Happy Trails

Five stables for first-timers to try trail riding.

Atlanta Parent sent families out on beginner trail rides at five fantastic stables around Atlanta and North Georgia. For kids who say they love horses, a one-time horseback riding experience is a great way to find out whether the reality of riding lives up to their fantasy. The families enjoyed learning about horse care and commands and taking the reins all while enjoying some beautiful scenery. Our junior reporters hated to leave their new equine friends, and can’t wait to get back in the saddle again!

Sunburst Stables

3181 Hwy 255, Clarkesville
706-947-7433; sunburststables.com
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. Helmets are strongly recommended for everyone. 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
678-318-7886; lakelanierislands.com/activities/equestrian
We ventured out to Lake Lanier Islands in search of the equestrian center, which is easy to find and a pretty drive through the resort. It was a rainy day, but while we waited for the storm to pass, my 7-year-old daughter was able to feed and brush the ponies that walked the stables are freely. When it was time to mount up, 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. The staff is kind and highly knowledgeable, and we plan to go back very soon.
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
404-597-6000; highcountrystables.com
My 7 and 5 year old girls and I took the High Country Stables beginner trail ride on a recent weekend. The girls got an introduction to horses from the owner, and they got to brush the horses down, clean their shoes and put on the saddles. Once the horses were ready, we each led our horse to an arena where we mounted them and got a brief lesson on how to hold the reins to make the horses go, how to “steer” them and how to make them stop. We went around the ring a couple of times and then we were off to the trail. 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 battlefield 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
770-922-0184; lindasridingschool.com
Recently, I took my seven-year-old twin boys to visit Linda’s Riding School, where the owner and president (Linda!), tailored a riding program to meet our needs and skills level. We participated in the Saturday camp, a three-hour program that includes bridling, saddling and grooming, a riding lesson, and a trail ride. 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
706-517-4906;
fortmountainstables.vpweb.com
My friends and I rounded up our elementary school-age cowboy wannabees and headed up I-75 for a horseback riding adventure.
As suggested, we arrived about 30 minutes in advance of our reserved ride time which gave us plenty of time to get geared up (jackets, sunglasses, riding helmets and cameras), sign our waivers and make a trip to the restroom. 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

If You Go Trail Riding

Plan ahead! Fall is a busy 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.