Fence Rider. Air Force veteran. Dialysis expert.
The Clark County Fair is a treat for most people. It’s a chance to gorge on burgers and cinnamon-sugar elephant ears and pet some goats. Maybe take in the chicken costume contest or see the year’s heaviest watermelon. However for Kim Everett, fair days are some of the busiest of the summer. That’s because for the past five-plus years she’s ridden with the Clark County Mounted Patrol.
The group primarily functions as fair ambassadors. They help people find lost strollers and cars, answer questions, and keep an eye on vehicles—which is easier done from horseback than the ground. They work closely with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and radio in concerning activity so that officers can investigate. The Mounted Patrol formed in the late 1970s to deter people from jumping the fair fence to avoid paying admission. They’re still informally called the “Fence Riders” in reference to those early days.
During the fair’s run, Kim finishes her day job at Vancouver Clinic then heads to the barn where she puts on a fresh red-checkered shirt and saddles up her horse for an evening of helping visitors. She says she likes the opportunity to give back to her community and share her love of horses.
“I used to be one of those kids who couldn’t wait to talk to a horse and now I’m the one on the horse,” she says. “Ginger’s cranky everywhere else but she’s so good with the kids. She’ll nibble their cotton candy and Twizzlers if they’ll let her.”
Kim says she was a horse-crazy kid. However, because her family was in the military and moved frequently, she never learned to ride. Horses wouldn’t enter her life until later.
Kim grew up, went to nursing school, served in the Air Force Nurse Corps, got married, and had a son. From there, she enrolled in graduate school to become a nurse practitioner because she wanted to have more independence with patients.
“When you become a smart nurse you don’t want to ask permission to do something you already know,” she says.
Kim graduated and got divorced. She spent the next 11 years as a primary care nurse practitioner for the Veteran’s Administration in Portland. Twelve-hour days, a long commute, and single-mom duties ate up all her time. But as kids do, her own son quickly grew older. When he entered middle school Kim decided to do something for herself. At nearly 40, she signed up for her first horse-riding lesson.
“It was terrifying,” she says of learning how to ride a 1,200-pound animal in midlife.
Despite the fear and the agony that comes with using new muscles, she was as enamored as she was as a girl.
“It’s so empowering to be in charge of that,” she says. “It’s cool. I didn’t get to do that country stuff as a kid. I’m just starting.”
Now 53, Kim owns three horses who all live on her property in Woodland. Ginger is a trail horse who handles water, bridges, logs, and hills like a champ. Her mini horse, Star, was purchased to keep Ginger company. Topaz is the newest. She’s a year old and, once trained, will be doing more riding as Ginger’s arthritis gets worse.
Kim says the flexibility of her position at Vancouver Clinic helps make her horse dreams possible. She joined the business in 2014 as a nurse practitioner in the Nephrology Department. In her role, she’s responsible for visiting the clinic’s 275 dialysis patients once a month. She travels to six different dialysis clinics in the area, connecting with patients while they sit for their treatments. It’s a mind-boggling and busy schedule, but it’s also freeing. For example, she can meet with a veterinarian during the middle of the day and catch up with patients in the evening.
She also loves the job itself. She has the time to sit and talk with people and listen to their stories. She can teach them about diet and lifestyle changes that will alleviate their symptoms and help them live better day-to-day—and that feels good.
“I can’t fix kidney failure,” she says. “But I can listen and give them some tools so they feel like they have some control.”
During fair season she has an extra tool in her pocket—stories of her adventures. Over the years she has helped spot a drug deal and introduced dozens of kids to the joys of horses. Sometimes her volunteer efforts are even rewarded in more than fuzzy feelings. Like the time someone bought her an epic Dairy Maids peach milkshake.
“When you’re up on a horse it’s hot and dirty and you can’t really take a break,” she says. “Having a milkshake on a horse is the best.”
Kim plans on continuing to volunteer with the Mounted Patrol in the coming years.
“Going to the fair is such a fun tradition,” she says. “I’m glad to help create a welcoming and memorable experience for people.”