Latest shutdown casualty: Equine event loses permit

A two-day competitive trail ride that attracted equine competitors from around the West was driven off by the federal shutdown.

“A lot of the competitors would be on their way today,” said Sharon Roeper, ride manager for the event this weekend. Instead, they’re staying in New Mexico, Arizona and on the Front Range.

The cancellation of the Rabbit Valley Competitive Trail Ride is reminiscent of the Bureau of Land Management’s rejection of already approved plans for the Rocky Mountain Collegiate Mountain Biking Championships in Bangs Canyon last weekend.

In that case, the university sought and was denied a federal court order to go ahead with the event.

In the case of the bicycle races, however, organizers received a call telling them the BLM was cancelling the championships because of the federal shutdown.

Not so with the equine event, Roeper said.

She learned the event was off when a BLM ranger with whom she had worked in the past returned her phone call from his personal cellphone.

” ‘I think I’m the bearer of bad news,’ ” Roeper said the ranger told her. “‘Your event has been cancelled.’

“I have not heard from anybody since. He indicated he was surprised I hadn’t been notified.”

Roeper had been trying to run down information because she had obtained insurance coverage for the event, which was required by the BLM, on Oct. 1, the first day of the shutdown.

She took the insurance policy to the BLM office at 2815 H Road only to find the office closed, Roeper said.

The ride, which is the last one of the year for region 3 of the North American Trail Ride Conferences, had attracted 60 riders and as many as 40 volunteers, Roeper said.

“It takes a slew of people to put on a ride like this,” she said.

The organization paid $150 for the permit and laid out $2,000 in other costs but the riders were to pay $5 per person on each of both days to use the trails.

That’s money the BLM won’t get, “so they shot themselves in the foot all the way around,” Roeper said. “It costs them nothing to let us do it, but it costs them a bunch if we don’t.”

In the competition, horse and rider negotiate 20- to 30-mile loops each day. Though the rides are timed, participants also are judged by a veterinarian on their handling of their mounts and by other judges on their horsemanship.

Though some suggested conducting the trail ride anyway, “my feeling is that we get a permit for a reason and we want to cooperate with the local agency,” she said.

Roeper and perhaps 20 other riders will be on the course in any case this weekend, picking up ribbons that mark the trail, as required by the permit.

Those are the same trails that riders helped build and maintain, Roeper said. The organization also contributed money toward the parking area and corrals used in the competition.

“We add a lot of value to our public lands,” Roeper said.


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