Mark Ward of Woodbury, Minnesota, has been around horses most of his life, but it was the sport of eventing many years later that really grabbed him by the reins.
Mark was on a return trip to Roebke’s Run in Hector, Minnesota, with his wife, Katie Clapp, granddaughter Louisa Ward and five other competitors from his riding stable at Windy Ridge Ranch.
“I always enjoyed jumping and dressage and didn’t even know about eventing until I went to watch my sister-in-law compete,” Mark explains. “What impressed me were the rules eventing has that prevent people from abusing their horses in any way. It is a standard in eventing and not a standard in other forms of competition.
“The first time I witnessed it, I thought I could really enjoy this kind of show because everybody is taking such good care of their horses; the rules require you treat your horse really well. I also like the way everyone behaves at these shows, it makes it a lot of fun. Everyone is congratulatory when you win and helpful when you need help.”
Ward took first place honors in the Training Division on his Irish Sport horse, Juniper, as did Windy Ridge teammate Molly Prytz in the Beginner Novice class with her horse, Ruby.
Second place honors went to Windy Ridge’s Louisa Ward on Raja and Stella Ryan on Kestrel in the Beginner Novice and Starter divisions. Samantha LeTourneau and her horse, Cody, captured a third place in the Training division.
Windy Ridge Ranch, east of St. Paul, offers group riding lessons, a leasing program and other fun riding activities for students. It is home to 45 well-mannered schooling horses.
“I’ve been riding horses for 60 years, I’m 65,” Marks says. “I’ve been eventing for the past seven years and have been teaching riding lessons for 38 years. I’m really glad I get to compete with the younger riders; it keeps me young. This is actually a hobby for me and my wife. We don’t improve, show and sell horses; we just keep them. We try to get to as many shows as we can get to in the Midwest. Louisa, at age 13, will be riding in Novice at the next show — she no doubt will excel beyond my abilities.
“This course is beautiful, challenging and a lot of fun. It was the perfect level for me and my horse. We both like cross country jumping. I can tell, she gets pretty charged up, and I can ride her with a very light rein. I do a lot of training and take many riding lessons from five other instructors and attend schooling shows to train for this. I have to work really hard to stay in condition for this. This course was a good test for us.
“When I’m here, I really enjoy talking to the Schweisses. Everyone is so nice to me, it adds a lot to the attraction here. I think the whole family is outstanding and with all the work they put into this impressive facility.”
Mark Ward was named the Minnesota Horseperson of the Year, joining many others since the program was started a quarter-century ago as a way to honor some of the outstanding people in the horse industry — those who stand out from the rest for their contributions to equine and youth activity.
All year, people in the horse industry can nominate people who they think deserve this honor. The selected person is honored at the Minnesota Horse Council Annual Meeting in January. A plaque honoring this person is placed in the “Horseman’s Hall of Fame” on the wall at the entrance to the Coliseum on the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.