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Happy trails

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Shelby Trails offers a day that will keep you smiling

By Ashley Sutter

In my five years at The Sentinel-News I’ve stepped inside many barns. I’ve attended more horse shows than I can count. I’ve seen a farrier shoe a horse after forging his own horseshoe.  I’ve even seen a vet shoulder deep in a horse.  Though some memories I can look back on more fondly than others, I can honestly say the experiences here in Shelby County have reawakened a forgotten pastime and love of mine.

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As a child I often enjoyed riding my best friend’s horse, and I even took riding lessons for a short time.  But I grew up in Louisville where horse farms aren’t exactly on every corner.   Unfortunately, with limited access comes limited opportunity and sadly horse riding became a thing of my past.

So when I came up with the idea about sharing a first person experience at Shelby Trails, I quickly gave the barn a call before anyone could change their mind. 

Justine Saudan, manager of the Shelby Trails, took my call. She was very kind and easy to work with and quickly set up a guided trail ride for us for the following day.

 

Back in the saddle

It’s not too often my husband begs to accompany me to work, but for this Saturday assignment there was no question he would be coming along.

Our experience started before we even arrived.  While I get to enjoy a quiet drive into Shelby County from Spencer each morning, the picturesque drive along the quiet back roads of Simpsonville was a nice break from my husband’s daily commute into Louisville. 

There was no hiding my excitement as we passed through the gate and entered the beautiful park overflowing with lush green grass and trees, rolling fences and an abundance of horses.

As we approached the barn, Saudan gave us a warm greeting and presented us with the most stylish of helmets before pairing us with two horses that matched our riding skill levels.

As my horse approached the small set of stairs I was standing atop, I had mixed emotions. Part of me was eager and excited to hop on and get the ride started.  The other part of me was confused.  I had to ask why my horse was masked like he was preparing for fencing practice. Saudan explained the mask was meant to keep the flies out of the eyes, which can lay eggs and cause infections.   Her response was reassuring.  I have heard of trail riding businesses that overwork their horses and don’t care for them as they should.  But it was clear Saudan and her team are taking steps to ensure their health.

After my husband and I had a brief refresher lesson, we were on our way.

Saudan was very attentive and remained nearly backwards in her saddle throughout the ride as she kept a keen eye on us.

We carried fun conversations throughout the hour trip and learned a little about each other and our horses.

Saudan laughed as she explained that my horse, Cricket, was a bit of a flirt – a fact I soon learned firsthand when he trotted off the trail momentarily to nuzzle his “girlfriend”.

My husband rode Rio and they were the perfect pair.  A former barrel racing champion, the horse kept his own pace and did his own thing. At one point, despite my husband’s urging to move along, Rio stopped for a bite of grass.  He eventually trotted back up to us carrying an entire plant in his teeth.  In addition to random foliage, I also had to wonder if beans were in Rio’s diet.  I apologize, but there’s no polite way to put this. Rio was a bit on the flatulent side and took advantage of opportunities to breeze by us after expelling gas. Can a horse smile? Because I swear, I think he laughed about it.

 

An enjoyable afternoon

Aside from the occasional breath of not-so-fresh hair, the 4 1/2 mile trek through the lush trails was incredible.  All around us, there was nothing but green grass and blue skies. The temperature was perfect and there was just enough cloud coverage to offer some shade from the warm summer sun. 

For the next hour we enjoyed being unplugged from the world. We talked, laughed and got lost in nature. We forgot about the stress of our daily lives and just enjoyed a walk through the park. 

Suddenly the barn was in sight and my enjoyment waned.  Though I wasn’t ready to take off my awesome helmet and put Cricket back in his stall, I knew our journey had come to an end.

Before we left, my husband and I spent a few minutes planning our next trail ride, which I’m confident will happen for our anniversary.

The rate is very reasonable at only $40 per person for guided trail rides.  And there is plenty to see with 25 trails across 462-acres.  For guided rides, they can accommodate up to five riders at a time.  They also accept riders of all skill levels ages 8-and-up.

In addition, daily or yearly passes can be purchased for those wishing to utilize the grounds for rides with their own horses. 

While the park is maintained by Shelbyville/Shelby County Parks, The Red Fern Riding Center is in charge of the guided trial rides, English riding lessons, camps, clinics and boarding.

For information or to book a lesson or trail ride, contact Saudan via text at 502-437-4375 or visit www.shelbytrailspark.com.