SADDLE UP AND HIT THE TRAIL, traveling the beautiful, diverse Kentucky landscape in the ways of early settlers and Native Americans. Stables throughout the state offer guided trail rides. No horse? Not to worry. The stables have you covered. When you arrive, the experienced and mild-mannered horses are saddled up and ready to go. As for the journey—let’s just call it life in the slow lane.
Take the Old Buggy Road
In the breathtakingly beautiful Red River Gorge Geological Area, Randy Cable has turned over the reins (pardon the pun) of Cable’s Riding Stables, the family business he started over 15 years ago, to his daughter Miranda. The stables are about 10 miles from Natural Bridge State Resort Park. Cable’s hourlong trail rides in the Zachariah area of Wolfe County follow an old country road once used by buggies—hard to get further back to the past than that.
Plenty of horses, no outlaws
Ricky Carey and his daughter Jessica Dover run Jesse James Riding Stables and Outlaw Cave, the family business that opened in the 1970s. Guided horseback riding is just one of the activities here, ranging from camping to cave exploration and mini-golf.
“It’s a beautiful range of hills with no houses where we go riding,” says Carey, whose property is on Mammoth Cave Road in Cave City. “There’s about 500 acres to ride and we have about 40 to 50 head of horses.”
The business offers custom-made saddles so kids can ride double with an adult. The rolling ride takes equestrians in and out of the woods and up and down hills.
Cathy Cagle, Louisville, gets to know the horse before taking a trail ride at Whisper Valley Trails near Beattyville.
Photo: Tim Webb
State park stables
Carter Caves State Resort Park’s riding stables offer 45-minute, 1-1/2-mile guided trail rides through a shaded, wooded area with a couple of hills.
“You will see some wildlife,” says Rossi Wellman, who manages the stables with her husband, Woody Maddix. “It’s a nice trail ride.”
The rides are family-oriented, Wellman says, but open to anyone 6 and up.
Cave tour guide Skylar Smith says the trail is well-kept, “so it makes trail riding easier.”
Cumberland Falls State Resort Park in Corbin is the only other state park with guided horseback riding.
“It’s just nature,” is how Gene Taylor, the owner of Cumberland Falls Horse Riding Stables, describes the guided 45–50 minute trail rides through forested terrain.
The family-owned business has been in operation for nearly 40 years. The guided rides are for those 6 and up, leaving on the hour starting at 10 a.m. with the last leaving at 5 p.m.
Taylor says his customers range from families and church groups to tourists and Boy and Girl Scouts.
Land Between The Lakes
“We have horses so tame that you can put anyone on, ranging from a 6-year-old to someone 90 years and older,” says Jamie Tucker, office manager of Rocking U Riding Stable, part of Wranglers Campground in the Land Between The Lakes National Recreation Area in western Kentucky. “Just last week, we had a 93-year-old man out riding.”
The stables, open April through October, offer two guided trail rides: a gentle 45-minute ride that traverses fields, and a 90-minute experience jogging up and down among the hills, offering water views along the way.
“Nature is all around here,” says Tucker. “We’ve seen everything from turtles to deer.”
Trail rides with a history
Approximately 6 miles from Beattyville in the Daniel Boone National Forest, in a valley cut by the Kentucky River, Whisper Valley Trails offers trail rides that include a two-hour guided horse tour through a ruggedly beautiful Appalachian landscape.
“With two hours we can actually work with people, to help them become more confident,” says Troy Davison, who leads some of the rides. “It’s a ride unlike others because we go into unique areas. There’s a rock house where Indians once lived.”
Davison is studying the history of the area and talking with locals whose families stretch back generations, sharing the information during the trail rides he guides. He says the sandstone here contains crystalline nitrate (saltpeter) extracted by American soldiers during the War of 1812 to make gunpowder.
Plenty of adventures
“Our horses are great; they’re very experienced and we match the horses according to their riders,” says Bailey Napier, horse guide manager for the one-hour trail rides offered to those 5 and up at Adventures of Mammoth Cave in Cave City.
Napier says the tract offers a varied landscape—rocky, flat land and some hills.
“We have great horses who can handle anyone no matter their experience,” she says. “Our biggest group is eight so that we can keep an eye on everyone.”
Riding with wildlife
“We offer 45-minute rides geared towards kids and 1-1/2 hour rides,” says Liz Goble, owner of Whispering Woods Riding Stables just outside of Georgetown. “And also short trail rides that last for 15 to 20 minutes for kids 4 to 8 where they ride with someone leading them to an old log cabin and have their picture taken.”
Besides the heavily wooded trails that riders enjoy, Goble says that there is an abundance of wildlife in the area, including deer, fox, raccoons and wild turkeys.
JANE SIMON AMMESON is a food, lifestyle and travel writer, James Beard Nominating Judge for the Great Lakes Region, photographer and author of 11 books.