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Local trails can be happy places

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Imagine being on a horse as like minded people ride along a back trail through the scenery between Owen Sound and Meaford, stopping for lunch or perhaps a swim.

 

That’s the scene along the Tom Thomson Trail, a 44-kilometre multi-use non-motorized public track opened in 2008, and one of the trails Chesley Saddle Club members use.

Randy Wright, from Leith, who spoke on behalf of his saddle club at Grey Bruce Farmers’ Week on Sunday, said trail riding is “what I love to do with my life.”

Over the past 10 years he has ridden “10,000 miles and by now with 1,500 people.” He told the enthusiastic audience that it was a great way to meet new friends and see the countryside up close.

Wright defined a trail ride as a minimum of four hours, not counting lunch stops or swims. This gives the horse and rider a minimum amount of good physical exercise. The ride doesn’t have to be quick or serious, as Wright hinted there was a lot of humour during rides and also some spectacular scenery and viewing of wildlife.

the third week of September club members drive to Algonquin Park, when the leaves are multi-coloured and there aren’t too many bugs, and take their horses on trail riding excursion of a few days. This year Wright saw two moose and a wolf. He showed photos of hills, lakes and cozy campfires at night.

The Chesley Saddle Club has been in existence since 1971, when a few local horse riding enthusiasts got together to show their horses off at fall fairs and organize some group rides. New trails were opened then with the nearest to Chesley being at the Alan Park conservation area.

Over the years the club stopped showing horses but has increased trail riding with members from all over the province.

However during the last 10 years the number of trails has dropped. Most recently one was lost near Kincardine.

“We’re losing trails left and right,” Wright said. He lamented the fact that “Canada is not horse friendly, whereas the U.S. is expanding.”

Trails are disappearing because many of them are on private property and as ownership changes, many new owners don’t want horse trails on their land.

“Get involved,” Wright said. He urged trail riders to tell owners where trails pass through what a wonderful path it was. “We don’t want them to hear only complaints,” he said.

It’s also very important to clean up. Wright uses a hockey stick to swipe horse manure left on the trail into the bush and exhorted trail riders to especially clean up at their trailer sites.

“It doesn’t take much but it makes a world of difference,” he advised.

There is some basic equipment needed for a trail ride — rope for tying horses, helmets for safety, a small saw, topographic map, one bottle of water per hour of riding, a compass, a saddle bag, trail tape, matches and a rain jacket. “You can start off on a warm day and end up with rain and temperatures down 10 degrees, where you can easily get hypothermia,” warned Wright.

Se said it didn’t matter what type of horse you have — mules would work as well.

Although there are many types of western saddles, “The biggest thing is for the saddle to fit.”

There are many other horse trail riding associations in Ontario, from the seniors, Gray Riders, to the Long Rider’s Guild, where horse rides are 1,000 miles long.

For more information look up www.chesleysaddleclub.ca or call vice president Laurie Misener at 794-4577.

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