Hitting the Trails on Horseback

Hitting the Trails on Horseback

Like those early pioneers so long ago who viewed colliding mountain ranges and towering pines between the ears of a trusty steed, a horseback ride in Oregon's rugged wilderness beckons to the most dearly held images of a wild west long gone.

With a changing, more urbanized society, horse experiences are not so easy to come by in this day and age. A handful of locations in Southern Oregon, however, offer a variety of trail ride experiences in some of the area's more picturesque landscape.

When looking for a trail ride service, start by considering where you'd liketo go riding. Perhaps it's a nature preserve with an equestrian trail along a creek. Maybe there's a historic trail winding through dense forest to a waterfall. Some trail ride services offer a specific trip while others will cater to location-specific requests.

Most anyone age 8 and older in good physical condition can take a ride on horseback, from horse lovers looking for a different perspective as well as first-timers who've longed to enjoy Mother Nature from a saddle, says Tia Hendrikz, trail boss for Howlin' Acres, trail ride provider for the Green Springs Box R Ranch.

As a general rule, trail horses are slow and steady thanks to the years of experience they've had, City Slickers Trail Rides owner Leslie Hunter says.

A planned ride should be partially catered to experience levels and age of those going along for the ride. For example, don't schedule a trail ride for a half-day adventure in steep wilderness with a group of friends who've never been on a horse.

Age wise, kids 8 and older can usually handle a basic trail ride but younger or more nervous youth riders should receive extra instruction before heading out and can opt to be "ponied" alongside an older horse.

Adults and children going on a trail ride should expect their trail ride guide to, at least, provide a safety talk and ensure that riders feel confident in their ability to stay on a horse. A waiver of liability is usually signed, though riders under 18, and those who are especially nervous, are encouraged - and sometimes required - to wear a helmet.

As for apparel, jeans or long pants are most comfortable as a long ride can result in blisters in some inconvenient places. For shoes, tennis shoes may be comfy but can get stuck in stirrups, Hendrikz says. Opt for a boot or other style of shoe with a solid heel.

Another bit of advice, Hendrikz cautions not to bite off more of a ride than you can handle.

"A lot of people call me and say, 'I've ridden a horse once or twice before. Can we go galloping?' And I say, 'No. Galloping is when people get bounced off.' I've got a clean track record. I like to bring everybody back on horse!"

Cost wise, trail ride services vary slightly, but not by much. A one hour ride costs between $30 and $40 per person, twice as much for two hours and four times as much for a half-day event. Some facilities, such as City Slickers and Howlin' Acres (on Box R Ranch) offer horseback riding in conjunction with resort or vacation packages.

Some last minute details, pack a small bag that will attach to the horse and plan for water and a snack. Other considerations include a small first aid kit, a compass, map, cell phone and a few horse treats to say thanks when the ride comes to an end.

Whether heading into those towering pine trees on a historic trail or trotting along with friends close to home, plan to be comfortable, have a great time and hang on for a great ride.

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