The River Trail Riders Saddle Club arena boasts a long history as part of the state’s oldest riding club, according to club treasurer and longtime member Jean Birch.

The arena’s first open horse show galloped through in 1963 after the club was organized in Feb. 1949 and incorporated in 1957, as stated in Volume One of the Verndale Historical Society history books. For a number of years beginning in 1968, the arena also hosted one of the seven quarter horse shows in partnership with the Wadena County Fairgrounds.

The club operated as a family organization, with family units joining in horse riding as well as the work of feeding and hosting people at all-day events, Birch says. The club would also rent a trailer for a day of trail riding and a picnic.

After presenting their horses to the Western Saddle Club Association judge Malinda Dexter, exhibitors lined up their horses for a quality inspection during a competition in June. (Rebecca Mitchell / Generations)
After presenting their horses to the Western Saddle Club Association judge Malinda Dexter, exhibitors lined up their horses for a quality inspection during a competition in June. (Rebecca Mitchell / Generations)

Today, people still come to the Verndale arena to participate in horse shows. Atop their horses, friends and competitors warm up in the grassy area outside the arena gates, comparing shows and discussing their qualifications.

Andi Hanninen (right) from Sebeka participated in the leadline 6 and under event. (Rebecca Mitchell / Generations)
Andi Hanninen (right) from Sebeka participated in the leadline 6 and under event. (Rebecca Mitchell / Generations)

There are currently 13 family units and 19 individual members in the saddle club, according to Birch. Members can ride and practice in the arena, and the club holds meetings on the first Wednesday of the month. The horse shows, barrel races and fun shows are open to everyone regardless of membership.

Visit the River Trail Riders Saddle Club Facebook page for more information.

Arena address: 19354 150th St., Verndale