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More than blue grass in Kentucky

If a visit to Kentucky’s Horse Park and Lexington area farms has you hankering to get in the saddle, you have many options. Horseback riding in Kentucky is accessible, family friendly and can be easy on the wallet. Here are some good picks for trail riding for your next visit to Kentucky.

The Big Red Stables has been in Emily Dennis’ family for generations. Located not too far from Shaker Village in an area of beautiful meadows, forests and rolling hills, this family farm offers a personalized riding tour on smooth Tennessee Walking horses. Riders of varying experience levels can enjoy a taste of life on a Kentucky family farm.

I rode a beautiful, seven-year-old, bay Tennessee Walking horse named Shadow along with Emily, her husband Drew and nine-year-old niece. Over 20 years ago, Emily’s mother started the Big Red Stables. Emily talked about her childhood on the farm, as we rode past the stables and up through open meadows to the top of a rolling hill, where we could look out over the 200-acre farm. As I listened to Emily’s childhood stories of riding bareback down into the creeks, I realized that she was able to experience a freedom that doesn’t seem to exist in a lot of places today.

After passing through one of the many stone fences which dot the countryside, our group came to a vast, flat field where Emily used to play a game that she called Kentucky Derby with her friends. You can probably guess what this game involved. We raced up a hill and stopped in time to ease onto trails lined with cherry blossom trees in full bloom.

I had heard about the trails at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill, a restored Shaker community in Kentucky, long before I set out for a ride with Don Pelly, a naturalist, and a group of local riders. You can bring your own horse and ride at Shaker Village or saddle up on a guided tour with the Big Red Stables.

Shaker Village has over 3,000 acres of idyllic landscapes and historic sites with 33 miles of horseback riding trails and 15 miles of carriage-friendly trails and it’s less than 30 minutes from Lexington. We rode along a dirt road lined with two old stone walls built by Irish, Scottish and English immigrants that came into this area in the 1800s. These walls, set against rolling verdant hills, reminded me of riding in Ireland.

Passing a field of wildflowers, including delicate clusters of purple phlox, we crossed a stream and rode down Shawnee Run Trail by the old mill site, an important area for the Shakers. There’s a beautiful cascading waterfall here, which powered the old mill and makes for a great photo opportunity.

You can stay in Shaker comfort on the property at The Inn at Shaker Village and your horses can as well. Boarding facilities feature fully-equipped stalls with shavings, a heated tack room with hot and cold running water and five large paddocks.

With over 100 miles of diverse trails for horses and the well-equipped Wranglers Campground, many people travel to Land Between the Lakes (LBL) to ride. You can bring your own horse or choose to ride out on guided rides with Wranglers Riding Stables.

LBL is on a peninsula surrounded by a Lake Barkley and Fjords Bay on one side and Laura Furnace Creek and Lick Creek on the other, meaning there’s ample chance to ride near water and spot waterfowl and other wildlife.

The riding trails bring travelers through rolling woodlands and alongside isolated shores. We clip-clopped through a beautiful stream as we rode towards the lake, passing a few other riders along the way.

At this 170,000-acre National Recreation Area, folks are encouraged to come and be active in the area. Lots of people camp here for the week and make their own fun by fishing, biking, riding horses and getting into nature.

Like many Kentucky sites I explored on horseback, there are also historic spots to discover in LBL, like the ruins of Laura Furnace, an iron production site that was active over 100 years ago.

There are lots of great areas to explore on horseback in the great state of Kentucky. Bring your horse or ride an area mount. All you need is a sense of adventure and a taste for nature and history.

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