One of the best ways to explore Northwest Nebraska is on horseback, and with the return of the annual Ride the Ridge event June 19, residents and visitors have the opportunity to see some of the most scenic areas of Fort Robinson State Park while enjoying the camaraderie of fellow horsemen and women.
While a state park permit is required, the trail ride itself is free. The event is back after being cancelled for just the second time in history in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Local horseman Ken Garner has been selected as this year’s Trail Boss and will lead the ride, which usually attracts around 100 riders. The Dawes County Veterans Honor Guard members will serve as Honorary Trail Bosses.
Garner, who spent 23 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, served two tours in Vietnam after growing up on a ranch in the Sandhills. Upon retirement from the military as a master gunnery sergeant, he went to work for a government contractor, eventually retiring to Northwest Nebraska. Garner began working with Ride the Ridge almost immediately after settling in the area.
“It’s a chance to get out and ride the hills,” he said. “And it’s good for the area. It gives us a chance to get people here from out-of-state to see what Northwest Nebraska has."
He and his wife, Deborah, own the LZ and board horses for college students and other local residents. During the academic year, he can have nearly 40 horses on his place.
The Dawes County Veterans Honor Guard members will be recognized as Honorary Trail Bosses in a nod to their military service. The Honor Guard was originally formed in the 1940s by the American Legion Post 12 but has evolved to include veterans honorably discharged from any of the armed forces who belong to the local American Legion, VFW or DAV. The Honor Guard currently has 19 members who provide military funeral rites for veterans, lead local parades, present the colors at various events, participate in Memorial Day, Veterans Day and Independence Day activities and conduct ceremonies for the proper disposal of the American flag.
“Ride the Ridge has always been a great way for horse lovers to enjoy Northwest Nebraska, and we’re thrilled to have it back on the calendar this year,” said Discover Northwest Nebraska Director Kerri Rempp. “We know riders from across the state, as well as from Colorado, Kansas and New York are already planning to attend, and I have little doubt they will fall in love with Northwest Nebraska.”
Registration for Ride the Ridge will be June 19, beginning at 8 a.m., with the morning trail ride scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Signs will be posted at the park to direct riders to the registration point. Riders will break for lunch on their own and can choose to take another trail ride in the afternoon at 1 p.m. or enjoy watching the Cowboy Mounted Shooters at the Fort Robinson arena. Pre-registration for riders overnighting at the park will be offered June 18 from 5-7 p.m. at the Mare Barns. For more information, follow Ride the Ridge on Facebook or contact Don at 308-432-3841 or Tom at 308-430-5333.
- Kerri Rempp, Northwest Nebraska Tourism