Massachusetts and Connecticut Public Trails Approved for Horses
The State of Massachusetts pubic boasts one of the largest state park systems in the USA with 450,000 acres of forests, parks, greenways and historical sites all set in beautiful landscapes, seashores, lakes and ponds, many of which are open to horseback riders who will be cherish the experience for a lifetime. Difficulty levels of New England’s public trails approved for equestrian activities typically range from:
- easy, with gently sloping or level terrain; groomed or wide open; shallow or no creek crossings
- moderate, with light hills over consistent surface; possibly some narrow trails and short steeper slopes
- rigorous, physically challenging for horse such as on a level surface through deep sand, rocky terrain, mud patches, creeks
- challenging, with rocky, uneven surface, slopes, uncleared vegetation, creeks and stream crossings and diverse obstacles that lead to more difficult riding
Massachusetts has many nice horse trails and riding areas. One of them is in Brimfield State Forest, a public camping and hiking park off of Dean Pond Road in Western Massachusetts. There are many areas to easily pull in and park the trailer at no cost. The 20 miles, or so, of rolling trails are basically walking trails that are fairly groomed, but there are areas that are rocky with some gravel areas, so boots or shoes for the horses are a good idea. We rode through an area of heavily wooded trails, along some swampy areas, and crossed a couple wooden bridges that were the same width of the gravel road and for most trail horses this should be no problem at all. Some people were there fishing and we ran into a couple hikers with a dog.
We rate these trails quiet, easy, and pleasant; easily accessible, and ideal for trail horse riders of all levels.
While riding the private fields and trails directly adjacent to White Loaf Farm, a small, private horse boarding stable nestled in the scenic country setting in Southampton, Massachusetts you will see beautifully manicured fields and meadows. We enjoyed miles of riding along the edges of grassy fields and quiet side roads. We crossed 4 large, well groomed meadows and encountered one quiet gravel road at the far end, leading to a stretch of wooded trails. The meadows are interconnected and provide miles and miles of beautiful, level terrain that beginners to advanced riders and horses will truly enjoy. Expect an occasional helicopter, or Military air craft to fly overhead heading to and from the nearby Westfield-Barnes Airport. The associated noise will briefly interrupt the silence and may grab a horse’s attention.
We rate these trails quiet, easy and pleasant; ideal for young and aged horses year round.
Twin Orchard Farm – Southampton, MA
This is a private farm owned and operated by the Kaniecki family from Southampton, MA. They sponsor several horse trail rides during the year. This farm is beautiful with semi-groomed wooded trails leading to open hay fields that wind around the property. The terrain has slopes and hills with some rocky areas and water crossing and provides a good workout for your horse. All trails are connected and marked for a leisurely ride. You will encounter some wildlife; deer, fox and wild turkey. The total time on the trail will vary between two to three hours depending on your route. Twin Orchard Farm sponsors Canter Against Cancer which will be held annually.
We rate this an easy to moderate trail ride with hills and slopes along with rocky areas, and semi-groomed trail.
Trail Riding in Ware, MA
While riding in the densely wooded public trails directly adjacent to the Domnarski Farm located at 77 Bacon Road in Ware, Massachusetts, we enjoyed a great variety of terrain and footing. We rode for hours and hours on nothing but public trails! Some sections were wide enough for two riders to pass side by side, others turned quite narrow and led to short, steep slopes, challenging horse and rider.
Before heading out make sure your horse is accustomed to pedestrians, bicycles, ATVs, dirt bikes and any other traffic you may encounter. In some places you may run into intersecting gravel and paved roads, so be prepared for the occasional car or truck. You may also run into an occasional hiker (with dogs), ATV, dirt and mountain bikes, or snow mobile in the middle of the trails. Many horses spook when someone suddenly pops out of the woods in strange clothing, a helmet and wheels.
We frequently encountered extensive ruts and tire grooves from 4×4 vehicles that made their way through. The standing water in these ruts can become bothersome during the bug season (mosquitoes) while creating extensive ice patches in winter with the danger of slipping, or breaking through.
Expect to deal with irregular footing that can turn rigorous at times, or slippery. Gravel and rocks are pretty much everywhere, so barefoot horses might fare better with boots if they have sensitive hooves. From time to time, expect a fallen tree across the trail, and several muddy bogs that cannot be avoided. Since they must be crossed, be cautious of pulled shoes, or stuck boots.
Also, because of the close proximity to the Nenameseck Sportsmen’s Club and their outdoor rifle and pistol range you will hear gun and rifle blasts echoing through the woods, which may momentarily startle a horse. We noticed cell phones and GPS do not always work because of the thick tree foliage, which seems to interfere with reception. Wild life encounters are highly possible (we saw fox, deer, porcupine, beavers, ducks, and other birds) so make sure you wear all appropriate safety gear in case the horse spooks, and protect your horse from bugs, and ticks.
We rate these trails from moderate to rigorous, and very challenging at times. Ideally, they should be ridden in pairs, or a group, and never alone beyond dusk.
Broad Brook, CT
Dr. John E. Flaherty Field Trial Areais located in Broad Brook, Connecticut, off of Route 5. This trail riding area is an enclosed acreage surround by farmlands and urban housing. The area is utilized from March through December on weekends by the Hunting Dog Clubs in New England and across the country for field trials. During the Field Trials, the property is closed to the public. When available, this enclosed area has lovely flat groomed trails with sloping hills. Riding the surrounding area of the fields takes approximately two to three hours with trails weaving in and out of trees, brush, and marsh areas. During the week, it is quiet and tranquil and can be an enjoyable trail ride. You will run across some wildlife especially birds that will fly from bushes and because of standing water and marsh area, summer can be quite buggy! REMEMBER: Check for Field Trial dates before heading out.
We rate these trails quiet and easy, but not always accessible.
Stafford Springs, CT
Shenipsit State Forest entrance is located in Stafford Springs, CT off of Route 190 and passes through the following Connecticut towns from south to north: East Hampton, Portland, Glastonbury, Manchester, Bolton, Vernon, Rockville, Tolland, Ellington, Stafford, and Somers. There are almost 7000 acres with over 41 miles of trails in Shenipsit State Forest.
A small and accommodating mountain with special views to the west, north and northeast; forested with oak, gray birch, maple and hemlock, and laced by trails. There are many miles of rocky trails, some single track. The most popular riding area is around Case Mountain, but there are plenty of other riders along the remainder of the trail. Beware of the southern section of trail as it is heavily used by ATV’s.
The trails used most commonly by horses are patrolled by the Connecticut Horse Council Volunteer Horse Patrol and they are always willing to lend a hand (CT Horse Council). The park offers a parking lot, pit toilets, an observation tower, some interpretive signs, and no water. It is open from 8 a.m. to sunset.
We rate these trails as moderate with some rocky areas and low hanging branches.
Since 1972 the Redington Rock Riding Club (RRRC) has been located on land purchased in Stafford, CT bordering the Shenipsit State Forest. RRRC holds trail rides throughout the year and other horse related functions in a safe family oriented environment and also assists in maintaining of the bridle trails in the area.
RRRC Camp Glazier located on 93 Handel Road, Stafford CT and website at http://www.rrrclub.org/
If you have not yet hiked on foot, or explored the Town of Southampton, New York trails on horseback and enjoyed their beauty you are missing out on an especially scenic and enjoyable experience. You can thank dedicated STPS members who created and maintained these beautiful trails. STPS members are a group of people who love being outdoors, learning about the local flora and fauna, getting exercise and just having fun and sharing the experience with others. They hike Saturdays and Sundays year round and enjoy the trails even in the winter when the weather is crisp and clear. Once the leaves have fallen off the trees the vistas are especially beautiful. You and your trail horse will enjoy it.
We rate this an easy to moderate trail ride with hills and slopes with some rocky areas and over all very well groomed trails. Expect to encounter people on foot and dogs.