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About ATRA

 

The founder of ATRA was the late Jane Bess, a fiery little redheaded Arabian breeder/exhibitor from Batesville, AR. She had moved to Arkansas with her husband and daughters from California. While in California, she had competed in endurance rides.

The summer of 1981 Jane Bess sponsored the first ever competitive trail ride in Arkansas, sanctioned by the North American Trail Riding Conference (NATRC). She did 95% of it by herself. Jane then decided to get a group of trail riders together to form a club that would not only sponsor and promote competitive trail riding but would also act as a voice to the various state and national government agencies concerning the approval, construction and maintenance of horse trails and campgrounds in Arkansas. The group would promote the breeding and use of good, sound, well-mannered trail horses. ATRA was born.

For the first years, Jane and Delta Arabians subsidized ATRA. She was President and Treasurer, wrote the newsletters and ran the pleasure and competitive trail rides. We still use the vests she had made for the competitive trail rides. Years later, ATRA was able to repay $1000 to Jane, but she provided much more than that during those first, critical years.

Many people today have no idea how much ATRA has done to promote horse trails in this state. When ATRA was officially established in 1983 there were 2 public equestrian trails in the state: Pea Ridge and Devil's Den. Devil's Den had no marking and no map. Marking and mapping those trails became ATRA's first project. The two competitive trail rides held at that site spurred rider interest in the Northwest Arkansas area. This type of activity has been repeated throughout Arkansas. Jane Bess started ATRA members going to Arkansas Trails Council meetings. We learned how to "play the game" when working with governmental agencies to promote equestrian trail projects. With a growing membership, we started identifying local groups of interested people to adopt specific trail projects. Among them are: Moccasin Gap, Sorghum Hollow, Bear Creek, Buffalo National River, Beaver Lake (Hobbs), Mill Creek, and Burns Park. Often it wasn't possible for everyone, as individuals, to do significant physical work on each trail. It takes a small dedicated local cadre that can work frequently to sustain a project, but we tried to share our expertise in working with the agencies and provided moral support from afar.

Arkansas has grown from two horse camp/trails in the state to more than fifteen! All of these areas would not exist today if not for ATRA and its membership. And even though more of today's members are pleasure riders and not competitors, it was the competitive trail riders who started the club and started the acquisition of trails in our state. ATRA will always owe them for getting it all started.

ATRA welcomes all trail riders, from the competitive rider to the pleasure rider, as we all have the same goal: riding beautiful trails in Arkansas.

 

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