NEAR MISSION — Local, state and federal agents slipped on their cowboy boots and hats and jumped on their saddles yesterday morning for a horseback ride unlike any other, in honor of those who have fallen in the line of duty and to show their own families they care.
Several dozen riders participated in the first Guns and Badges Trail Ride hosted by the U.S. Border Patrol of the Rio Grande Valley. The event, which was open to all law enforcement and retirees, featured live music, food and a three-hour horseback ride along the Rio Grande and the scenic trails surrounding the National Butterfly Center.
“This is not a Border Patrol thing. We just happen to have a nice barn, good cooks, good musicians and a real good Explorer Post,” said Horse Patrol Coordinator Ruben Garcia, who organized the event.
“It’s a special day to pay tribute to our fallen heroes but also for everybody in law enforcement. There are a lot of people behind the scenes who help us be able to go out there and do our job, including all our families who back us up every day,” he added.
After the ride, led by Chief Patrol Agent Manuel Padilla, equestrians joined some 100 others at the Morillo Bronco House Stables, where the Border Patrol horses are based.
The stables, located about a mile from the Rio Grande, were opened in 2015 after Border Patrol partnered with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to convert an unused warehouse into a new home for the horses. The stable has room for up to 38 horses and features two full-sized barns on a two-acre plot.
“For this event, we really wanted to bring everyone together and create a family setting,” Padilla said. “That’s something that I’ve pushed for a lot because we go and engage with people in the community on a daily basis, but sometimes our own families don’t know much of what we do. So we need to keep a balance, engage with the community, but also engage with our families.”
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