Vivian Gardner braids her horse’s tail before the 2020 Lometa Benefit Trail Ride. CHRIS YBARRA | DISPATCH RECORD
Vivian Gardner braids her horse’s tail before the 2020 Lometa Benefit Trail Ride. CHRIS YBARRA | DISPATCH RECORD

The fresh morning dew wet the boots and hooves of riders and their horses as they arrived at Lometa Regional Park early Saturday morning. One by one, riders drove in with their trailers, their horses adorned with all sorts of purple decorations for the 2020 Lometa Benefit Trail Ride to aid the Lometa Senior Center.

“I do it because the senior center doesn’t get any funding,” event coordinator Buck Hawes said. “To keep it running, we have to do something, whether it be collect money or get people to do it [the ride]. This is also a way to bring the community together.

The event had no age limit, as Hawes said organizers "really just want to have everybody included.

“This is a good thing -- every racer is out here, from all over the place,” Hawes added. “We have males, females, everybody, so this is a good thing. We have all sorts of breeds of horses out here."

Riders took off from the park around 9:30 a.m. and rode approximately 15 miles from Lometa to the Colorado River in Bend. Along the way, riders took part in various events, such as weaving between tires while mounted, hauling 5-gallon buckets of water from the river and even firing a BB gun at lightbulbs.

“Each rider has a point sheet that they use for each event,” Hawes said. “They accrue points with that. For each station they get so many points, and the grand prize is $1,000.”

In addition, riders hunted for envelopes along the trail, each containing varying amounts of fake money that were exchanged at the end of the ride for real money.

The ride also had a competition for which rider and horse had the most purple, with the winner claiming a special prize.

Hawes said this event will be the last one he coordinates, as he is moving to West Virginia.

“This is year number five [of leading the trail ride] for me,” Hawes said. “I’m retired military, serving 25 years. I’ve lived here in Lometa for about four and a half years. I am 100% retired, and I have a small business called Purple Tack Trail Rides, which I’ve been running for the past 10 years.”

Hawes developed the benefit trail ride not only to help the senior center, but also to help bring the equine community closer.

“I’m participating in the trail ride because it’s a benefit,” rider Vivian Gardner said. “We came to ride and help support. I actually got sponsored to come ride here by someone who paid Buck.

“Horses mean a lot to me, especially since I rodeo a lot,” Gardner added. “It’s something that is really important in my life, something that I will take with me throughout my career outside of high school, and it’s a really good relationship, especially between me and Pepsi [her horse].”