Search for fishing spot led to horse paradise

Posted 11/17/22

All one has to do to appreciate the well-maintained horse trails at the Mineola Nature Preserve is to see the amazingly well-tended five-acre holding of Jim and Jenny Henderman.

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Search for fishing spot led to horse paradise


All one has to do to appreciate the well-maintained horse trails at the Mineola Nature Preserve is to see the amazingly well-tended five-acre holding of Jim and Jenny Henderman.

For the past decade, the Lindale residents have volunteered their time and energies in maintaining the equestrian trails, which are today enjoyed by so many. 

Initially drawn to the area by a fishing advertisement which boasted that the locale has “30 lakes within 30 minutes,” the Hendermans are, at their core, horse people. Jim Laughed as he described the relationship they have with their four horses, “They aren’t pets, they’re family.”

Jenny added, “Well, you have to take care of their teeth and their feet and train’em.”

The two have been horse people since early adulthood and continue their fascination with the animals. Jim explained that the relationship with a horse is not unlike the pride and care someone has when maintaining a classic car.

That first fateful trip to East Texas was prompted by, of all things, a land dispute. As Jim explained, they were living in New Mexico at the time, and a border dispute about water rights between Texas and New Mexico resulted in the lake near Truth or Consequences, N.M. being drained. They needed to seek out a new fishing spot.

After eyeing the advertisement for the 30 lakes in 30 minutes, they headed for East Texas.

On that first trip, they found the house and parcel – north of Lindale – which is now home. Within a month, they were local residents. 

Along with them came their miniature horses. Previous to the move, Jenny had experienced a serious riding accident, and the two had taken to miniature horses and carriages. As Jenny explained, however, she just needed to work her way back into the saddle.  

Two Missouri Fox Trotters, a Spotted Saddlehorse and a Rocky Mountain Horse now round out the family. They are all gaited.

Their trail riding has taken them throughout the area, including trails near Bullard, Athens and Sulphur Springs and further afield near Telephone, Lampasas and in the Davy Crockett National Forest. They are active members of the Texas Equestrian Trail Riders Association.       

Clearly, however, their favorite place to ride is the Nature Preserve.

“We asked Buster Green, who was then caretaker at the preserve, if we might help in cutting and maintaining trails. He was thrilled for the help.” 

That began more than a passing interest by the Hendermans in the trails at the preserve. Initially, Jim would load up his tractor and use it to assist in clearing trails – dead and windfall trees especially. After it became clear that the Hendermans were invested in the long run at the preserve, they were able to make use of the tractor housed at the preserve.    

“We pay particular attention to locust and mesquite branches, due to the long thorns. They can hobble a horse,” Jennifer explained. They try to discard the thorny branches as far off the trails as they can.

The Hendermans do not shod their horses, so the sandy and generally even terrain of the preserve makes for soft footing for their mounts.

Of course, in wet weather, the lower preserve is known for the black mud which has been carried south by the Sabine over the years. Gumbo, Jim called it. 

“Even in wet weather, though,” Jim noted, “the upper reaches of the preserve still make for excellent trail riding.”

The time spent in the preserve has led them to some unusual events. In one case a young boy was found on a trail, obviously lost

“We were able to steer him back up the right trail to his family,” said Jim.

On another occasion their trail ride was rerouted by a small alligator which refused to vacate the trail.

“He hissed and swung his tail around, so we decided to let him enjoy the trail…we found another path,” Jenny related.  

The two lauded the work of the city of Mineola for the investment in the one-of-a-kind nature preserve. They also praised the work of preserve manager Nickey Minyard and assistant, Jeff Black.

“As they should,” Jim commented, “they must spend the majority of their time maintaining the general use areas, so we try to get to trail maintenance about once a month.” 

Twice retired, from the U.S. Army and as a truck driver, Jim and Jenny remain active in the American Legion and Legion Auxiliary.

“The Lindale Legion is a top-notch group,” Jim shared.

An Army flag flies just below the Stars and Stripes at their residence. Jenny’s roses adorn the front of the house. In the back, among some very clean fence lines are the other members of the family.

It is there that the Hendermans bond with their horses through training. Jenny explained that it’s all about trust, consistency and sensitivity.

“You train yourself and your horse at the same time,” she noted.

Those enjoying the well-prepared derby and miles of trails available at the 2,911-acre Mineola Nature Preserve share that love of horses and trail riding with local volunteers Jim and Jenny Henderman.