Get Outside: Horseback riding in WNY
When I need to de-stress, be social, or simply enjoy the scent of Concord grapes this time of year, I ride a horse. It’s the kind of hobby that can easily grow into a way of life. Over the years, especially during my time in Western New York, I’ve been given the opportunity to travel to several prime locations for both recreation and competition. Here are a few I would recommend for all horse lovers, whether experienced or still learning.
Guided Trail Riding/Double DAB Riding Stables
Whether you’re looking for a romantic evening date or searching for that perfect late morning/early afternoon adventure with friends, this stable has you covered. Tour guides are available in every season to lead you on reliable horses along Ripley Ridge on numerous trails that pass freshwater creeks and wildflower fields. While leisurely riding through the woods, you can expect to be greeted by wild turkey, deer, and hawks. Want even more species of animals? A petting-farm tour is included with all rides.
Options range from one-hour versions to sunset and moonlit rides. No experience is necessary. Pony rides are also available, making this stable extremely family friendly. Although Double DAB accepts walk-ins, it’s better to have a reservation, especially during the busy summer season. I recommend revisiting during the winter months. (716-736-4418, doubledab.net)
Beginner Lessons/Starlight Falls Ranch
Finding a riding stable that gives lessons is easy. Finding one that gives you hands-on experience as well as room for bonding between horse and rider is a bit trickier. At this quaint, secluded family ranch in Fredonia, anyone—whether young or young at heart—can learn the basics. Due to its relaxed nature, a heavy amount of time is spent conversing and learning about the gentle-mannered horses that live on the ranch, with emphasis on the one you will be working with.
An hour and a half lesson focuses on safety, how to care for a horse, and how to give simple commands on and off the ground. In most cases, the rider’s first mount will be bareback, allowing him or her to feel the movement of a horse and learn how the steed understands the body and voice of the rider. Confidence is established at each stage, especially in later lessons when more time is spent on the horse and in the saddle. Riding may take place in an outdoor arena, small indoor arena, or outside around the stable. Starlight Falls offers an easy approach to riding, very suitable for children and those wanting to break into the hobby for recreation or sport. (716-785-6070)
Horse Owners/Allegany State Park
If you’ve ever taken your horse here, you know you’ve stumbled across a true treasure for recreational riding—an inexpensive place to spend a night or a long weekend and treat yourself to the great outdoors. A wonderful place to hike, bike, and camp, Allegany also serves as a horse-lodging haven. Once you have set up camp in a spot off the horse loop in the Red House area, you’ll take gravel roads, abandoned town roads, and railroad rights-of-way at your leisure to explore the natural settings of the Allegany mountains and hillsides. Trails are marked with icons nailed to trees, and complimentary maps can be obtained in the park rental office where you sign in and register your vehicle and trailer. Footing for horses varies from narrow dirt trails to gravel and wider, small rock trails.
During my first stay at the park I was pleased to find a watering trough with fresh, self-filling water within short walking distance of the farthest trailer slot in the horse loop. Straight stalls are available and trailer tying is optional. Despite a few fallen trees along the fifty-five miles of trails, the scenery and ride were both breathtaking. Tall, lofty trees gave us refuge from the summer heat while one of New York’s oldest geological creations, Thunder Rocks, presented an adventurous and eye-catching pit stop. (enchantedmountains.com)
Contributing writer Chelsea Drake, a senior at Fredonia State University, is a horse owner and active member of the horse community.