Giddyup for fall color on Kentucky’s horse trails
There’s nothing like saddling up and riding a horse on Mammoth Cave National Park’s 60 miles of trails saturated in autumn’s palette of orange, red, and russet.
“It is a beautiful place to ride,” says Rocky Lombardi. She and her husband, Dave, own the Double J Stables and Horseman’s Campground, served by Warren Rural Electric Co-op. “The scenery in the park is always changing.”
Kentucky has breathtaking vistas all over the state. There are sweeping, forested views on the Nature Preserve at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, along the lakeside trails at Land Between The Lakes, and even in suburban parks—but for the most colorful close-ups, you need to saddle up.
“What you see from the back of a horse in Kentucky is breathtaking,” says Emily Dennis, who owns Harrodsburg’s Big Red Stables with mom, Judy Burks, and husband, Drew Dennis. “There is absolutely no better way to see the fall landscape.”
Double J Stables and Horseman’s Campground spreads over 55 acres, including pastures for 18 resident horses and undercover stalls, turnout pens, and small pastures for guests’ horses, and it’s bordered on two sides by the national park. From its trailhead, riders simply mount up and trot onto the trail.
The Lombardis were equestrian neophytes when they moved from Florida to Kentucky four years ago and bought the business.
“We were here for two weeks and it was time for the season to start, so we got a crash course on horses,” says Rocky Lombardi, now a seasoned wrangler. “What a blast!”
Besides seeing the changing leaves in Mammoth Cave National Park on small-group guided horseback rides (usually no more than eight riders), visitors can attend Double J’s annual craft fair. This year, it’s from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. CT on Saturday, October 11. Artist-vendors will have jewelry (including horse hair trinkets), handbags, and handmade wooden signs, among other crafts. There will also be food vendors, and the Edmonson County 4-H will sell food as a fund-raiser.
Double J Stables also holds an annual Halloween event. On Friday, October 31, kids can trick-or-treat through the campground, and there’ll be hayrides, horse and carriage rides, and more. A horseback poker run fund-raiser on Saturday also includes pumpkin painting for kids, a chili cook-off, and a DJ/karaoke. There is no cover charge for Double J events.
At Wrangler’s Riding Stables at Land Between The Lakes, served by Pennyrile Electric co-op, 150 miles of trails put riders up close to not only vibrant fall color, but to forested hills, wildlife, the ruins of Laura Furnace, old cemeteries, and old home sites—including an outhouse.
“There’s lots of hardwoods—oak, hickory, poplar—so just about every color you can think of is here, from yellow to dark reddish-purple,” says James Upton, who runs the guided trail ride business in the campground. “On any trail you can ride along the lake, so you have the fall colors and the beautiful lake view.”
By-appointment-only guided trail rides are offered at Big Red Stables on gentle, gaited Tennessee Walking horses on the family farm and at Eagles Nest, a 1,000-acre privately owned woodland with 30 miles of trails and a 26-acre lake. Additionally, intermediate and advanced riders enjoy two-hour guided trail rides in the 3,000-acre Nature Preserve at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill.
“This is a little piece of heaven on earth, with the stone fences, wildflowers, birds, differing terrain, and the changing leaves,” says Emily Dennis, a Blue Grass Energy member. “There’s lots of open land where you get beautiful vistas of Woodford and Mercer counties. In the forest, past the old mill and Shawnee Run Creek, the exposed limestone along the creek is just breathtaking.”
Keeping Kentucky’s horse trails open
Kentucky Back Country Horsemen, www.KyBCH.com, promotes and protects Kentucky trails and equestrian access to public lands so everyone can enjoy them. Organized in 2007, it is an affiliate chapter of the Back Country Horsemen of America.
There are six chapters in Kentucky and anyone interested is welcome to join. Volunteers meet with U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service staff, and other land managers to discuss trail policies, decisions, and maintenance issues. They also ride trails to remove trash or report issues, and offer classes in the “Leave No Trace” ethic, sustainable trail design, and more.
The group’s president, Ginny Grulke, helped develop an equine survey, sponsored by the Kentucky Horse Council and the University of Kentucky, which found that some 79,500 horses are involved in trail riding in Kentucky.
Kathy Witt from October 2014 Issue Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill