwork was done by The Horse Guy himself Ernie Rodina.
“This location is what brought everything together to be so special making the very best Dream Ride ever,” Rodina declared.
Warren and Susie Harshman hosted the ride and all of the many festivities with it at their Clover Cliff Ranch.
“This is truly the most beautiful place in the Flint Hills and the Hartman’s are fabulous hosts,” Rodina credited.
Located right off Highway 50 west of Strong City near Elmdale, the 4,000-acre Flint Hills ranch dates back to the 1860s. The elegant later-Victorian, Empire-style stone home was completed in 1883.
Only the fourth owners of the historic ranch, the Harshman’s operate it as a bed and breakfast with old fashioned hospitality.
“Guests can stay in the main home, or there are cabins nearby,” Rodina described. “They’ve added a beautiful pavilion to host meetings, banquets and family gatherings just the perfect place for all to gather.”
With Rodina and the Harshman’s, Suzan Barnes, proprietor of the Grand Central Hotel, was instrumental in the weekend harmonization, too.
More than 20 sponsors generosity provided stipends, services and products to help guarantee the success.
Pickups with living quarters trailers hauling horses of every shape and color started arriving Friday morning.
“We had about 75 horses with riders from throughout the Midwest,” Ernie said. “The hosts even provided horses for some who didn’t have their own.”
There was an Friday afternoon ride led by Christian horseman-trail boss Rex Buchman into the lush green Flint Hills. After a cookout supper, riders then could go into Cottonwood Falls and stroll Broadway listening to live musical entertainment.
While a few guests stayed in the hotel or guest facilities, most trail riders were emphatic to bunk in their campers. Some horses were provided overnight pens on the ranch, but most were tied or penned at their owner’s trailers.
Coffee pot was on at 7:30, Saturday, as additional riders checked in, and horses were saddled for a morning ride.
Air was chilly at first, making some mounts a bit frisk as riders followed behind trail boss Buchman marking the route. Sun occasionally peaked around light clouds in the blue sky creating a beautiful collage with green of the hills
Horse trainers and prominently recognized clinicians Curt Pate and Josh Rushing were among the trail riders. “They provided assistance and advice to any of the riders seeking it for and with their horses,” Rodina said. “Josh even brought his family with him and his children on their pony and miniature mule were a special attraction.”
A brisket dinner at the Clover Cliff Pavilion provided time for relaxation and visiting. Some sponsors informed about their horse health products, and there was a drawing for several useful prizes.
Back in the saddle again, trail riders walked hills and valleys, sometimes interweaving the elaborate disc golf course on the ranch.
Legs relaxed, horses fed and watered riders were on time for the steak supper prepared by chef Mark Burkdoll.
Geff and Dawn Dawson, cohost of the Better Horses Radio Show, entertained with cowboy stories, poetry, music and songs.
Carolyn Kaberline and Frank Buchman were inducted into the Better Horses Hall of Fame. Both horse owners, breeders and exhibitors in their own right, they’re recognized writers about horses and horse people.
Serving as a benefit for the American Association of Equine Practitioners, cowboy poet Ron McDaniel of Merck Animal Health introduced veterinarians reminiscing true unique client stories.
As soon as the horses were cared for Sunday morning, trail riders had coffee and gathered for church services. Chef Burkdoll was then anxiously ready to serve up the cowboy-cowgirl breakfast in fitting style.
“Saddle up,” Rodina coaxed, soon followed by trail boss Rex Buchman announcing “Get mounted; let’s go ride the green pastures.”
Noon came; it was officially time to “break camp.” Still with already three days in the saddle plus all of the extra fun, nobody was anxious to head home.
“Mark your calendars,” Rodina advised. “The 20th annual Dream Ride in the Flint Hills will be right here at the Clover Cliff Ranch Bed & Breakfast.
“Thank you Warren and Susie Harshman for making our dreams come true. We’ll be back here in 2019, the first weekend of September. See you then.”