"It's a real family-oriented event," said the ride's founder, Ray Pimental. He, his wife and his daughter began the trail rides more than a decade ago when they saw a way to combine their favorite hobby with being able to help others. It costs $10 to join in on the all-day ride, and that money goes to a local family in need.
"We don't usually give it to an organization," said Ray. "Me, my wife, my daughter and the three owners of the property who let us ride on it, we all get together and decide where the money goes."
"We'll probably be doing something for them," said Ray.
Word is already out in the trail riding community that the Strolling Jim ride is set, and Ray has been getting phone calls from across the South about it. "Morning, noon, afternoon and night," he said.
One reason everyone is so eager to hit the trails around Wartrace is because they didn't get to do it last year. Ray had to undergo heart surgery shortly before the ride was scheduled, but he had no intention of canceling it because of that. He was content to let someone else take over as the trail boss and he would watch from the ground.
But Mother Nature did what a heart condition didn't and the trail ride was canceled after all because of a long, extended rainy period.
"We could have gone on the ride," said Ray. "But we couldn't park the trailers. The ground was so wet, we would have had to spend hours pulling the trailers out of the mud and tearing the field up and nobody wanted that."
So far, the weather outlook for this year's return to the trials is good and Ray can't wait to get back in the saddle again -- and to meet the estimated 500 riders who are going to show up.
Most of them, he already knows.
"We have one fellow, he buys nine tickets every year. It's him, his wife, his daughters and sons-in-law.," said Ray. "They all ride, and after the ride, they go out to eat and it's his treat. He can never get them together at one time over Christmas, so this is his Christmas present to them."
There's that "family-oriented aspect again," said Ray. The Strolling Jim organizers give out prizes for the youngest and oldest to sit in the saddle that day. The riders often include grandchildren and grandparents from a 4-year-old who won it one year to an 83-year-old.
The prizes are given out at lunch, held deep in a hollow by a log cabin, at high noon. The lunch is hot dogs and Tony Smith's famous chili, soft drinks and about 1,200 homemade desserts that the Pimental family works on for days before the event. A live bluegrass band will perform during lunch, entertaining everyone before they hit the trails again for the afternoon leg of the ride.
The trail ride begins at 10 a.m. Oct. 9. There will be free parking at the Wartrace show grounds, but all horses have to have a 12-month negative Coggins test. Participation fee is $10 per person. For more information, call Ray Pimental at 685-9041 or 580-2426.