Carriage Hill MetroPark offers beautiful trails, a historical farm and more than 100 years of living history. A favorite destination of families around the region for education, recreation and nature appreciation, Carriage Hill MetroPark is also home to one of the area’s best public riding centers, where children and adults can enjoy lessons, trail rides and more.
“There are more than 20 horses on-site all year,” says Katherine Berg, manager of the riding center. “During the day, the horses are most often turned out in the pastures, so they are not available for up-close visiting; however, they are usually visible from a distance. During the weekends in the summer and fall, horses are in the barn more frequently because of programming, and visitors are able to see them up close and pet and interact with them.”
Not the standard extracurricular activity, Berg wants parents to know that there are many health and wellness benefits associated with horseback riding. “It’s an effective sport that is good for building core strength, balance and developing cardio health,” Berg says. “There is also a bond developed between the horse and rider as they work to communicate with each other.”
Sharon Mays, grandmother to Isabelle Mays, a riding center camper and lesson participant, agrees. “Isabelle has learned a lot of responsibility just from being around horses,” Mays says. “It’s a wonderful learning process for the kids because they learn about safety and they have to care for the horses. They bathe them, groom them and help take care of them in all aspects.”
Isabelle, now a sixth grader, had one of her first experiences riding during a pony ride at Carriage Hill MetroPark when she was 3 years old. Now, Isabelle looks forward to visiting the riding center for summer camps and lessons, and her favorite horse, Duncan.
When trying to decide whether to start your child with lessons or a summer camp, Berg recommends both, but suggests starting with what will work best with your family’s schedule.
For those who are nervous to hop on a horse, but still want to interact with the horses, the barn is open to the public and visitors can pet the horses when they are in teir stalls in the riding center’s barn.
“Research shows that being around horses has a positive physiological effect, including lowering anxiety levels, reducing blood pressure and having an overall calming effect on humans,” Berg says. “There are so many wonderful reasons to experience nature with these amazing creatures, and the riding center provides the education and environment to ensure people have fun on horseback.”
June through October, your family’s littlest wranglers can hop on a pony and get comfortable on horseback before they are old enough to sign up for lessons or summer camps. Led by staff and trained volunteers, riders can enjoy hand-led pony rides at the riding center on Saturdays from 2 to 4 p.m. Families are encouraged to take photos and video of their child’s ride and visit the horses before or after their ride. This drop-in program is available to children ages 2 through 8. Tickets can be purchased on site the day of their ride.
Riding lessons are offered during the spring and fall to children ages 8 and older. These once-a-week programs host about five children per class and children will build on new skills each week. From beginner to advanced, there are lessons for all levels and riders can progress as they develop new skills.
Summer camps: Offered to riders ages 8 to 17, summer camps are a great way for children to stay active outdoors while making new friends and having fun. Offered for all skill levels, summer camps explore a variety of topics, from safe horse handling to grooming. Horse camps are half-day, with sessions offered in the morning and afternoon through the summer.
Trail rides: For those who want to experience the trails as a family, weekend trail rides are offered on Saturdays and Sundays, June through October. Trail rides are guided and offered to those ages 8 and up. Riders will spend an hour at a walking pace through the woods at Carriage Hill MetroPark and can often spot wildlife and experience the beautiful natural surroundings of the park. Registration and payment can be made in advance beginning May 1.
To learn more or register for summer camps, visit www.metroparks.org/riding-center.