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Posted May 7, 2009 | Copyright © The Northern Virginia Daily
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Hoofin' it: Club brings horse lovers together

Randy Fadely and Ellie Hamman ride
Randy Fadely, on his horse, Montana, and Ellie Hamman, on her horse, Bourbon, ride along a stretch of road at Uncle Toms Park in Jerome. The Shenandoah Trail Riding and Horseman's Association will hold a St. Jude's Children's Hospital benefit ride on May 17 at 10:30 a.m. at the park. Rich Cooley/Daily

Fadely and Hamman ride for St. Jude's
Fadely, left, and Hamman are among the club's members who will ride for the upcoming benefit for St. Jude's. Rich Cooley/Daily

Randy Fadely and Ellie Hamman on their horses
Randy Fadely, left, on his horse, Montana, and Ellie Hamman, on her horse, Bourbon, ride along this stretch of rode at Uncle Tom's Park in Jerome. The Shenandoah Trail Riding and Horseman’s Association will hold a St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital benefit ride on May 17 at 10:30 a.m. at Uncle Toms Park at Jerome.

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By Preston Knight -- pknight@nvdaily.com

EDINBURG -- If these horses could talk.

Unless one is disguised as Mr. Ed, they can't -- not that he really could strike up a conversation anyway (sorry, Wilbur) -- which may bode well for members of the Shenandoah Trail Riders and Horseman's Association. When this group convenes for the occasional monthly ride, good-natured ribbing and plenty of stories can be expected, members said. They have to pass the time somehow, although it flies since they're having fun.

"I just enjoy, for the most part, people that are involved in it," said Bob Kerns, a founding member from the late 1980s. "They all seem to get along well."

The club's name spells out its reason for existing -- to give people who enjoy riding horses a chance to meet others. And once a year, the club goes beyond just helping itself to benefit St. Jude's Children's Hospital.

At 10:30 a.m. May 17, the association will hold its annual benefit ride at Uncle Toms Park at Jerome. It's classified as an easy, two-hour ride, with few rocks and some shallow water.

A minimum donation of $5 is required, and lunch is provided. All proceeds will go to St. Jude's, and the club always makes certain it is at least $500, president Randy Fadely said.

"The club loses money," he said, referring to feeding those involved.

Ellie Hamman, the ride coordinator, said this is the eighth year the club has sponsored the benefit ride. Some of the 65-70 members come strictly for this event, she said.

"We're providing some help in research to fight cancer," Hamman said.

She owns 11 horses and has been riding since her childhood. That's the case for the majority of the club members -- Kerns, for example, grew up in Northern Virginia around a farm, until "progress" pushed the countryside, and his horse riding, out. He relocated to Woodstock and has gotten back into riding, making the club, in essence, a chance for adults like him to relive memories of their youth.

"I just enjoy horses," Kerns said. "They're a wonderful animal. ... Horses are like people. They're all individuals, that's for sure."

The Shenandoah Valley has a number of scenic trail rides, which is why, in 1988, a group of riders decided to form a club, according to the association's Web site. It has sponsored more than 350 rides in the last 15 years, with many of them in the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest.

There are some rides on private property, too. Kerns said the association tries to ride about twice a month.

The types of trails vary, allowing children to maneuver some easily while others take people on rocky mountain terrain, the site states. The local 4-H club is often invited to join on the easier rides.

Duration of rides are from two to eight hours (some are overnight), with the average number of riders about 15. As many as 50 people have been known to join a ride, though, the site states.

The club participates in a number of activities, too, including parades, an annual competitive ride, the Shenandoah 25, sponsored by the Eastern Competitive Trail Ride Association, spring and fall judge trail rides and more. The next judged trail ride, in fact, is Saturday at Walnut Hill Farm in Maurertown. Pre-registration is complete and was the only way to register, however.

Family membership for one year in the club costs $15. A single membership costs $10. The club publishes a quarterly newsletter that lists the trail rides and activities.

The club is always looking for more participants, members said. Fadely, a member for 15-20 years, said people need to check out a ride for themselves to see what the club has to offer.

"If they don't come back," Fadely said, "they're not really a rider."

For more information on the club and how to join, visit www.strha.org. To register for the fundraiser, call Hamman at 984-4332.

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