Horsemanship instructor and trainer Ellie Jensen seems to have come up with the right ingredients for wintertime fun. She and her crew held their annual Bond, Bake and Ride event Jan. 26 at Circle E Equestrian Center in Seymour.

The unusual combination has been a hit with participants since 2014 with the event growing over the years. Started with just a small group, the event has grown to accommodate 24 participants who range in age from 2 to 80 years.

“Adults just want to have fun too,” Jensen said. “Grandparents are bringing their grandchildren. There was a husband who bought it for his wife and didn’t tell her about it, keeping it a surprise. And there was a boyfriend who did it for his girlfriend; that boyfriend earned points.”

Participants do not need previous horse handling or riding experience. The goal of the event is to give participants the opportunity to bond while learning about horses and horsemanship through activities and games.

“Most people come as a group and those who are single are paired with another participant,” Jensen said. “They make new friends.”

The day starts off with participants being paired for the horsemanship activities with one of the team filling the role of the horse and the other that of the handler. The human partners learn reining skills by ground driving their “horse” partners around obstacles.

The learning experiences include a segment in trust building where the “horse” partners are blindfolded and must rely on their human handlers to guide them safely through a course. With this experience, participants acquire insights into how horses must rely on the leading and reining skills of their handlers or riders.

Following the ground-work activities, the participants are divided into two groups with half staying in the heated arena to ride and the other half going to the kitchen to bake. The two groups then switch places after the first session.

With a nod to the television series “Cake Boss,” the head of the baking department sports an apron with the insignia, “Bake Boss.”

Cookie dough is ready for the bakers when they arrive in the kitchen. They just need to roll and cut out the cookies and get them into the oven and baked. When the treats come out of the oven, the bakers tap into their creative muses by decorating the treats, competing for prizes.

Some of the various categories bakers can earn points for prizes are the “fastest i the oven,” “the most original cookie,” or the “best decorated.” They also earn points on teamwork. At the end of the day, the bakers take their cookies home.

Riders can also earn points during the mounted games. One of the games is the Magnet Game where two riders are “connected” and then the partners are scored on their rides through various obstacles without becoming separated.

The afternoon programs have varied over the years. In the past, they’ve included liberty demonstrations, yoga-for-riders sessions and other learning opportunities.

“One year we dealt with fear,” Jensen said. “Another year, we did hands-on CPR. We had six dummies available (for the session).”

This year, Jensen and her group did a musical drill team demostration involving their two black stallions and one cream-colored mare. The performance was named after a well-known cookie with a white filling between two chocolate wafers.

“It was super cold that day,” Jensen said. “Thank goodness Circle E is a heated facility. The crowd was a lot of fun; they kept clapping and singing along.”

Jensen and her husband, Ron, raise Moriesians, a relatively new breed created by crossing Friesians and Morgans. Their senior stallion is the first to be registered in the registry and is the first to sire the second generation.

Jensen has been training horses and instructing riders for 25 years, combining dressage with natural horsemanship methods. She has studied with world-renowned clinicians such as Ray Hunt, Tom Dorrance and Buck Brannaman.

Operating under their business, Twin Artesian Stables, Ellie and Ron are known as the “ER Team.” For more than 10 years, they have been offering many of their services at Circle E Equestrian Center.

More information about the Jensens and Twin Artesian Stables can be found on their Facebook page. Ellie Jensen can be reached via her email address, or by phone at 920-865-5555.