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At 82, country girl still riding

Louise Horst has loved horses since childhood and recently rode in the Bahamas on a beach

Louise Horst has loved horses since childhood and recently rode in the Bahamas on a beach

July 30, 2009|By MARIE GILBERT

The sun bore down on the beach, ocean waves lapped along the shoreline and a horse kicked up sand and surf.

It was one of those picture postcard kind of moments.

But for Louise Horst, who was the rider of that horse, this wasn't just a fun activity during an island vacation. It was a dream come true - and it happened just shy of her 82nd birthday.

Horst has loved horses since she was a girl growing up on a farm in Williamson, Pa.

It started with her father's plow horses, she said, and continued when she received her first pony around the age of 12.

"For as long as I can remember, horses have always been in my life," she said.

But over the years, she has had a special dream - to go horseback riding on a beach.

"I don't know why," the Hagers- town woman said. "But I've always thought it would be the ultimate experience."

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Horst realized that dream in May when she went on a cruise to the Bahamas for Mother's Day.

When she found out that riding on a beach was one of the offerings, she jumped at the opportunity.

"I had waited a long time to do this," she said.

As a bonus, Horst added, her riding adventure was videotaped by a ship crew member. So, now, she can relive the experience over and over.

"My daughter jokes that I'm always watching that tape. But it's something I'll never forget," she said.

Horst said some people are surprised when they find out she still rides horses.

But why wouldn't she, she said. She's always loved being around horses. And she's always been an active person.

"Besides," she said, "you can take the girl out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the girl."

Since retiring from nursing 20 years ago, Horst doesn't have trouble filling her time.

"I walk every day with my beautiful dog, I take strength training classes at the senior center, I'm thinking about taking line-dancing classes and I travel whenever I can," she said.

She also volunteers at Star Equestrian Center near Hagerstown, where she helps feed more than 20 horses and cleans out stables.

"I also get to play with them," she said. "Since I can no longer have horses of my own, this is a wonderful opportunity to still have them in my life."

Horst said she has owned a number of horses - each with its own special qualities. There was a cavalry horse her father gave her when she was a teenager and a pinto she purchased after she married.

But the love of her life was a horse named Bobbin. He became such an important part of the family that when he died, she swore she would never own another horse.

Horst said there was a period of about 30 years when she didn't ride. But at the age of 78, she took a trip to the Green Ridge Mountains in Maryland and got back in the saddle during a trail ride offered by a local stable.

And when she turned 80, she celebrated by riding horses on Mackinac Island in Michigan.

Despite a lifetime of being around horses, Horst said she only recently began taking riding lessons.

"I never had formal training," she said. "I just got on a horse and rode."

The mother of twin daughters - Deanna Kunkel, who lives with her family in Hagerstown, and Denise, who died in 2004 of breast cancer - Horst said she has led a blessed life.

"There have been some rough patches, including the deaths of my husband and daughter, but I thank God every day for everything he has given me. I now have two great-grandchildren, I'm in good health and I'm content. And I still love horses. All of that is good medicine."

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