Trail Ride for Scholarships

Around 8:30 am Sunday, Oct. 9, trucks pulling horse trailers will start arriving at Mary and Philip Bley’s farm on County Highway T in West Jacksonport for the annual Door County 4-H Horse & Pony Project Trail Ride.

By that time, the coffee will be hot, the juice will be cold and the cinnamon rolls will be ready for the 75 or so horsemen and women who will spend two to three hours winding through the fields and woods of West Jacksonport.

Mary Bley expects people to arrive early, especially those coming from as far away as Milwaukee, Sheboygan and Green Bay.

Sisters Annie, Lucy and Sadie Bley pose for a photo before heading out on the Door County Horse & Pony Project’s Fall Trail Ride.

Bley grew up riding horses, and her five kids have been around horses since before they could walk. The four girls all rode horses in 4-H at one point, with three of them continuing through high school and college.

Like other alumni of the Horse & Pony Project, the girls will ride Sunday, taking their horses and those of others through land they’ve known their whole lives.

People with kids who rode in the program continue to help with the ride, Bley said, and through their help and that of others the ride becomes a community event, not just a Horse & Pony event.

Each year the trail runs a different route, and Bley said the residents of West Jacksonport are integral in the ride.

“I don’t know where else we could do this,” she said. “Our neighbors are amazing to let us cross their land.”

Those neighbors also helped Philip Bley clear trails following the windstorm that rolled through the county. The clean-up crew spent nearly 20 hours removing fallen trees from the trail.

So of all the places to have a ride, why West Jacksonport? The answer is relatively simple: The ride used to run through the Ahnapee Trail in Sturgeon Bay, but 15 years ago it moved north, primarily because of the trails Jacksonport has to offer, Bley said. This is the 11th year the Bleys have hosted the ride. Prior to that Billy and Patty Bley had the honor, just a few miles east in Jacksonport.

The Trail Ride starts at 10 am on Sunday, with registration beginning at 9 am. Registration costs $15, and riders must have helmets and horses must have negative Coggins test. The registration fee includes a meal after the ride.

The group also has 50/50 and Chinese Raffles and door prizes. For $5 extra, riders can also participate in a scavenger hunt.

Those who don’t want to ride can stop by the Bley Farm to check out the ride for free, and if they would like to eat, donations are appreciated.

Proceeds from the ride go to the Door County Horse & Pony Project’s scholarship fund, but the 4-Hers put the ride on for more than the money.

“The kids and families work hard all summer with the horses, and they deserve a day of fun at the end of the season,” Bley said.