Five Stables for First-Time Trail Riding

Sunburst Stables

3181 Hwy 255, Clarkesville
Sunburst Stables offers guided trail rides into the Chattahoochee National Forest on mountain trails for any experience level. We took the two-hour mountain ride, which accesses the same trails as the shorter rides but delves deeper into the forest for several miles. This ride can be customized to allow trotting and cantering for the more comfortable riders, but everyone must feel good about changing the pace as the group has to stay together. Our group included two teens, one who had ridden before in a ring, but had never been on a trail, and one who had not ever been on a horse. The trails are clearly marked and were occasionally muddy, which added some fun as the horses’ hooves made squish sounds. I was reminded that this was the only means of transportation long ago and as we winded down our tour, we approached one of the oldest “working mills” on the property. Along the way, we saw deer, snakes, pot-belly pigs, peacocks, goats on roofs, rabbits, donkeys and a dozen other animals in the barn, miniature petting farm and forest.
What parents like: The horses are well-trained and obey commands, and safety helmets are provided.
What kids like: Both teens liked how friendly and easy to ride the horses are. Even our first-time rider was comfortable after about 20 minutes. The forest trail is beautiful.
Costs: Ages 3 and older. One-hour trail ride, $45. Two-hour family adventure ride, $65.
Tips: Riders age 7 and older ride their own horse. Riders younger than 7 ride double with a parent. Custom rides are available which include trotting and cantering.
– Amy Smith

Lake Lanier Islands Equestrian Center

7000 Lanier Islands Pkwy., Buford
When we arrived at the equestrian center, we were given some basic riding, leading, and safety directions, along with a helmet to wear on the trail ride. Our trail ride lasted about 45 minutes and we enjoyed every second. The trail is a peaceful, shaded loop around Lake Lanier, and the horses needed little direction; they knew the way almost all by themselves. My daughter had no problem managing her horse and we agreed all of them were very sweet animals. After the horses were placed back into the stables my little rider was able to give her pony a special treat. Before we left, we learned more about the riding lessons offered.
What parents like: The sweet horses and helpful staff helped us feel comfortable during our new adventure.
What kids like: Interacting with the horses before and after the ride.
Costs: Trail rides for ages 7 and older, $40; Child pony rides, $20
– Jody Bailey

High Country Stables

5508 Dallas Acworth Highway, Dallas
The trail was a 30-minute ride around 10 acres of land. Along the way, our guide shared background on the types of horses and their jobs, along with the history of the land. My girls had a blast riding and bonding with their horses. The owner was fun, thoughtful, easy-going and really seemed to love what he was doing. When we returned to the barn, we brushed down the horses and gave them a couple of special treats for treating us to such a smooth ride.
What parents like: The lessons kids learn while having fun, being outdoors and constantly moving. I loved seeing my girls live their dreams.
What kids like: They loved playing cowgirl/farmer getting their horses ready to ride. They didn’t want to leave!
Costs: Ages 5 and older. Trail ride/fun day for two riders, $90
– Krissy Williams

Linda’s Riding School

3475 Daniel Bridge Rd. SW, Conyers
We participated in the Saturday camp. This takes place each weekend, and helmets are provided for all participants. My children were excited to be in the saddle for a second time, and felt comfortable with their horses. But when it was time to head out on the ride, we decided to hold off on the trail ride in favor of more riding lesson time in the ring. Linda was easygoing about our choice; she highly recommends that new riders take a few lessons to build up skills necessary to go out on the trails. In the lesson, the boys learned to mount and dismount, basic commands, and how to control the horse. They got so comfortable with their horses Foxy and Annie and the tranquil ranch environment that when it was time to leave they both asked, “Mom, can we come back tomorrow?”
What parents like: Usually I’m multi-tasking, but here you slow down. Your only goal is to connect with your horse, your family, and nature.
What kids like: They loved everything about the stables. They want their next birthday party there with all their friends horseback riding.
Costs: Ages 7 and older. Trail rides, $40 and up
– Marteeta Spradling

Fort Mountain Stables

548 Cliffmine Road, Chatsworth
Our guides gave our group an overview of the horses we would be riding and what to expect on our trip. Within a few minutes we were all seated atop our trusty steeds and ready to enter Fort Mountain State Park. We saw old talc mine shafts, beautiful scenic overlooks and waterfalls. Our guides also provided us with information about the Fort Mountain area which made our ride even more interesting. The hour seemed to fly by and we found ourselves back at the stables where the guides helped us easily dismount. The experience was smooth, and all members of our group enjoyed connecting with their horses and navigating the trail.
What parents like: The guides. They instruct for top safety, pointed out interesting spots on our ride, and took our photos.
What kids like: Getting to know the horses before riding.
Costs: Ages 6 and older. Trail rides, $30 and up
– Dana diLorenzo

When You Go Trail Riding

Plan ahead. Fall is the busiest season for riding, so make reservations in advance, and arrive before your scheduled ride time to fill out waivers and get safety equipment.
Cover up. Wear jeans or long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and comfortable closed-toe shoes. Sunscreen and bug spray are also good ideas to wear.
Be prepared. Most rides are about an hour long. Snack, drink and go potty before climbing into the saddle.
Remember your guide. Pay attention to instructions that are meant to keep you safe. Be sure to thank your guide with a tip at the end of your ride.