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12 March 2004

They don't just ride the trails. The Los Padres Unit of the Back Country Horsemen do a lot of good work in Los National Forest, said Kathleen Phelps, Santa Lucia District ranger. Most recently, several local members of the organization spent a Sunday improving the, Gifford Trailhead north of Highway 166, about 31 miles east of Santa Maria. The trail is popular with Central Coast horseback riders, hikers and mountain bikers.

"With tight budgets and a shrinking work force, we rely more and more on volunteers such as the horsemen to keep our trails open and in good repair," Ms. Phelps said. "In addition to all of their good work on the ground, our Back Country Horsemen also promote appreciation and gentle use of our public lands through their conservation education efforts."

The horsemen's annual three-day rendezvous starts at 1 p.m. today at the Santa Barbara County fairgrounds in Santa Maria Events include displays, seminars and vendors of interest to horsemen and others who enjoy the backcountry. Hours on Saturday and Sunday are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $7 per day for adults; children younger than 12 get in free.

For more information, contact Chip Hezig at 909-769-3781, Juanita Kirkpatrick at 661-1270-0588, or visit their Web site at www.bchc.com.

In conjunction with the rendezvous, the federal Bureau of Land Management will be holding a wild horse and burro adoption from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Yearlings, geldings, mares and burros will be available through a competitive bidding process.

For more information about the adoption, call the Bureau of Land Management at 661-391-6000.