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PALMYRA - Nestled in the heart of the Southern Kettle Moraine State Forest is the home of one of the most beautiful equestrian campgrounds and trail systems in the state that is well known by riders from all over the Midwest.

Horseriders Campground is located one mile south of Palmyra on Little Prairie Road. Easily accessible and easy to find, once there, visitors will enjoy staying at one of over 50 available campsites with amenities including electricity, shower house, and flush toilets along with access to 54 miles of bridle trails. Trails include a variety of terrain, several picnic sites, a developed obstacle course trail, and even offer access to several local horse-friendly restaurants and businesses offering corrals or hitching posts for their four-legged patrons.

The campground lies within the State Forest and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) owns and manages the property. However, the campground and adjacent trails have benefited greatly from a volunteer base of area equestrians passionate about its care.

One such local group, Southern Kettle Moraine Horse Trail Association (SKMHTA) has spearheaded a multitude of projects over the years, in coordinated efforts with the DNR. With SKMTA managing projects, including all of the fundraising, the campground now boasts many improvements such as: electricity on 29 campsites and the covered park pavilion; hitching posts; group fire pits; mounting blocks, color coded maps, and well-marked trails — made possible by donations and installed by volunteers.

In another long-awaited project, SKMHTA has begun installing permanent horse corrals on campsites and has planned to add two 12’ x 12’ corrals at each of eight campsites in 2018. (Additional corrals will be added as funding is received.)

SKMHTA President, Tara  LeRoy, states “The addition of permanent horse corrals will encourage a broader range of horse enthusiasts, encourage more users to visit, and allow a safe and secure area for horses to stay.”

With so many features to offer, it is not surprising the Palmyra campground is host to many annual events for local groups. However, it’s also able to routinely lure visitors from surrounding states and annually hosts more Endurance Rides than any other location in the entire Midwest.

The most recent event was held over a very rainy Mother’s Day weekend, during weather that would ordinarily leave campgrounds empty. Despite the cold and rainy weather, 54 participants still camped and competed over the weekend.

Jen Moore was one of those competitors and says, “I travel from La Crosse three times a year to compete and camp at Horserider's Campground. I love all of the amenities there including the bath house, pavilion, high ties and electric sites. I also love that there is a great group of active members of the horse club there that takes such good care of the park and trails. I'm super excited about the new pens going in!! And the trails! I love the beautiful and challenging trails!”

Ride managers also love the comfort and convenience of the campground, making it an easy choice when it comes to deciding where to do their events – Elinore Tonsor helps manage rides there every year and shared this: “I love the pavilion…I've been riding and managing rides there for 40 plus years. Love the fact that the park never closes due to rain. Makes life much easier for the ride managers. The new park ranger has been very easy to work with, and we appreciate her help.” 

Endurance riding

Roxi Welling, another recent visitor with over 9,600 endurance miles earned in competition — many of those miles obtained on Palmyra’s trails over the years - competed here in May and stated “I travel from Sidney, Iowa. I enjoy the trails, vet care and ride management and we like having Palmyra so close for convenience of forgotten items or a burger.” 

Endurance riding is a unique and challenging sport, where horse and rider work as a team to complete a set trail course, within the allotted time parameters and horses are under the watchful eye of ride veterinarians. Although Arabian horses are the most common breed used in endurance, horses of any breed may participate, as long as minimum age and veterinary requirements are met.

Ride lengths can vary, with the most common being 25-mile limited distance or competitive trail rides and 50, 75, or 100-mile endurance rides. Participants of all ages ride with junior riders requiring an adult sponsor to accompany them. It’s not unusual to see adults riding with their children and grandchildren competing together and enjoying the camaraderie of a weekend of camping, pot luck dinners and riding.  

Events

The events are sanctioned by both American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC), which is the national governing body for endurance riding and Upper Midwest Endurance & Competitive Ride Association (UMECRA), the regional sanctioning body for endurance rides held in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Also offered in conjunction with these rides are Competitive Driving events, sanctioned by the Midwest Distance Driving Association (MDDA). 

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Upcoming events at the campground will include the annual “Bonecrusher” Endurance Ride will be held on July 28-29 and offers 30-mile, 50-mile and 75-mile rides and a12-mile novice ride, 12-mile drive, and 25-mile limited distance and competitive rides. 

Contact ride manager Amber Erickson at endurochiro3@gmail.com for more information.

Saturday, Sept. 15th SKMHTA will hold its Annual Fall Fundraiser at Horseriders campground with all proceeds going towards future improvements at the campground. This annual event draws more than 100 participants annually and is the group’s primary fundraising source.

For more information, www.skmhta.com 

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