I’m in love with Lucy, a Tennessee Walking Horse, and I’m riding her back home to Canada.
“Well,” says my guide at Juro Stables in Mount Juliet outside of Nashville, Tennessee, “she’s kind of lazy so it might take you a while.”
So we’ll be walking north for about three months then.
Actually, I rode Lucy over an hour and that was enough considering both the guide and me (again, I scored a private ride during a group time slot) are drenched to the bone and my white Lulu Lemon jacket is covered in black smudges not even the hotel laundry can remove.
But that’s how it goes out on the trail especially here in Country and Western heaven, where Kelly Pickler’s voice welcomes people at the airport, and some other famous country singers who didn’t make an appearance on American Idol call home. (Clearly, not my music genre).
Each time I ride when I’m away, I fall madly in love with every trail horse I meet. Yet it’s the same story each romance: at the end of the ride, I dismount. The horse turns and heads to the herd without so much as a backward glance my way, breaking my heart once again. The same happens with Lucy, my first
Tennessee Walking Horse – and my first Australian saddle, which is the perfect compromise between English and Western gear.
Yes, I rode a Tennessee Walking Horse in Nashville, Tennessee, which is more than poetic considering it’s unusual to see this type of horse among Quarter Horses at a trail riding facility. But Lucy is special. She maneuvers the trails with cautious grace and is a steady ride, narrow and tall and the most comfortable I’ve ridden on a rocky uneven forest trail. Her breed was designed centuries ago for carrying doctors across the frontier countryside, though I can’t get her to trot in the slippery mud because she’s more than cautious about her footing.
And it’s muddy alright. It’s been storming three days straight in Nashville and the tornado siren has gone off twice today, I’m told. During some strange twist of fate, I’m riding in the window of rain reprieve. It’s stopped for the time being, and there’s only wind infrequently blowing.
But blow it does and every few minutes cascades of water falling from rustling leaves drench us. We’re limited today how far we can go because the creek that runs through these 300 acres is high and fast and some trails are completely washed out. None-the-less, I can tell that Juro Stable property is the real deal and a beautiful place to ride if you’re looking for dense forest trails, a bit of a challenge (pull your legs in a lot or your knee will look bruised like mine) beyond a circle in a meadow, and an introduction to real rural riding.
As I complete the final lap through the forest, the bray of donkeys from the adjacent farm sets off barking dogs. On a moonlight ride, my guide says, the occasional howl of coyotes is audible across the fields. Deer and wildlife live in the woods reasonably undisturbed. The land here is thin soil covering shale rock supporting dense brush growth; it’s used for little else but trail riding and farms are a distance away.
Juro Stables is about a 20-minute drive outside of Nashville and for part of the route, you drive down a single lane road that ends at the stable entrance marked by a cowboy cutout. This isn’t the neat and clean boarder barns near cities. It’s a hodge-podge of family home, farm geese and chickens, rustic barn-board structures, a parked RV and stuff around that’s been piling up for the last 15 years since owners, Judy and Roger West moved their business to this leased property. They’ve been in the trail riding business for about 27 years, and today’s guide, who grew up on a cattle farm, has been working for them part time for seven years, even before she finished nursing school.
Forty-two horse, all rescued from somewhere, contentedly mill about between paddocks and curious about visitors. Most are here permanently unless for some reason one doesn’t work out as a trail horse then it’s rehomed. A few are owned by employees including the five-year-old roan my guide is training.
Some horses are saddled up because one and one and half hour rides go out every day starting at 9am with moonlight rides starting at 7pm. There’s no set route; the experience is tailored to riders. This is also the first time I was sent out to ride a trail loop on my own, which required a lot of leg and encouragement for Lucy to leave her partner. She did know the shortcut through the circle, however, abbreviating my solo excursion a bit and volleying me against trees.
Horses usually ride two, but no more than three, rides a day here. Prices are the best I’ve experienced starting at $35 an hour per person. This is clearly a lifestyle love for everyone in involved including volunteer guides who work for tips and the two Juro Stables owners who’ve been operating a trail riding facility for 27 years and counting. I left the hardy staff with one more riding group to go that day, rain or shine. Lucy of course remained in Nashville, happy to be done for the day.
Travel Guide: Nashville, capital of Tennessee, is best known for a vibrant country and blues music scene, an active downtown fueled by bars and live performances, the Grand Ole Oprey, and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Stayed tuned for a www.horsetrotting.net review of Belle Meade Plantation, a Nashville historic site and former Standardbred breeding farm. And PanAm games report next week!
Special shout out to BlogPaws conference (more product reviews soon) and Travel Animal Doctor (www.travelanimaldr.com) who gave horsetrotting.net and dogtrotting.net special attention. Check it out: http://travelanimaldr.com/bloggers-from-blogpaws-2015/