For the love of horses

With a little help from her family and friends, 109-year-old New Ulm resident Erna Zahn got up close and personal with some horses earlier this week. The horses were trained and owned by Veleda Cordes at a corral near Courtland, owned by Veleda and Wade Cordes.

\Erna Zahn enjoyed spending some quality time doing one of her favorite things last Tuesday at the Veleda and Wade Cordes horse corral and barn near Courtland.

Zahn turned 109 years old in April and is among the oldest living people in Minnesota, the United States and is among the oldest living people on earth for that matter. The oldest living people on the planet are in the 117 year old range.

On Tuesday, Zahn got the chance to do something she regularly enjoyed in her younger years — spend time around horses.

“It’s been a very long time since I’ve been around horses. This was my Sunday afternoon treat, to ride a horse. I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Zahn said with a smile on her face in a barn with several horses within arm’s reach.

“My grandmother (Erna Zahn) used to save her pennies and ride a horse for a dollar an hour while growing up in Wisconsin,” said Zahn’s granddaughter, Stacy Scheid of New Ulm.

“She can tell us about going to barn dances in the 1920s,” Scheid added.

Friends and family of Zahn led her to her visit with horses. Scheid is the sister-in-law of Rayan McMackin of New Ulm, who’s husband Larry works with Scheid at Windings Inc. in New Ulm. Larry learned of Zahn’s love for horses from Scheid, who said she wanted to cheer up her grandmother by having her visit and interact with horses.

Veleda Cordes introduced Zahn to a half dozen of her horses including a miniature horse, a Shetland pony and “Spitfire,” a spotted horse with mustang and appaloosa blood lines.

Cordes said she formerly showed “Spitfire” in Western and Dressage events, winning a handful of trophies and ribbons in Wisconsin.

Cordes said she adopted “Spitfire’s” mother, a mustang horse originally from Nevada, through the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wild Horse and Burro Adoption program.

The BLM works to place excess animals into private care through its Adoption and Sales Programs plus successful partnerships with organizations across the nation. The BLM has placed more than 240,000 wild horses and burros into private care since 1971. Many of the animals have become excellent pleasure, show or work horses. For more information, visit https:

Cordes and Zahn fed the horses treats. Cordes trained some of the horses to nod their heads and remain gentle around individuals and groups of people.

Zahn actually rode a horse at age 99, her family said.

Erna has a big family. It includes 22 grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren and two-great-great grandchildren.

Zahn said she enjoys eating dark chocolate, which may have something to do with her longevity.