The vast majority of my outdoor stories for the past 3-4 months have been about hunting and fishing. This week, I have decided to write about an outdoor subject that I have done very little participating in and know even less about. That is horseback riding.
The incident that turned me off about horses happened to me when I was about ten years old. I was visiting relatives in Mason County about this time of the year. Their neighbor had a horse that was a little more than half grown. It was kept in a large backyard (about 3/4 of an acre). The boy about my age who had the horse would be out there riding, and he would let anyone else ride who wanted to.
I got on and rode the horse around the yard for about two or three laps. At the start of the fourth lap, the young horse got frisky and took off at a hard run. I have often told people the horse wanted to go one way, and I wanted to go another, so he flipped me for it. Naturally, the horse won. I ended up getting a goose egg on my forehead along with a black eye.
The next day, my parents were quick to tell me that I needed to get on the horse again, but I wasn't about to. My mother went as far to say "I would never let a horse that young beat me."
It was nearly thirty years later when I got on another horse. Ruth and I were dating, and her father had a horse farm in the Gilman area. This particular mare was over 20 years old and very gentle. I rode her around the fenced circle for about 4 or 5 laps. Shortly after Ruth and I were married, this horse became ill with colic. I ended up having to shoot the horse because she was dying and in considerable misery. They were unable to get a vet on a Sunday. This was not an easy thing to do. For all practical purposes, this was the extent of my experience around horses.
I realize that I will be making some horse lovers angry with this paragraph but don't think a horse is a very intelligent animal. If horses had any sense at all, they would not be letting people get on their backs and ride them. This is my own opinion. Ruth says that horses want to be trained, get very attached to their owners and want to please them.
In West Virginia, however, there are many people who are in love with horses and everything that goes along with horseback riding. I cannot help but have a lot of respect for the people who enjoy doing this. Having horses and keeping them in good health has to be a very expensive proposition.
For equestrian adventurers, there are several public places in the state set aside for this purpose. One of the largest has to be the New River Gorge National Park in Fayette, Raleigh, and Summers counties. Here, there are more than 6,000 acres of horseback riding trails. Any family who has horses will not only enjoy these trails, but the abundance of natural beauty that is in the gorge itself.
In addition to this, there are four state parks that have on-site riding stables. This includes: Babcock in Fayette County, Cacapon Resort in Morgan County, Lost River in Hardy County, and Pipestem Resort in Summers County. The Canaan Valley Resort in Tucker County has stables nearby.
Lost River State Park has several trail rides that range from a pony ride for the youngsters to a 4-hour ride for the skilled horsemen and women.
Pipestem Resort has horseback riding year-round. There is a half-day ride around the park, and one can take a horse on an overnight camping trip.
So "happy trails" to all of you horseback riders. I know the people who keep up and manage these public horse riding stables will be looking forward to seeing you.