Thursday, October 13, 2016

Trail Riding in Texas

For the past couple years, I've made it a personal goal to try and hit up the trails in states that I get to spend some extended time in. Work sends me to Texas quite a few times during the year but the nature of my travel schedule often doesn't provide enough flexibility to snag saddle time. After years of trying though, I finally got to check Texas off of my riding bucket list this past weekend!

T resided in Dallas a number of years ago and wanted to go back and revisit the trails she used to ride on. I was game for an adventure and had the PTO available so we set up a extended weekend vacation and flew out to Dallas last Saturday with two goals in mind: 1) Ride horses and 2) eat foods that NJ has continued to fail to replicate...namely Tex Mex and BBQ brisket. Spoiler alert: Both goals were thoroughly accomplished in the 5 days we were there lol

The first ride location was about an hour north of Dallas at BMR, a barn owned by an endurance rider named M. M was originally from Europe and now an avid, active AERC competitor in the Central Region. That being said, her barn was no ordinary run-of-the-mill stop for tourist hack rides and offered several trail riding packages including a 4-hour trail ride expected to cover at least 10 miles with w/t/c in open Texas countryside. There was an even longer ride option, but T was apprehensive about the time and distance so we opted to do the 4 hours.

After arriving at the BMR and taking care of paperwork, M introduced me to Thunder, a 12yo paint TB gelding and my partner for the day's adventure. I was pleased to see he was outfitted with biothane tack and a treeless endurance saddle. While making the ride reservation, M inquired about our riding experience including saddle preference; I was grateful that she honored my request for an endurance saddle. As it turns out, the saddle was a Black Forest Shasta, which was the same exact brand and model I use with Quest so I had zero issues with saddle adjustment and comfort the whole day. M got me situated and mounted up first, then took care of T and a girl in our group named N. With everyone saddled up and ready, our little group of 4 set off for the trailhead at a walk.

I cannot begin to say how incredibly lucky we got with the weather the entire trip. High 60s in the morning with mid 70s in the afternoon, blue skies and sunshine throughout- perfect for riding. There had been rain a couple days before so there was some mud and a few lingering puddles at certain points were you could see how thick and clay-like the mud was at its worse. However enough time had passed that 95% of the trail was thoroughly dried out for M to give the okay to open up the horses to trot and canter for long extended stretches. And the views...just wow. It was amazing to see just how different the southern freshwater plains terrain and vegetation was from the tall deciduous forests in NJ. I couldn't stop taking pictures and video the entire time.

Permanent horse corrals at the park camp site. How cool is that!

During the walk break sections, I got a chance to chat with M about endurance riding. It was fascinating to hear firsthand how the terrain and humidity factored into how she trains and prepares her horses for rides. I commented that I really enjoyed Thunder and how he handled. M proudly commented that he was used to help pony and train her green endurance Arabians. I could totally see why he had the job- sane brain but with plenty of get up and go to really move out. She asked about Quest and was sympathetic when I told her about the rehab we were currently working through. M left me with some suggestions about future plans so those will be stewing in my head for bit until it is the right time to act. However best of all she praised my positivity, "That's the attitude that will get you far in this sport."

The ride ended up being 4.5hrs long due to fact M wanted to do a little extra and take us to the lake for pictures and let the horses cool in the water. We ended up covering about 15 miles (I was clever and packed my GPS for this trip) and everyone had big smiles at the end. M also genuinely seemed to enjoy our company on the trail, even saying that she would love to have us back again to set up a special private overnight ride. There aren't that many people who want to do the distance/time so group rides like ours were sometimes few and far in between. I seriously wish I lived in Texas just so I could train with her and would love to have her as a mentor. We plan to keep in touch though so I'm grateful to have her on as  "remote" endurance mentor lol

Two days later, our next riding stop was MCR. According to T, years ago the barn used to be a devil-may-care, nonchalant sort of place where they let anyone of any ability ride w/t/c anytime, anywhere. For obvious reasons, things have changed a lot since so despite informing them about our riding experience, we were required to go out with 3 trail guides for a check ride before we were placed onto their "advanced riders" list. The latter didn't bother me much though because once the lead trail guide realized that we really actually did know how to ride, sections that were supposed to be walk/trot instantly became canter/hand gallop lol

Note the check guide's shirt lol

My mount for this ride was a 15yo red roan AQHA gelding named Renegade who did barrel racing back in his glory days. According to the trail guides, he was one of fastest horses at the barn. I'm usually game for speed and enjoy forward but for some reason I was perfectly content with the nice steady lope Renegade offered all day.

Call it premonition, call it whatever you want but I think that easy going pace was what prevented us from mishap when a dog and his owner suddenly popped out of the woods and badly spooked the horses. The lead trail guide, T, and her check guide had already galloped past the area so Renegade and I were the front and center when the dog zoomed out towards the trail while we loped by. Renegade shied sideways and nearly went over- somehow I managed to stayed on and brought him to a safe stop a few yards down on the trail. My check guide behind me was not as lucky and he went overboard. Fortunately he was able to get back on after a couple minutes and we finished the rest of the ride with no further mishaps.

I'm really happy to finally check off Texas from my ride bucket list and this vacation was certainly an experience of a lifetime. Don't know what the future may bring but I'd love to trail ride in other states, maybe even other countries, and see what they have to offer. I might be biased, but the view between two ears is really the best way to experience the outdoors and natural wonders of the world.


  1. What a great trip - I agree that trail riding is the perfect way to experience new places :)

  2. What fun! Love to hear about Ms ideas for your future with rehab etc