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Saddle Club offers disappearing experience
The 10 acres surrounding the Kitsap Saddle Club in South Kitsap harken to the past. A dusty horse corral. Cut grass that smells perfectly of summer. Trails and woods.
Tim Byrd, the President of the Kitsap Saddle Club, knows spaces and lands such as these are harder and harder to find, even in South Kitsap.
“Places to ride are fewer and farther between,” Byrd said, dusting off his 12-year-old horse, Brisco. “To have a spot like this in town is pretty handy.”
The Saddle Club is located at 1470 Saddle Club Road. It is essentially a social organization for all things horses. Whether it’s hosting state horse gaming competitions, allowing local 4-H organizations to ride their horses on Saddle Club land or even members using the corral space on weeknights after work, the Saddle Club is the spot. The club has 87 members ranging in age from 3 to 90. One of two equestrian organizations in Kitsap County, it is part of the Washington Horseman’s Club, a state lobbying group meant to support horseman’s rights, the Kitsap Saddle Club’s main goal is to raise awareness of horse activities.
“We preach good horsemanship and good sportsmanship,” said Sharron Call, a longtime member and the club’s finance officer. “We are a family organization.”
Byrd said the club spends a lot of time helping horse owners adapt to the changing landscape of South Kitsap. Not long ago, he said, horses used to ride up and down the streets of Manchester, and there were hundreds of acres of forested area to ride in Kitsap County. Now, the club tries to educate horse owners on water quality issues, mud reduction and other regulations that have come to the area along with the increasing population moving into Kitsap County.
According to Byrd, Kitsap County has more members in the Washington Horesman’s Club than any other county in the state. Keeping the horse owning population educated on changing laws is important.
“We are one of the more equine populated places in the state,” he said. “We have a real healthy population.”
Members that pay the $43 yearly membership fee receive full access to the 10 acres of land. They can also use the club’s equipment to train for various horse competitions. From English Saddle Riding to jumping, many of the club’s members compete in a variety of different horse sports.
“We help with the competitive arm of equestrians,” Call said. “We have a broad spectrum of disciplines that you don’t always know about.”
The Kitsap Saddle Club hosts nine large events throughout the year. The public and other horse owners are welcome to attend, Bryd said, to get a feel for the events.
Though the Kitsap Saddle Club doesn’t offer any sort of training or classes, Byrd said the camaraderie of the group goes a long way to helping improve horse sport skills.
Byrd’s wife, Trisha, and their 10-year-old horse Jet are two-time state champions in gaming. Other members have competed at the national level in horse gaming competitions held in St. Louis every year.
“We provide a place for riders to come test their skills,” he said.
Most importantly, Byrd said, the Saddle Club is a place for families to learn and be together around the horses they own. Each member talks about their experience growing up with horses and the responsibility and leadership that spending time around horses can teach. Byrd fears that less land and more development will take away from that important experience.
“Any more there are too many houses,” he said. “You have to put your horse in a truck and bring them to a place.”
Byrd is glad the Saddle Club, with 10 acres of grass and fences, is that place where kids and adults can enjoy horses. At the very least, he said, it’s a great time to get in the open air.
“It’s nice to get the horse out of the barn,” he said.