MORA — An introduction of a new equine obstacle course was the reason for a celebration of music and food for a local ranch Saturday.

Von Holten Ranch, near Mora, owned by David and Brandy Von Holten, hosted a ribbon cutting at noon Saturday highlighting the new Mountain Trail Course. The course features all-natural obstacles and teaches horse riding safety. To cap off the sunny day, the Von Holtens hosted a bluegrass festival that evening, along with food by Table of 5 Catering and various jewelry and clothing vendors. Around 100 people attended the day’s events.

“The course is being able to practice obstacles,” Brandy Von Holten said. “But, natural-setting obstacles, to increase a horse’s readiness for the trail. It’s self-education. The purpose of the course is to help people be safer by exposing them to things that can be on the trail before actually encountering them.

“So, I thought for our ribbon cutting, I’ll throw in another reason to have people come,” she continued. “So, I threw in the bluegrass and Table of 5 and vendors for shopping. We just made it into a bluegrass festival.”

The ranch, which opened in 2014, now has 25 miles of trail. The new course has water crossings, newly constructed bridges, and a deadfall area.

“People come out here and they just ride their horses through, because it gets their horses ready,” Von Holten said. “It makes them where they are more compliant.”

Musical performers for the evening were Eric Lewis and the New Kentucky Colonels, of West Plains, and Matthew Cozart, 28, of Odessa. Von Holten said Cozart was one of her middle school students when she first started teaching in Odessa.

“I play solo acoustic, and I do a lot of covers,” Cozart said before his show. “I actually do not play bluegrass. I play a lot of ‘90s country, classic rock, a lot of folk music, indie/folk …”

Cozart, who calls himself a “band geek,” said Von Holten taught his science class in seventh grade. He added that he has always had a penchant for music stemming from his early school years.  

“When I went to high school I played the saxophone up into college,” he explained. “Then I met a man named Adam Wyatt, who’s kind of a local legend in Kansas City, and he got me playing. I’m actually in my fourth year playing guitar and singing.”

Cozart performs for weddings, small functions and at events at bars. Saturday night he played and sang songs by Johnny Cash, Garth Brooks, John Denver and others, plus an original of his own. He will be the opening act for local music legend Leroy VanDyke in October during a concert at the ranch.

Bluegrass headliners, the New Kentucky Colonels, is composed of Eric Lewis, Dennis Reese, Kirby Clark, Alex Hilliker, and Daniel Bean. Lewis, who is an honorary member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, has been playing for 62 years.

“I’ve been playing ever since I was about 15,” Lewis said. “I’ve been writing songs for years. I was born in 1943 in a log house near Gainesville … and of course my folks moved to West Plains when I was pretty young.”

Lewis said the band is a full-time performing band. They play many festivals and fairs each year. Saturday night they gave a two-hour performance and offered a variety of their bluegrass music on CDs.

“We try to record a new CD once a year, so we’ll have something new,” Lewis said.

For more information about Von Holten Ranch, visit www.vonholtenranch.com or call 660-668-0880. For more information about Cozart, call 816-263-0434. For more information about the New Kentucky Colonels, visit www.newkentuckycolonels.com.

Arts & Entertainment Reporter

Faith Bemiss is a reporter for the Sedalia Democrat, covering general assignment, arts, food and entertainment stories. She can be reached at 660-530-0289.

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