Jenna Schultz of Roanoke can't remember a time when she didn't love horses.
The 17-year-old even plans to study equine science at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana. She aims to become a horse veterinarian.
But Saturday, she was indulging her passion a bit closer to home -- along the Towpath Trail in Aboite Township with about four dozen other people who'd like to see more places to ride in Fort Wayne and Allen County.
By 9 a.m. they were pulling up with their horse trailers to a parking lot at Olde Canal Place off West Jefferson Boulevard for a first-time event called Trot the Trails. A few braved chilly autumn air -- and traffic -- to ride in on horseback.
The free event was a way of raising support for more safe places to ride horses
Lynn Sroufe, astride her mount, a chestnut-colored Arabian horse named Beyli, said there are more "horse people" than might be expected in an urbanized area like Fort Wayne.
An organizer of the recently formed Three Rivers Horse Trails, Sroufe said those who enjoy riding often must drive long distances first.
"I do endurance riding," she said. "There's really nowhere to ride here in Allen County.
"We travel to get to horse trails. The closest is Salamonie (Lake, a state park outside Huntington and Wabash), and that's an hour away. Or we go out of state."
Just like marathon running, endurance riding means "you have to train," Sroufe said.
While not an overly long distance, Saturday's trail ride covered 7.7 miles alongside the Towpath Trail to Covington Road and back. The event was a collaboration of the horse trails group, Allen County and the City of Fort Wayne.
Stephanie Schultz, Jenna's mother, said an effort more than 10 years ago tried promoting more horse trails, but the idea never came to fruition.
Schultz came to the event with her husband Grant and two of their horses, Zoey and Carlos, both 4-H projects for their children.
"It's a fun opportunity to see the trails being used for this," she said, adding that it's not only good for people to get some exercise out into nature.
"It's good for the horses to be exposed to other environments," she said.
Sroufe said if the event works out, the group would like to do others. "We might do something quarterly," she said. "Our ultimate goal would be to get some trails."
Sroufe said Allen County is the Number 1 county in Indiana in the number of horses that live here. Somewhere to ride horseback is also on the list of activities visitors want.
That's according to Visit Fort Wayne, who approached county officials last winter, said Allen County Commissioner Rich Beck, who also participated in Trot the Trails Saturday.
Dressed in a broad-brimmed cowboy hat, Beck looked ready to ride off into the rising sun -- he and his wife Sylvia have three horses and a pony at their Allen County farmette.
But the Republican was going to be indulging in a less romantic activity -- one familiar to horse owners.
He said he'd be riding in a utility vehicle behind the string of horses, broom in hand.
Yes, Beck was on poop-scooping patrol -- making sure the trail would be sparkling clean for users wearing shoes not made of metal.