Fun and quirkiness were always the hallmarks of the beloved Waldo Waldo 5K, so it comes as no surprise that creator Chelise Foster’s locally-minded fun run 2.0 features a unique running partner: horses—stick horses to be exact. When participants step up to the starting line in the inaugural Gallop 5K family run through Garden of the Gods and Rock Ledge Ranch in October, they will each have a handcrafted stick horses to ride with.
“It’s just going to be super fun and super simple,” Foster says. “People can come and gallop, come and trot or stampede through it.”
Foster and her husband organized the Waldo Waldo 5K in 2012 after the eponymous fire scorched Waldo Canyon, turning a trail system loved by locals into ashes. From 2012 to 2018, the costumed fun run raised more than $200,000 for restoration efforts through conservation groups, including Rocky Mountain Field Institute and Trails and Open Space Coalition. The event came to a close due to licensing changes and costume availability.
“Waldo Waldo happened [for] seven years; then in the seventh year we had the grand finale,” Foster says. “We wanted to keep that positive impact in the community and do something that’s family-friendly and something fun.”
Restoration efforts are underway in Waldo Canyon. But with more than 1 million visitors a year, Garden of the Gods and Rock Ledge Ranch need some help keeping trails in prime condition, she says. The Gallop 5K will help fund maintenance and restoration.
So do stick horse races happen anywhere else? A quick Google search turns up a California rodeo with a kids stick horse race. And it turns out hobbyhorse dressage is a real and popular thing in Finland, especially among teenage girls. There are YouTube videos, agility courses, competitions, championships and a Finnish Hobbyhorse Association. In 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported 10,000 active competitors in Finland, and the trend has begun spreading to other parts of Europe.
But for Foster, the stick horse theme just seemed like a good, unique local fit.
“I’m a native of Colorado Springs, so I was thinking of something that’s Colorado-esque,” Foster says.
For the record, Gallop 5K racers don’t have to straddle their hobbyhorse, but they are encouraged to latch it to their belt loop or carry it proudly through the untimed race.
Each stick horse is handcrafted, ranging in five colors, by Machelle Jay of Utah. The order from the Gallop 5K—1,000 stick horses—is the largest Jay has ever received. She says she typically makes her cloth equestrians for craft shows and farmer’s markets.
“Aside from the financial boost this order has brought to my little business, my horses being chosen to be part of the Gallop 5K has been an honor in and of itself,” Jay says. “Each horse requires a great deal of hand stitching and as daunting as it has been at times, the completion of each stick horse and knowing that they will be part of this is invigorating.”
The route for the Gallop 5K will have an obstacle course along the paved path through Garden of the Gods, starting and ending at Rock Ledge Ranch. There will be live music, yoga and food trucks. And adults can cool off at the watering hole, er, beer garden.
“We just want people to come out and be silly and ride a stick horse with one of the most beautiful backdrops in Colorado Springs,” Foster says.
Get Your Gallop On
When: Saturday, Oct. 19
Where: Rock Ledge Ranch, 3105 Gateway Rd.
Route: 5K with 276 feet of elevation gain; mostly paved, accessible to strollers.
Details and Registration: gallop5K.com