MONTANA’S OLDEST INCORPORATED SADDLE CLUB (FOUNDED IN 1938)
TRAIL RIDES -- O-MOK-SEES SOCIALS – COMMUNITY SERVICES
The oldest incorporated saddle club in Montana, Helena Trail Riders (HTR) was organized in 1938 as a pleasure-riding group. Under the leadership of its first president, cowboy artist, Shorty Shope, the “by invitation only” membership was a mere 25 people.
In 1940 the club opened its membership to the public and branched out into the field of competitive riding events. In 1944, HTR originated the sport of pattern horse racing known as O-Mok-See (Blackfeet Indian for “riding big”). O-Mok-See subsequently was adopted by the MT Saddle Clubs Assn. and went on to become a National event in 1965. In 1948, the first State Championship was held in Helena and HTR hosted the 50th MSCA Show in 1997. The club has won 14 State titles and has also won two National titles.
In addition to trail riding and O-Mok-See competition, the Helena Trail Riders do a lot of socializing. There’s food, fun and fellowship at the annual spring clean up day, an ice cream social in July and Halloween and Christmas parties. At each monthly meeting there is a short program or video of horse related subjects such as training, pasture management, veterinarian care and first aid.
FAMILY FRIENDLY CLUB
HTR has long been a family organization with riders from 3 to 80 plus taking part in all club events. For members that do not care to ride, there are plenty of opportunities to be active, contributing club members.
HTR has been an on-site caretaker of the Lewis and Clark County fairgrounds since August of 1944. Each year the club works with Fairgrounds staff by providing funding and manpower to improve and maintain the West Arena area and the building that houses both the concession stand and the announcer’s booth.
Since 2008, HTR has been an active member in The Montana High Divide Trails organization which is made up of 9 quiet trail users groups (including HTR) from Helena and Butte. As such, HTR works each summer with the 8 other quiet trail user groups plus the U. S. Forest Service and the Continental Divide Trail Alliance to construct, improve and maintain the Continental Divide Trail plus other area trails in the Lincoln-Helena-Butte-Anaconda area. Trail projects typically are weekend events with camps set up in the western outfitter tradition of wall tents, wood stoves, grills and serious meals.
In previous years, HTR donated to help finance preliminary work on the 1977 National High School Rodeo held in Helena, donated to the Helena Riding Academy to help them get started and has sponsored several fund-raising rides to help the American Lung Association of Montana and St. Jude Children’s Hospital. HTR has also made several contributions to the Lewis and Clark Fairgrounds for playground equipment and other improvements, including a donation for the new bathroom facility in 2001.
The Helena Trail Riders is a family oriented saddle club; open to anyone interested in becoming a member. Most members either ride or have an interest in horses, but this is not a requirement to join. (membership form)
The club is governed by a nine member board of directors. The president and vice-president are elected for one-year terms. Six directors are elected for two-year terms with three directors being elected each year. The Sec./Treasurer is appointed by the president.
Membership meetings are held at 7:30pm the third Wednesday of every month at the HTR Clubhouse at the L&C County Fairgrounds. The business meeting is preceded by a guest speaker or special program. Guests are welcome at all meetings and may attend several meetings before becoming members. A paid membership entitles an individual or family to attend all club functions, a copy of the monthly newsletter and the use of the West Area on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the first Friday of the month. (Pony Tails)
Rides are held from April through October, normally having one or two per month. Most of the rides are one-day rides from four to eight hours. In addition, an overnight ride is often scheduled for mid-summer. The rides usually start at 10:00am and a nice spot is picked to stop and enjoy lunch that each rider provides for her/himself. The rides are rated easy, fair and hard so riders can choose the rides they want to go on based on their ability to ride. (Ride Schedule)
The Trail Ride Director is responsible for developing the ride schedule and organizing the rides. Rides typically are on the Continental Divide, in the Big Belt Mountains, the Elkhorn Mountains, the North Hills, the Beartooth Game Range, the Scapegoat Wilderness or the Lincoln Back Country. Loop rides are chosen whenever possible. (Club Photos)
For non-members, a $5.00 one-day membership fee is charged for any one-day ride. A $15.00 membership fee is charged for any non-member for an over-night ride. For all people attending an over-night ride, there is a nominal charge to cover costs of food and other expenses associated with the ride.
There are many beautiful rides to take around Helena and the scenery is spectacular on some of these rides. Many times wildlife is seen. It is always good to have your camera along for some wonderful photos.
O-Mok-See is truly a family sport where members as young as two or three or in their eighties can compete. It is not unusual to see three generations of a family enjoying the great sport of O-Mok-See together.
To compete in invitational, district or state O-Mok-Sees, a rider must be a member of a saddle club that belongs to the Montana Saddle Clubs Association (MSCA). HTR has been a member of the MSCA since its inception. (O-Mok-See Schedule)
Each summer it is possible for a member of the Helena Trail Riders to compete in several O-Mok-Sees without ever leaving the Helena Valley. The Montana State Championship O-Mok-See is for those who wish to travel and compete with the best, and for those who want to make longer trips there is the National Saddle Clubs Association (NSCA) O-Mok-See. HTR life member, Keith Herrin, founded the NSCA in 1965 and served as its first President.
O-Mok-See competition is divided into eight age divisions starting with under 8, through the over 40 men’s and women’s. Events generally run at most shows include pole bending, key race and flag race, barrel race, barrel and stake race, and the figure 8 race. Additionally, other pair and team events are selected by the hosting club.
The MSCA Rule Book lists the rules and regulations for over 50 events that may be run in the O-Mok-Sees. It also reads “We saddle club people, men, women and children, ride for fun and not for business. Besides being with a horse, it is a pleasure to be with people with the same interests, resulting in one’s closest friendships.”
“Where using horses and mules is still a time-honored tradition”