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Giving Back: Umpqua Valley Mounted Posse

When you hit a different town virtually every day for a week – while pedaling 400+ miles along the way – it can be hard to get a good feel for all those volunteers who make each town the unique experience it is. But it’s going to be easy to notice the Umpqua Valley Mounted Posse – they’ll be the folks patrolling the parking lot in Sutherlin on horseback, helping you find your spot and then making sure your vehicle is secure.

The mounted posse is just one example of the eclectic mix of groups Cycle Oregon encounters – and supports financially – at each stop of the event. And they’re certainly representative of all those groups, in that what we do for them tends to resonate far beyond their ranks. We spoke to Deby Hackney, the current Captain of the Umpqua Valley Mounted Posse, to find out some details.

This group has its genesis in the Douglas County Sheriff’s Posse, formed in the 1940s. Several generations of horseback riders contributed their efforts and expertise, and when the newly elected sheriff decided in 2003 that a government agency mixing horses and the public was a liability concern, he disbanded the group. But the folks involved saw too much good in what they provided to just let it die – so in 2004 the Umpqua Valley Mounted Posse was formed to carry the torch.

Their mission is simple and broad: “We’re volunteers who are dedicated to the community,” Deby explains. The group currently has 12 members (“We’re always looking for more, and you don’t have to have a horse,” she adds). They provide a variety of community service, including search and rescue, mounted security for events including rodeos and concerts, and horsemanship education to keep youth interested in horses so they’ll continue the tradition.

But one of their most fulfilling activities is their involvement each June in Camp Millennium, a facility for kids affected by cancer. “We have a Horse Day every year,” Deby says. “We go out and provide a day of riding. Kids can ride horseback or in carts, or they can just pet the horses. It’s a fantastic event; we see some of the same kids year after year, and they’ll tell us, ‘You taught me to ride!’ We look forward to it every year.”

For Cycle Oregon, they’re planning a yeoman effort – first they’ll be guiding arriving riders to parking spaces in a huge field they’ll arrange to have mowed; they’ll be working on foot and mounted. And then they’re going to patrol that lot, 24/7, while riders are out on the road for a week.

“We’re going to set up trailers called ‘living quarters horse trailers’ – kind of an RV in the front and horse trailer in the back,” Deby says, “and we’ll have a corral for the horses. We’ll share four to six different horses, taking shifts. It’s no problem – we’ve all ridden each others’ horses!”

And when it’s all over, they’ll take the money Cycle Oregon pays them for their duties and use some of it to upgrade their equipment and uniforms for the numerous parades they attend – and they’ll also spread it around among their favorite causes:

• An annual scholarship for a third-year student at Oregon State University who is interested in large-animal veterinary studies;

• Fingerprinting and Child ID kits for local families;

• Adopting a needy family for the holidays, providing food and gifts, or adopting a local senior citizen year-round.

Deby sums up her group, and their activities, like this: “The best part is just being able to provide something for people – kids petting a horse, or helping on search and rescue for law enforcement. Everyone in the group has a passion for our horses, plus serving the community. It’s a great combination.”

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