It was actually Becki Sams, the manager of the animal shelter, who took Ruthanne on her first mule ride in July of 2016, and as they say, the rest is history.
Seventeen-year-old Oklahoma native Ruthanne Hansen is an enterprising young lady with grit, determination and a plan. An avid and compassionate animal lover, Ruthanne and her mom Bernadette began volunteering at the City of Pryor Creek Rockin “G” Animal Shelter in May of 2016. Ruthanne began her riding career with Carol McCurdy, who gave her a good foundation on safety and the basics.
In February 2017 Ruthanne transitioned from volunteer to employee at Pryor Creek, an easy decision for Becki, given Ruthanne’s above and beyond work ethic. Recognizing Ruthanne’s gift for dog training Becki inquired if she would be willing to exchange some farm work for riding lessons, as her friend Pam Bennett, was looking for a working student. Ruthanne jumped at the chance.
At the beginning Ruthanne worked two days a week with Pam but in no time progressed to three and four days a week. Ruthanne shared with Pam that her goal was to be able to ride cross country. While Pam readily admitted she knew very little about that, she did know that if Ruthanne wanted to compete in cross country she had a lot to learn. They began by taking away her saddle and putting Ruthanne on a bareback pad and lunge line to strengthen her legs and seat and work on becoming a balanced rider. Ruthanne’s next progression with Pam was to learn to ride in an English saddle, beginning with walk trot, learning diagonals and how to post. In time, Ruthanne began to learn to jump with NASMA member Sherri Pledger’s eight-year-old mule LVF Elegance By Rhythm (Miss Daisy) who was the perfect teacher. At Pam’s urging Ruthanne joined NASMA which allowed her to attend shows, log VTP hours, hone her riding skills and make many new friends.
Just about the time Ruthanne became an employee at Pryor Creek and a working student for Pam, Ruthanne’s family bought a small farm. For Ruthanne that meant only one thing, she could finally have a mule or donkey. Her chance to realize that dream came when Pam and Sherri purchased three-year-old gray Foxtrotter/Quarter Horse Molly, named “Reba”. Sherri’s prize-winning Jack LVF’s Rhythm Nation had covered a number of mares three years ago and Reba, now known as Cheyenne, was the result of one of those breeding’s. The plan was for Pam and Sherri to take this LVF daughter and train her to sell her to an appropriate home. After some consideration, Ruthanne’s was that perfect home. A fondness for gray’s led Ruthanne to strike a deal with her parents to purchase Cheyenne, and they agreed, if she paid for EVERYTHING.
Cheyenne stayed at Pam’s until the pasture fencing at Ruthanne’s was completed. Only halter broke, Ruthanne was bound and determined to teach Cheyenne as much as she could. With many hours of work and Pam’s guidance Ruthanne and Cheyanne are well on their way to forming a true partnership.
As we all know horse ownership is costly, a lesson this young equestrian is learning firsthand. Thanks to NASMA’s Youth Program and the donations of award buckets by generous NASMA members, Ruthanne has been able to offset some of her cost with the awards she has won.
This talented young rider is attracting the eye of other trainers. At the 2017 Ozark Mule Days, Ruthanne catch rode for KS Show Mules of Wilburton, OK. There she rode trainer Kristen Stolee’s mule Just Andy in the 18 and Under Mulemanship Championship for the win. All done on a borrowed mule and a borrowed saddle. Ruthanne may be a neophyte in the show world but she is demonstrating she is a determined and talented young equestrian.
With everyone’s help Ruthanne is now able to ride Cheyenne on trails and around the neighborhood. She hopes to enter her in her first walk trot class soon. Ruthanne’s ultimate goal is for her and Cheyenne to compete in Cross Country together, but for now she is just happy to see her best friend in the backyard every morning. Grateful for everyone’s assistance Ruthanne looks forward to seeing what the future holds for her and Cheyenne.
The North American Saddle Mule Association Youth was established by the Board of Directors in 1996 to provide an organization for youth in the Saddle Mule industry to have the opportunity to earn recognition for their efforts on behalf of the Saddle Mule, to provide financial assistance for the pursuit of higher education and to provide an atmosphere in which youth can learn positive values through trail riding, family activities and competition.
Youth is defined anyone eighteen years and younger. Membership in NASMA Youth is available for $20 per year and all youth are encouraged to participate in all youth programs.
Each year, two $500-dollar scholar ships are awarded to NASMA seniors in high school who have met certain criteria and will be continuing their education. NASMA believes that NASMA Youth are the future of the Association and will continue our efforts to promote protect and enjoy the Saddle Mule in the future.
For a complete listing of upcoming NASMA Shows, Trail rides and other events you can go to www.nasma.us
Photos by Reflecting HIS Image Photography