Lawmakers horse around on ride to Expo

By Jason Kosena

For two hours last week, nearly 30 lawmakers saddled up and took a bipartisan ride down history’s dusty trail.

Legislators left both sides of the aisle to jump on horseback and strut their way from the Capitol through downtown to the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo at the National Western Complex. The ride brought some public attention to the Colorado horse industry and offered the lawmakers a lighthearted photo op.

The day began on the south side of the Capitol, where members from both the House and Senate hopped on horses while awaiting their police escort through downtown.

Once the police arrived, the legislators clip-clopped their way up Lincoln, Broadway and Brighton Boulevard — some more comfortable on horseback than others — joking and laughing as they rode.

“I think it’s easier controlling the state House than this horse,” Speaker of the House Terrance Carroll declared from his brown mare.

“This is fun because this is a great opportunity for us to do something outside the ordinary from what we do as state representatives and state senators, and it brings exposure to the horse industry in Colorado,” the Denver Democrat added.

The annual Rocky Mountain Horse Expo brought horse racing, auctions and experts from the farming and ranching communities to Denver from March 13 to March 15.

Once the state representatives and senators arrived at the National Western Complex, they were able to take riding lessons and try out other ranching activities. For one particular lawmaker, Rep. Wes McKinley, D-Walsh, the day’s events were nothing new. McKinley, a rancher, also is a wilderness guide who takes weeklong expeditions into the Comanche National Grasslands.

“I’m out here to enjoy our beautiful country, the environment and to experience our Western heritage and lifestyle one more time,” McKinley said from the top of a mule on Friday. “More than 120 years ago, horses, good folks, cowboys and cowgirls rolled down Broadway and through the downtown part of Denver. And we’re paying tribute to that time.”

When asked if he believed the horses would handle the traffic and noise of a busy downtown, McKinley smiled.

“The horses are used to this,” he said. “I think it’s the lawmakers out here that aren’t.”