Strapping on your hiking shoes isn’t the only way to see the Catskills: You can also hit the trail on horseback. Trail-riding companies operate throughout the region, and they offer an alternative way to enjoy the spectacular views and fresh mountain air that make the Catskills a paradise for hikers.
Novice and experienced riders alike should have a pre-ride safety check with the trail ride leader, says Laura Phoenix, a riding coach and equestrian specialist at Country Meadows Equine in Delaware County. Before embarking, beginning riders should be shown how make their mount turn left or right — and most importantly, how to stop.
As you ride, the group should set the pace at the comfort level of the most inexperienced rider, in order to ensure a successful ride for everyone in the group.
After horse and rider have gotten acquainted, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the views.
Spring is a great time to take a trail ride, Phoenix says.
“The scent of the spring air combined with budding trees and bushes and the sound of chirping birds reminds you that everything is alive,” says Phoenix. “You feel like you are reborn along with the season.”
Although Catskills summers tend to be mild, the summer months do bring their share of heat, humidity and bugs. Phoenix says riders looking to keep out of the heat of the day should plan for a sunset or sunrise ride.
“Early mornings, in the summer, are more enjoyable for both horse and rider,” she says.
Summer in the Catskills is also wildflower season, and many trail rides are taken around and through perennial blooming meadows. The woods often hide a multitude of species of birds and other wildlife, as well as the occasional waterfall or pond for horse and rider to splash in.
As summer gives way to autumn, the mountains are decked out in seasonal col- ors, providing a dazzling landscape for the trail rider to enjoy.
Some local trail-riding companies operate only in the warmer months. Others run trail rides year-round. Call ahead to make sure.
If you have your own horse, many local parks and trails welcome horseback riders. Try the Bear Spring Mountain state park in Downsville, a park designed for riders that boasts miles of horse-accessible trail and 24 horse-tie stalls. The 26-mile, multiuse Catskill Scenic Trail from Bloomville to Roxbury is another good spot for horseback riding, as is the Parksville Rail Trail near Liberty.
Country Meadows Equine, Walton.
Private and group rides available. Therapeutic riding, summer camp, shows. (607-865-8071)
Bailiwick Ranch and Discovery Zoo, Catskill.
Offers trail rides around the scenic Greene County mountaintop area, from short half-hour rides to full-day and overnight trips. (518-678-5665, bailiwickranch.com)
Black Dome Guide Service and Rough Riders Ranch, East Jewett.
Year-round trail rides in the Blackhead Mountains, overnight campouts and hunting from horseback, led by a veteran of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Army’s 1st Cavalry Division. (518-589-9159, blackdomeguide.com)
Ashokan Horseback Riding Club, Olivebridge.
Offers year-round trail rides through forest and farmland in a remote spot near the Ashokan Reservoir. (845-657-8021, ashokan.com/riding)
Pinegrove Ranch and Family Resort, Kerhonkson.
This 126-room family resort offers trail riding for all levels to both overnight guests and day visitors. (800-346-4626, pinegroveranch.com)
Mohonk Mountain House, New Paltz.
Trail rides and horse- or mule-drawn carriage rides are available to both overnight guests and day visitors at this stunning Victorian resort on the Shawangunk Ridge. (855-833-3798, mohonk.com)
Lillian Browne is an avid outdoor enthusiast who works as a writer when she is not hiking, kayaking, fishing, wild food foraging, photographing, horseback riding or exploring in the Catskills.
This article originally appeared in the print version of the 2014 Catskills Outdoor Guide, our annual publication covering recreation in the Catskills great outdoors. The Catskills Outdoor Guide is distributed across the Catskills region and at select locations in the NYC metropolitan area. Find a copy near you here.