By Clay Schuldt
New Year’s resolutions come in all shapes and sizes. Tricia Wateski’s goal for 2014 is to bring her longtime dream to fruition.
That dream is to turn WaterCrest Farm into the best horse ranch in the area.
“I am really hoping to get WaterCrest Farm up and running in 2014,” said Wateski, a Houston area resident.
Fate could very well be on Wateski’s side; on the Chinese calendar, 2014 is the year of the horse.
WaterCrest Farm is nestled in a valley north of Houston, and while it has been in business since 2009, the farm has been a family business for decades.
“The farm has always been here,” Wateski said. “It is actually a family farm that I purchased from my parents in 2008.”
The farm first came into her family when her grandparents purchased the land in 1945. In its early days, WaterCrest had no horses. Wateski’s grandfather operated a farm that included dairy cows, poultry and hogs. Wateski’s decision to turn the family farm into a horse ranch is related to her lifelong fascination with the animals.
“I’ve always loved horses; it’s always been a dream of mine,” she said.
Wateski’s inspiration was found in memories of her youth, which include stories of her father riding his horse to round up the cattle, or memories of watching her older sister riding their childhood horses. These happy memories are the driving force behind Wateski’s efforts to turn WaterCrest into a haven for horse enthusiasts like herself.
“A lot of heart and soul has gone into putting the farm together,” she said.
WaterCrest Farm currently offers a network of riding trails that stretch across the valley and to the top of the ridge. The trail system at WaterCrest is always expanding. Recently Wateski became aware of a snowmobile trail nearby that in the future could be utilized in the warm months.
The condition and terrain of the trails vary. Wateski explained that most of the traveling paths are logging trails and are clear of brush. There are also smaller deer trails that prove more challenging. Those willing to follow the paths uphill to the top of the ridge are in for a treat.
“Once you are up on top of the ridge, it opens up and you can see over the entire valley,” Wateski said. “It’s just beautiful.”
Children are allowed to join the fun as well. At WaterCrest, young guests are given the opportunity to ride ponies.
“It’s a wonderful entertainment,” Wateski said. “Moms do not need to worry about anything; it’s 100 percent safe. The kids’ attention is totally on the pony and it is awesome to see their smiles.”
While the winter months are traditionally the off-season for the ranch, Wateski is using this time to plan for spring and summer season.
One of the major goals for 2014 is the construction of a new 100-foot-by-160-foot outdoor arena, which is nearing completion. The arena will be used for riding practice and horse training, but Wateski is hopeful the arena could be utilized for equestrian events and ranch rodeos in the near future.
Also in 2014, Wateski and her family have set their sights on an ambitious new program that reaches out to military veterans. This nonprofit program is called Soldiers in Saddles.
Studies have shown equine-assisted activities have a therapeutic value by increasing muscle tone, balance, posture, coordination and emotional well-being. Horse-loving veterans and their families are allowed to spend time with horses free of charge.
Similar programs have been started nationwide, but this is the first in southeast Minnesota. The program consists of weekly classes that meet for an hour and teaches the basics of riding and caring for horses.
Wateski admitted the program was still in development but wanted to get the word out.
“I want to show support for the soldiers, veterans and their families who have sacrificed to keep us safe and free,” she said.
WaterCrest’s hours of operation are open throughout the weekend, and any time after 4 p.m. on weekdays. Those wishing to ride the trails may call ahead and schedule a time.
WaterCrest Farm is open to all horse riders from the novice to the professional. Wateski’s daughter, Renee Kinstler, is the riding instructor during summer months. Fellow horse owners are allowed to bring their animals to the ranch to ride free of charge.