Nature yields immense beauty, serving as muse to the world. There is a multitude of ways to immerse oneself within the threads of that tapestry, through the varied colors, terrains and foliage, but little compares to observing those views between the ears of a horse. The appeal of trail riding is to blend with nature, to breathe and temporarily blur out of sync with the rest of the 9-5 world. However, with a nearly infinitesimal amount of trails crisscrossing the earth, it can be overwhelming to determine which one to traverse. It may seem counterintuitive from the final product, which to some is to have as little interference from the outside world as possible. However, with advances in technology, finding new places to ride can be as simple as clicking a button.
Here are a few places to start:
National Park Apps
Trail Management Groups
It would be lovely if all the trails in the United States were kept neatly in a hardback book, marked clearly and easy to find. Unfortunately, many of those trails were little dots, hidden on maps that were well off the beaten path. Unless a rider had the right contacts or searched continuously, they could be missing beautiful places to ride in their own back yard. As social media gained popularity, it began to connect those dots. There are groups dedicated to different areas, and they point out what trails are available and how to find them.
National Park Apps and Websites
The National Park service has an app dedicated to finding trails within their park system. The Pocket Ranger provides information, maps, GPS, and real time weather information and advisories as well – very handy when riding in the area. The application is free and can be downloaded from the website.
The National Park System website offers in depth information on trails within the system – where to find maps, what camping is available, if there are any alerts or blocked roads. They are a very valuable resource.
Individual park systems offer information as well. For instance, the Cleveland Metro Park has a system of beautifully groomed trails that sprawls throughout the area. Kentucky has quite a few different gorgeous areas, but in the fall, the foliage is best appreciated in the Cave Run area. There is riding that runs from Cave Run Lake down through the Daniel Boone National Forest.
Most states offer lists of major trails, such as Tennessee and Colorado, listed here as an example. Simply search for the state name and “trail riding” or “horse riding”.
National Park System
Cleveland Metro Park
White Sulphur Horse Camp
Tennessee State Parks
Colorado State Parks
The regional clubs of the Rocky Mountain Horse Association provide an excellent opportunity for members to meet up with people in their area. There are often trail rides put together, and another wealth of information to learn new information. The regions are broken up into groups of states, which can be nice if looking to branch out into surrounding areas. The club information is listed on the Rocky Mountain Horse website, and can be broken up as follows here:
- Central States RMH Club:
KS, MO, AR, OK, NE
- Lone Star Rocky Club
Texas and Surrounding States
- Michigan RMH Club
Michigan and Surrounding Areas
- Mid Atlantic Rocky Mountain Horse Club
VA, MD, WVA, PA, NC
- Tri State RMHC
OH, IN, KY and Surrounding Areas
- West Coast Rocky Mountain Horse Club
CA, OR, WA, NV, AZ and Surrounding West Coast State
The tried and true method is to go out and meet others who ride. Not every one will trail ride in their life, but a great majority will – when talking to other riders, a good question is to ask what their favorite trail is. If they are at the barn, in a lesson, or at the office, they may be somewhere down the road in life and can provide the next prospect. When the opportunity arises, use it. If they are good friends, all the better – having a rider who has been on the trail before is helpful.
Trail Management Groups
Mentioned further in depth later in the issue, trail management groups not only pay it forward by keeping the trails clean and maintained, it also gives an opportunity to meet up with others who are knowledgeable about the area and will be willing to provide information about the local landscape. It may even be helpful to choose a new trail when volunteering to do cleanup.
Tips for Riding on an Unfamiliar Trail
While exciting to blaze a new path, it is important to attempt to minimize any possible problems by following a few simple tips.
- Bring a map
- Take a friend. If that friend has been on the trail before, even better!
- Drive a car to the site first. This will allow you to check out the site without a truck and trailer, and determine if you want to ride there.
- Go early enough to prevent being on an unfamiliar trail in the dark.
- Take food and drink if on a long trail
- Let someone know where you are
There are more resources out there than ever before, and new ones are added every day. Social media is out there to connect people together, providing a platform to discuss new places that may otherwise be unknown. The park services give detailed information on areas that are available, what conditions will be around them, and even have an application known as Pocket Ranger that gives several features that can be useful to the equestrian. The regional clubs are out there and ready for members to contribute, providing people who have the same commitment and enthusiasm for the breed to share. Networking is nothing new and can find new places to ride or new people to ride with. Finally, trail management groups offers a way to give back and learn new trails at the same time.
Even after living in the area for years, it can be surprising how often a beautiful ride has been missed. Some trails are being remade, such as the old railroad beds that are being converted for trails in certain areas; however others are being lost forever if not properly maintained. It is important to go out and enjoy them while they are there. Once the trailer has been loaded and the destination is set, there is only one thing left to do – go ride!