By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterSeptember 12, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 12, 2013) -- The Fort Rucker Riding Stables offers Families and Soldiers an experience that's hard to come by in this area, and Sept. 7 it offered a unique experience that dozens of Families won't soon forget.
The Ride, Swim, BBQ gave people a chance to saddle up their horses, ride to Buckhorn Lake and take a swim with their horses in the lake before heading back to the riding stables for food and fellowship, said Justin O. Mitchell, Fort Rucker deputy garrison commander.
"Horses are natural swimmers and they have a lot of fun in the water," he said. "It's a lot of fun to see the rider and the horse come together in the water, swim and play around."
The ride started at 9 a.m. as people gathered in front of the riding stables clubhouse for a safety brief, which Mitchell said is extremely important.
"Safety is critical," he said. "There's always danger when you're riding a horse, whether you're just trail riding and see a snake or run into a pothole. There's always a risk to riding a horses, so we made sure to talk about it."
Some of the topics discussed during the brief included making sure people were knowledgeable about their horse, remaining cognizant of their surroundings, never riding alone and open communication with other riders about possible risks.
"We want to make sure it's a safe, fun day," said Mitchell. "There's a lot of adrenaline because you never know what your horse is going to do. They may just paw at the water or they might leap right in."
From the safety brief, the riders headed out on their horses on two separate paths -- one for the more experience rider and one for the novice rider.
The experienced course took riders through a more wooded area with obstacles that the horse and rider had to traverse, while the novice trail took riders safely along the road, but both trails ended up at the lake.
Laura Sebren, retired military and long-time horse rider, learned first-hand to expect the unexpected when she entered the waters of Buckhorn Lake with her horse, Savannah.
She was one of the first to enter the water with her horse, and Savannah took to the water like second nature; going straight for the deep end. As Savannah started to swim, Sebren was almost pushed off her horse by the rushing water, but she was able to stay focused, hold on and keep her grip on the horse.
"It was so great," she said. "As soon as your horse drops off land and starts swimming, you get buoyed up by the water, so you have no contact with the horse except your hands on the mane."
As Sebren exited the water with Savannah, she promptly let everyone know to make sure they have a good grip if their horse starts to swim.
Riders took turns in groups of about three to take to the water with the help of Mitchell for those horses that were timid about entering the water. Some pawed at the water, some barely got their feet wet, but all agreed that they had a good time.
"I just think that this is so wonderful," said Sebren. "It's just a big fellowship that we have going on here and when we get a chance to get together like this with our horses and everybody, we're a big Family."
After the riders and horses had their fill of the swim, they all made the trek back to the riding stables to enjoy a barbeque and each other's company.
Mitchell said it's important for people to take advantage of all that is offered on Fort Rucker.
"This is a Family event and a lot of people don't realize all of the different things that we can do out here on Fort Rucker," he said. "It's a beautiful place and we have lots of facilities, and with events like this, the food and fellowship are critical because we work really hard sometimes, and sometimes it's nice to get to play really hard, talk with each other and enjoy each other's laughter."