Trail Riding During Quarantine
By Tommy Brannon
With most of the horse shows, rodeos, polo matches, barrel races, etc. in the mid-south canceled due to the COVID-19 quarantine, there is one horse riding activity that is still going on: trail riding. Although many of the trails in state, local, and federal property were closed for several weeks in March and April, most have re-opened, and many riders in the mid-south have been able to ride on their and their neighbor’s farms, as well.
Trail riding is probably the easiest horseback sport to keep social distancing. We are naturally separated when mounted, so the only challenge is to keep separated while tacking up and hauling. Some of the boarding barns have limed the number of boarders allowed on the premises at one time, but it does not take very long to load up and haul to a trail. This frees up slots for other boarders to come to the barn for lessons or practice.
Several organizations have been holding trail rides in the past few weeks at the trails throughout the mid-south.
The Collierville Arlington Trial Riders group rode the Wolf River Greenway Tail several times this spring, including twice on Memorial Day weekend. Wet weather in the springtime always leaves this trail subject to flooding, making it particularly challenging for parking trucks and trailers, so riders have taken advantage extra time off to ride the trail on dry weekdays. This group has volunteered to help keep the trail, located in the floodplain along the Wolf River, open for horseback riding. It can be a lot of work at times to keep the footing safe and to pick up the litter that others leave behind. They do an exemplary job.
The Mid-South Horse Trails Alliance has been keeping followers informed about the trails throughout the Memphis area for several years. This Facebook group shares information about trail and parking conditions at the various trails such as, Shelby Farms, Meeman-Shelby Forrest, Lake Chewalla, Arkabutla, Sardis, Big Hill Pond, and Land between the Lakes. The postings are from riders on the scene or from the previous day. This is one of the best ways to know trail conditions and an easy way to link up with other trail riders for a fun day.
Longreen Foxhounds who foxhunt and coyote hunt on horseback in the winter help keep their horses fit in the off season by hosting trail rides. Non members are welcome to join the group, which has ridden several times a week this spring.
Tennessee State Parks reopened with some restrictions on April 22 and the horse and hiking trails are open on most parks. Big Hill Pond State Park near Pocahontas, Tennessee is building a new wash rack in the trailer parking lot. Chickasaw State Park trails are open, but the restaurant is closed. Natchez Trace State Park trails are open, and the Bucksnort Wrangler Camp at Nachez Trace offers camping, bathhouses, electric and water hook-ups. Each campsite has a horse rail so you can camp with your horse or board at the equestrian center next door. Cedars of Lebanon State Park has only 12.5 miles of trails, but the adjacent 8,000-acre state forest has many more miles of logging roads that are rideable.
Big South Fork National Recreation area on the Cumberland Plateau in Middle Tennessee is federally owned land and, thus, subject to federal rather than just state jurisdiction. With 112 miles of trails of varying difficulty, they can be challenging and fun for the experienced or the novice trail rider alike. Camping is closed for the time being on the federal land, but there are several facilities adjacent to the trails that have accommodations. Please check with them directly to see if they are open and what restrictions apply.
Trail riding is lots of fun on the right horse and gives the opportunity to enjoy nature and be safe on horseback. Find information about horseback riding in Tennessee State Parks at: https://tnstateparks.com/activities/horseback-ridingFind information about riding in National Forests at the Forest Service website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/activity/mississippi/recreation/horseriding-camping and at the National Park Service website: https://www.nps.gov/natr/planyourvisit/horseback-riding.htm
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