An easy canter is the perfect pace to enjoy fall. From north to south, Granite Staters love horses. The White Mountains region is home to a high concentration of outdoor recreational sports and activities for every member of the family at nearly every level of ability. September is a great time to enjoy some camping, take in a hike or visit one of the area’s many natural wonders. One can view the area from every conceivable mode of transport, including on foot, bike, boat, gondola, tramway or by train, and for those who love animals a horse provides an even livelier way to get around. Horseback riding in the Mt. Washington area provides a beautiful backdrop for novice and experienced riders alike to enjoy what the region has to offer. With a little instruction from an experienced guide, a horseback trail excursion can be an exciting new way to see the area, make some new friends and enjoy a little respite away from the daily rigors of life. To the south, horseback riding enthusiasts are thrilled to welcome the Jumper Classic (www.jumperclassic.com), hosted this year on its 20th anniversary at the Silver Oak Equestrian Center in Hampton Falls. This non-profit event, held Sept. 2-6, offers Grand Prix show jumping and an opportunity for horse lovers of all ages to watch some great competitions.Impressive FactAccording to Google Insights for Search, which measures search volume by geographic regions for specific keywords going back as far as 2004, “horse” is the number three search in the recreation category for New Hampshire. Horse searches include “horses,” “horse for sale,” “horse riding,” “horse stables” and more.
Expert AdviceCharlene Browne is co-owner (with her husband Rick Davis) of the historic Farm by the River Bed and Breakfast with Stables (www.farmbytheriver.com) on their private 70-acre family estate in North Conway. With the help of their trainers and guides, they have provided year-round horseback riding and activities to their guests and the general public for about 12 years.
What can a novice rider expect the first time out?
When people call up to make a reservation we ask them about their age, if they’re under 18, weight, height and experience with riding horses. Then we know how many children’s horses to adult horses are needed. Then when the guest riders come, we assess their comfort level with horses. Some people tend to be a bit timid while others are comfortable; some people are more athletic than others. People are given a demonstration with a mounted trail guide and shown how to hold the reins, steer the horses, sit in the saddle. Then after they are mounted on their horse we instruct them again individually to make sure they understand. If you are a first time rider, rest assured you will be coming to a stable, open year-round, that has 24 resident-owner owned horses and experienced trail guides.
What is unique about trail riding in the Mt. Washington Valley?
We have a scenic ride going down a hill into the meadows, into the sugar maple forest (beautiful in the fall) along the Saco River, through evergreen stands. In every direction you can see mountain views — nine miles of the Moat Mountains, Mt. Cranmore, Mt. Kearsarge, Cathedral and White Horse Ledges and up into Carter Notch. I think the seasonal variety here is amazing. All year round we see wildlife here and the seasonal changes are phenomenal. The different mountains cast different shadows during the day and weather plays a factor, too.
What gear is provided for riders and what items and/or gear are recommended that riders bring from home for a day on the trail?
We use western saddles and, for those more experienced who wish to ride English, we have some English. Helmets are available and required for those under 18 years old. We recommend sturdy closed-in shoes, rain jacket, comfortable pants.
With some activities (like skiing, cycling or kayaking) your “steed” is an inanimate object. What are some of the challenges and pleasures of dealing with the personality of the horse you are paired with?
I tell people it is not a mechanical ride, that horses do have very unique personalities and that you need to be alert when you are on a horse. There are certain signs that a horse gives you when they are irritated, fearful, they hear something, etc. This is why it is important to have experienced, year-round trail guides who know the horses personalities and how these horses react to various stimuli in different situations.
Gear BoxAs someone saddling up and hitting the trail for the first time, you may not want to invest in a horse and a full set of equipment just yet. But there is gear enough you can purchase that will be useful on the occasional ride that shouldn’t bust the budget.
While you don’t need any real specialty clothing for this type of riding, you can be stylish and comfortable in a pair of Tuffrider jean breeches ($44.95).
You could probably get away with wearing sneakers on a trail ride (I certainly have!) but why when you can wear something as cool as these Double H Opanka Packers($91), which offer comfort while riding in the country as well as walking in the city.
And in the unfortunate event that your horse decides it’s had enough of your riding, or if you inexplicably take a tumble on the trail, the Troxel Legacy riding helmet ($44.95) will protect your noggin, if not your pride.
This article appears in the September 2009 issue of New Hampshire Magazine