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Billings Saddle Club sparks joy, helps woman overcome 'horrific' horse accident

Caleb Mortensen Billings Saddle Club
Posted at 2:00 PM, Jun 24, 2024

BILLINGS — It’s Monday night at the Billings Saddle Club. Tucked under the Rimrocks in a corner of Alkali Creek, horsemanship is appealing to riders — and horses — of all ages.

“This is Lena and she is 3 years old, I think,” said Caleb Mortensen, who's not much older. "She has a habit of flicking her head around.”

Joy Mortensen Saddle Club
11-year-old Joy Mortensen pets her pony Lightning at the Billings Saddle Club.

Right on cue, as if dialed into the conversation, Lena flicks her head.

Caleb’s sister Joy rides a black and white pony called Lightning, though not just in the arena.

“I also really like hiking up here because there’s a couple springs and just some cool rock formations and stuff,” Joy said while petting Lightning's neck.

There's a white streak on Lightning's hind end, and Joy likes to put sparkles on it to resemble a real lightning bolt. Sometimes the pony tries a little too hard to live up to his namesake.

“He kind of likes to run away, so that’s what I’m teaching him not to do,” the 11-year-old explainsed.

“That’s what I love," said Corky Harkins, " ... is seeing these kids working their hoses, training their horses.”

Harkins is a volunteer public address announcer who also sings The Star-Spangled Banner prior to Monday night O-Mok-See performances.

Of course, history at the Billings Saddle Club dates back decades and Sue Malmstrom remembers starting her experience there at age 9. Now in her 70s, Malmstrom fondly recalls many a wedding party inside the notable hall.

If the walls could only tell stories. In a way they do, lined with pictures of past members who’ve contributed to the club’s success.

The picturesque outdoor view from inside the hall offers a clear look at the arena cradling a non-competitive night of O-Mok-See.

Terra Ott is another member of the club volunteering.

“I got involved with the saddle club because I live on a hill and I wanted someplace flat to ride,” Ott said with a laugh.

Terra Ott Saddle Club
Terra Ott recalls eplains how the Billings Saddle Club helped after her 'horrific horse accident.'

She knows firsthand about the Saddle Club family that takes care of its own with events like annual memorial O-Mak-Sees and benefit barrel races.

“July of 2022, I was in a really horrific horse accident that smashed my pelvis, my hip, my shoulder," Ott told MTN Sports. " … Just saddled up to go for a ride at home and my horse reared up and went over backwards and smashed me.”

Spending over three weeks in the hospital and three months confined to a wheelchair, Ott was a recipient of the Saddle Club’s generosity, a thought that sometimes still brings her to tears. She’s riding again … just not on this night.

“Because it’s cold and my body is full of metal," she admitted with another laugh. "So, I’m doing my community service for these guys and coming to help them out up here.”

Ott's help "up here" in the booth is a full-circle moment that livens up fun for the kids, moms, dads and grandparents down in the arena.