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Saddle up for some horsin’ around
When driving down the dirt road leading to Blue Spruce Farm in Monroe, a “western” vibe is definitely in the air. Beautiful horses of various colors and breeds graze in the rings lining the family-run farm. Old horseshoes hang on the front of the main barn. A license plate nailed to a fence post reads “Fight smog, ride a horse.” Nearby, a tractor sits in an open dirt field.
This would be my first time riding a horse and I was looking forward to it. But as I stood in the middle of the ring with the massive horse only a few feet in front of me, the only emotion I felt was fear. The farm’s trail guide- a friendly woman who seemed to really care about horses-explained how to get in the saddle as she held the horse. As I put all of my weight on the stirrup, the horse barely flinched, making me fully aware of the animal’s size and power. I closed my eyes and threw my leg over the horse’s back, positioning myself in the saddle.
The first five minutes on the horse is the most intimidating, and in my opinion the worst part of the whole experience. My anxiety surfaced with the reality of being on the back of a huge animal. But after a walk around the ring and a brief lesson on how to steer and stop the horse, I calmed down. I would have power to control the horse,; not the other way around.
That is, until my horse walked too close to an electric fence. The jolt sent him into a frantic canter with me on his back. One of the farm’s horse handlers quickly grabbed the reins, stopping the horse and me from having a heart attack. After a little persuasion and a few slow laps away from the fence, my nerves subsided. I was ready to conquer the trail. Led by the trail guide, we took the horses out onto wooded paths. Small birds chirped above our heads as we wandered. Large leafy branches provided shade from the warm summer sun. I found myself relaxed and having fun.
Blue Spruce Farm has a variety of trails of various lengths and difficulty located on about 40 acres of land. Each trail ride is 50 minutes long and costs $30 per person. Customers have the option of riding English or Western style.
My ride was unhurried and steady, but more experienced riders have the option of galloping on more difficult terrain. If a trail ride doesn’t pique your interest, Blue Spruce Farm also features moonlight rides in the winter, pony rides for $80 per hour, and tractor-drawn hay rides for $80.
To explore even more terrain on horseback, saddle up at the 130-acre Pee Wee Farm in Easton. The forested trails there are suitable for both beginners and advanced riders, and customers can decide their own pace depending on their skill.
On the day I visited Pee Wee Farm, I found the staff members and riders at the main stable. The group munched on sandwiches and chatted with each other. The vibe was friendly and comfortable.
And like at Blue Spruce Farm, horse handlers at Pee Wee Farm match riders with a horse appropriate for their size and experience. I was suited up with Beauty, or “the human couch” as the employees call her, and my ride was as tame and as mellow as promised.
We meandered through the woods and watched deer eating only a few feet in front of us. The quiet of the forest was interrupted only by the wind blowing through the trees and the rhythmic clopping of the horses’ hooves.
As I gently swayed back and forth, I found myself pleasantly relaxed.
The trail ride at Pee Wee Farm lasts 45 minutes and costs $40 per person.
This article first appeared on ctnow.com and is republished with permission of The Hartford Courant.