The equestrian campground is a valuable asset to Robbers Cave State Park.
There are about 9.2 million horses in the United States, and roughly 326,001 of them are in Oklahoma. More than 70 percent of the horses are involved in showing and recreational activities.
About 117,900 Oklahomans are engaged in the industry as horse owners, service providers, employees or volunteers, and they require or produce goods and services valued at $766 million annually.
So how did Robbers Cave State Park acquire the great facilities we have? The answer is the Oklahoma Equestrian Trail Riders Association. For the story of how that came about, I'd like to introduce you to Lesa O'Hair. She's one of the key people with the OETRA and she knows the history of the organization. The following is taken from her narrative.
In the early 1970s a group of horse riders desired a special place to ride their horses and camp out. They regularly rode together and from that affiliation was born the Oklahoma Equestrian Trail Riders Association.
Ivone Nail began riding in the park, scouting out areas for equestrian trails. She had an amazing sense of direction and the ability to carve out beautiful paths that were ecologically friendly. And now, years later, those same trails are used and enjoyed by horse riding enthusiasts from many states.
Ivone, now in her golden years, continues to advise and teach younger OETRA members how to build trails that will stand the test of time.
Mary Ben Marshall, who turned 90 in December, has been riding and helping with trails her entire life. Recently she had hip and knee surgery, but all she wants to know from her doctor is when she can get back in the saddle.
Cecil Barnard, who's also 90, often tells stories about the early days when folks camped in tents, or slept in the open in the meadow that's now the campground. He talks about people lining up and filling buckets with the artisan well water for their horses and themselves. The artisan water still flows.
To contact the organization and join the group, go to www.oetra.com.
Daniel Parks works as evening park attendant at Robbers Cave State Park. He is also the volunteer Scout camp coordinator.