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Horse riders take to Riverside State Park for Easter service

The tall Ponderosa pines of Riverside State Park were an outdoor sanctuary for a group ride to the first Easter on horseback service at the park Sunday.

Organizer Teresa York and her horse, River, were ready at about 10 a.m. to lead the group of about 20 horses and riders and another 10 people on foot. With her boots tight in the stirrups and River dancing in anticipation, this was her chance to combine her favorite things: horses and worship.

“It’s always been on my bucket list to ride my horse to church,” York said.

Retired pastor Joel Crosby likened the religious ride to the early days of the West. The Presbyterian minister – now a commercial real estate agent – delivered his sermon near the Bowl and Pitcher.

Crosby is a self-proclaimed weekend cowboy, boarding his horse, Magic, until he gets a free day to ride.

“When you ride, it’s a very primal experience. You sort of get away from the technology and hubbub,” Crosby said. “And you have this great relationship with your horse in the great outdoors.”

The service was a get-together for people, but horses got their share of socialization while the group amassed. Charly stayed cheek-to-cheek with Mo, while their riders, Kathy Bodrock and Jodi Roy, talked.

“He’s my red-hair, freckle-face kid,” Bodrock said of Charly. “He wants to go play with the other horses.”

This is the first year a worship service has been paired with horseback riding at the park, and Bodrock was thrilled.

“You don’t feel guilty missing church or playing with your horse,” she said.

It’s a 30-minute ride along a horse trail from the park’s equestrian area to the Bowl and Pitcher. During the service, the horses were tethered between two trees nearby.

There were familiar faces of friends who frequently ride together as well as newcomers participating in the event, possibly lured by the promise of pleasant temperatures. To ride on a day with clear blue skies, York said, “There was a lot of prayer involved with that.”

No matter the weather, however, York is riding, and “rain, shine or cold – I’m out there with her,” Roy said.

The service featured Nathan Smith on guitar and a cross made of welded horseshoes, York said. She plans on organizing another Easter on horseback event next year.