Shade Tree Riding Stables

By on 18 September, 2017 in Fun, Kate and Stephen, Outdoors with 0 Comments

You can really tell a lot about how much a person understands you by the kind of gifts they give you. A present is a kind of testament to shared connections, and the best kind of gifts try to create new memories together, whether it’s by listening to some new music or reading a well-chosen book. This summer, for my birthday, I was given a very special gift – the promise of a horseback ride. When I was young, like many girls, I was obsessed with horses. I collected plastic horses and played with them. And when I was old enough, my parents got me horseback riding lessons. I rode an English saddle, did dressage, even jumped some horses, and dreamed of the day when I might have a horse of my own. Then we moved away from the stable, and my interests changed as I got older, and I forgot how much I loved horses. Until this past Saturday, when I cashed in my well-chosen gift for an hour long trail ride at Shade Tree Stables just up the road in Millbrook.

We got there around 11 and paid $35 each for a one hour ride. There was kind of a little social scene around the stable, and it was a little unclear who was involved with running the business and who was just hanging out. There were a number of horses tied up in a paddock by the office, cued up for riders. Others grazed in a big pasture across the street. The stable offers boarding services in addition to rides – later, our guide would tell us that there are about 40 horses on the property at the moment. After we paid (check or cash only), our rides were saddled up. We were bundled with a girl whose grandfather had brought her in for a ride, and the three of us mounted our horses.

If you’ve never ridden a horse, it’s really an extraordinary experience to have so much power underneath you. Horses are very intelligent, and each one has its own personality. One of ours was very independent, and one of ours wanted just to follow along. The other horse in our party was pretty stubborn, which didn’t work well with the young girl who didn’t really know how to control it. But our guide, Anna, whose own horse has a bright blue tail, was very patient and kind. At one point she even walked her horse backwards to tie up the recalcitrant horse and lead it (and the inexperienced rider) along for a little ways.

I was a little skeptical about riding in Millbrook – it’s rural, but not exactly the country, but the route we took was pleasant. We started by riding around the edge of the property, and then went along the side of the road until we reached a trail. It wove in and out of some bushes and pine trees, offering shade from the still-hot Alabama September sun. There’s not any mindblowing scenery, and there were a few low-hanging branches that could have been trimmed back. But there’s some lovely central Alabama wild plant growth on display, and there’s a particular tranquility to silence only punctuated by horse steps.

All the time I was marveling at the experience, at making a connection with the wishes of the girl I used to be. I couldn’t stop petting the horse. I really wanted to see what it could do as far as going a little faster and maneuvering it around, but our guide kept us at a very slow pace throughout. I guess they have a lot of children who do these rides, so it makes sense that they’d be slow, but I’ll admit to wanting a little more. They offer lessons at Shade Tree as well, and I fantasized about taking some, learning to ride again. It’s funny how these memories can all come rushing back just by getting on horseback. It’s nice to know that even as you grow older, you can still conjure the hopes and dreams of a younger version of yourself. And it’s a special person who can look into your eyes and guess that you might like to make this connection again, so they give you the gift not just of a horseback ride, but of memory.

Everyone at Shade Tree was very friendly. Though $35 is a little steep for an hour, and could add up if you wanted to go with the whole family, it was a very nice time. And they seemed to be doing a brisk business – as we returned to the stable, another group was heading out with another guide. A sign said that the guides were volunteers and worked for tips, which struck me as awfully nice – to volunteer to share your love of horses with other folks is a special thing. I said goodbye to my horse, and as we drove away I found that I couldn’t stop smiling. I guess somewhere inside me is still a girl who loves horses.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with one cat, a dog, ten fish, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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