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Catonsville horse farm provides stable environment for learning

Like a lot of 16-year-olds, Cody is feeling his oats – if not eating them – as one of the feature attractions at the Patapsco Horse Center.

As if to emphasize Cody's star status, Sherri Trenary, 34, who runs and resides on the Patapsco Horse Center with her husband, Charles, said that the horse is the most in-demand for the upcoming Poker Run Trail Ride and Fall Festival Fundraiser. The event, to benefit the Maryland High School Rodeo Association, will be held Nov. 22 on the couple's 200-acre spread on Frederick Road.

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Cody, a former show horse, will be the favorite ride for many of the folks at the Patapsco Horse Center. Riders on the Poker Trail Ride will make several stops to pick up a random playing card. After all the riders have finished, the cards are gathered into poker hands, which are played just as if they were dealt. Prizes are given for the highest hands.

Also included in Saturday's festivities, which are open to the public and begin at 10 a.m., are a raffle, arts and crafts and a pot luck lunch.

So far, Trenary said, more than 50 are slated to go on the ride.

The lucky ones get to go on Cody, a gentle giant beloved for his easygoing ways.

Trenary, who livesand works in the bucolic setting not far from the hustle and bustle of her beloved downtown Catonsville, said she has been blessed to be working with Cody and the other 85 or so horses boarding there for most of her life.

She moved to the property in 1989 when her parents, Terry and John Fram, developed the land previously known as the Ellerslie Farm.

Her parents are retired and living in Florida now, but it was their idea that spawned the Patapsco Horse Center. In essence, the Trenarys lease the land from the state in 10-year increments. The arrangement is part of a long-term deal struck after Trenary's mother effectively lobbied lawmakers in Annapolis to use the acreage, in part, for the Maryland Council for Special Equestrians program that still benefits kids and adults with disabilities.

Following her and her parents' dream makes Trenary happy and keeps the land available for a variety of uses.

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"It's all I've ever done," said the 1998 Catonsville High grad. "I started riding before I could walk and competing when I was 3."

Trenary remains dedicated to her parents, farm and horses, and she noted they took precedence over social activities when she was a teen

"I never even went to a homecoming when I went to Catonsville because I was showing [horses]," she said, using the term to describe competition with American Quarter Horses, a distinct equine breed. "As soon as I would get home from school, I would go to the barn."

Wearing many hats

An accomplished lifelong rider, Trenary wears many hats – including a cowboy-style one – while teaching and coaching at the center just outside Oella.

She said her most important work on the farm is community outreach, such as the therapeutic program for which her mom originally lobbied.

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She also works with the WoundedWarrior Project for injured and recovering military veterans, and Baltimore County's JOINS program, which strives to help juvenile offenders before they escalate their crimes and become entangled long term in the justice system.

She is also an administrator in the Maryland State High School Rodeo Association, which sent some of its members to the national finals in Wyoming last summer.

Currently, she mentors six youngsters in the art of riding and roping, cowboy and cowgirl style, including Catonsville residents Christopher Schmidt, 10, and his sister, Grace, 10.

The kids' mom, Connie Schmidt, was a Catonsville classmate of Trenary's.

"My son started showing some interest in western riding," Schmidt said. "Then his little sister would watch him. Now she has started, too.

"It's great to be able to give them something to do. Around Catonsville, it's all about rec soccer. But the kids are so strong-willed. Even though they don't have peers to relate to in the sport, they love western riding. I'm really proud of them."

Another type of riding Trenary coaches is equestrian, or English style.

To the end, she has been the coach of the University of Maryland, Baltimore Countyequestrianteams for seven years.

"I started the program," she said, "and I coach the club team as well."

Other teams in the Retrievers' region in the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association include Goucher College and Towson, John Hopkins and Mount St. Mary's universities in a sport in which most competitors are female.

The Retrievers, with only 10 members on the squad, typically finish lower than their opponents with larger rosters that allow them to compete in more events.

The only requirement for UMBC students to join the team is that they must take weekly lessons to learn how to compete in the art of equitation, which Trenary breaks down into a simple definition.

"Judges base giving points on how good each rider looks on a horse," she said. "When you arrive at the competition, you draw a horse's name out of a hat and you are assigned to ride that horse. So really, you're judged on how well you handle a horse that you've never ridden. That's all they're looking for."

Cody is a star in that realm, too.

"Basically, anybody can ride him," Trenary said. "He makes it easy for them."

Even though he's lost some of the quickness required for some events, Cody will eventually fill another role as he ages.

"We'll always find something for him to do," she said. "And after that, he'll always have a home."

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