For those afflicted with the horse bug, there is no better way to view the world than from the saddle, astride a trustworthy mount, who is willing and able to take you across wooden bridges and flowing streams, so the two of you, as a collective team, can experience nature at its finest. This is best accomplished by way of long, winding trail rides that peek in and out of wooded inlets giving way to massive meadows fit for a gallop and the offering of picturesque views of Connecticut, the way maybe our ancestors first saw it.
Nutmeg state residents are fortunate to have so many public state parks, nature conservancies, beaches and forest that allow horses. This is an equine friendly state that welcomes the cherished sound of hoof beats in most public spaces. As equestrians, horseback trail riders are asked to be stewards of their sport, be aware of their surroundings and like everyone else, pick up after themselves and their horses so everyone can enjoy Connecticut’s scenic woodlands and trails together. Some great places to go for a horse/human ride in Coastal Connecticut include:
Offering riders, a unique opportunity to travel the same trails and pathways the Nehantic Native Americans, (after which the Forest is named), once did, this state forest is filled with scenic escapes, encapsulated in the hush of nature while out on the trail. An enclave of wildlife sightings and sounds, this area has streams to cross, bridges (equipped with traction strips especially for hooves) to traverse and swamps to overlook. There is a mix of terrain, which offers up an afternoon of adventure and escape for both horse and human.
However, with spotty cell service and trail markers it is highly recommended that before setting out for your ride, that you first prepare well and visit www.ct.gov.deep for a map of the area to avoid any lost scenarios. In addition, be prepared to bring a traveling hoof pick or outfit your horse with protective boots, as there are many spots on these trails that are rocky and riddled with erupting tree roots. The trails are nice and wide and do, in many spots, offer the chance to ride side by side. The northern block of the trail wraps around Hartman Park. Caution does need to be exercised, as hunting is allowed in the forest, so, as always, keep your eyes and ears open and its best to ride with a friend.
There are 276 acres of state park, which runs through Middletown and Middlefield at Wadsworth Falls State Park, with five miles of trails, which are well marked. The purple blaze trail will bring you to the expansive grounds of the Wadsworth Mansion, which is breathtaking, especially in spring when the flowers are in full bloom.
In addition, this trail ride offers the chance to take a moment and breathe in the beauty of the “Big Falls” which is 30 feet high and 52 feet wide. It’s quiet a sight, however, a popular one, so this trail is often a heavily traveled one, with lost of families, dogs and loud noises. There are also grills and picnic areas along this trail, which make it even more attractive to visitors during the warmer months. So, if you looking for a very quiet, serene experience, this trail may not be a great match for you and your mount. However, the trails are well marked and wide in most areas, which makes for a pleasant experience.
Offering trails which wind along on the shore of the Quinebaug River this area is a beautiful place to breath in the beauty of nature while sharing some quality time with your best equine friend. The Park is open from sunrise until sunset and is complete with a port-a-pottie on sight as well as a cookout area if you want to relax and refuel after your excursion.
There is varied terrain on the trails, so make sure that your horse has the correct protection and you have the ability to pick out a random embedded rock or stick in hoof one, two three or four. Some of the trails here run very close to the aerated fish tanks where the trout are held. This is an unusual and somewhat load noise that does spook some horses so be aware. However, the trails are beautiful, the nature is abundant, there are several ponds and a large open field that begs for a good, fast, out of the ring gallop! So, take the necessary precautions, invite a friend or two and have a great time!
Many Connecticut residents are not aware that from October 1, through March 31, there are three public beaches in the state that allow you to ride on the beach; wind in your hair and mane, feet and hooves in the sand, and misty sea-spray on your face and skin. The beaches are Hammonasset State Park in Madison, Bluff Point State Park in Groton and Penfield and Jennings Beaches in Fairfield.
Hammonasset State Park is located at the end of the Hammonasset Connector, with miles of sandy beaches and views of the ocean for as far as the eye can see, this State Park has ample parking for trailers and is a great place to let your spirit and your horse run free (of course with you in control at all times). With an expansive beach, Meigs Point is a great spot to “ride like the wind” on the shore’s edge. Keep in mind that there are very often dogs and other beach visitors at the park, including kite boarders, kite flyers, bird watchers and young children. Beach rides offer plenty of new sights, sounds and experiences for our equine friends so it’s a great idea to bring along other horse friends who are seasoned beach goers to help navigate the experience. In addition to the beach area, Hammonasset State Park has miles of paved roads which also make a great place to ride for bit if your horse needs a break from the waves and the water.
Bluff Point State Park in Groton, located at the end of Depot Road is another impressive beach ride. Offering a little less shoreline for a long, full out gallop, Bluff Point does offer a good mix of wooded rocky trails and gravel roads as well as beach front pathways.
Penfield and Jennings Beaches in Fairfield, located at 880 South Benson Road, are owned and managed by the town, not the state, which is a bit different from the other beaches, but never the less this area offers an amazing beach ride experience for local equestrians. With 3.5 acres along Long Island Sound Penfield Beach connects with the 27 acres of Jennings Beach.
This beautiful area is a sought out location for beach lovers in all shapes and sizes so there are some very direct requests of horseback riders, such as; ride at low tide, remove of all horse manure, always ride below the high tide line (because above that line is private property) and try your best to stay a good distance away from other beach goers.
A word of warning, dogs are allowed off leash at this beach so be aware.
There are some amazing sandbars at this beach, which offer a great opportunity for a unique ride, with better traction for horses than deep, dry sand and the wildlife and bird activity is very entertaining. More information about these beaches can be found at www.fairfieldbeachaccess.org.