Thursday, August 20, 2020

Sunny Farms

Sophie had her 18th birthday last month.

"What do you want to do for your birthday?"

"Horseback riding!"

I knew just the place. I'd driven by it dozens if not hundreds of times on the way up to pretty much anything east of Dahlonega - Sunny Farms. I'd seen people riding there almost every time I'd driven by. I always wanted to take the kids there when they got physically large enough to ride. Well, they're not quite 5 feet tall, but they're as grown as they're going to get, so now's the time. Or... last month was.

I called the guy, set up an appointment, hauled the family out there, and we got right down to it.

They were really casual about it all. Maybe a little too casual! It was like: here's your horse, take it over there, we'll come around and give you a stool to get on, aim the horses at the trail, and be back here in an hour. I'd ridden like 4 times in my life and I was the second most experienced rider there. I didn't feel super confident in the amount of direction we'd been given, but they sure did, so we went with it.

Taking the horses "over there":

Kathryn Sophie Iz

Saddled up.

Saddled Up Iz Riding

Heading in the direction of the trail...

Heading Out

Actually, they did give us a few quick riding tips, and some info about our horses in particular - Iz's horse likes to jump over the first little creek. Mine wants to be led across the first wider creed. But not much more than that. Good enough? Well, turns out yes. The horses mostly know what they're doing. If you manage to stay on them, it's hard to go wrong. Not that we didn't try, but I'll get to that.

We crossed a field and crossed a creek. Yep, my horse (Emmy) wanted to be led across the creek, so one of the ladies there did that.

There was a tiny little feeder a little ways up the trail, and no doubt, Iz's horse just leapt across it. Iz was kind-of one with her hourse though, and it didn't appear to cause her any problems.

On the Trail 1 On the Trail 2

Iz was ahead of me. Kathryn was ahead of her. Sophie was ahead of Kathryn, but Kathryn's horse was pretty slow, so we got spread out a bit after a while. Our leader had ridden a bit though, and she held the lead group up from time to time to get us back together.


The trail itself was a lot of fun - a mix of old roadbeds and worn-in sidehill. The old roadbeds were steep, rutted, and poorly maintained, but the worn-in trail ended up having all the features you'd look for in a good trail. The woods was pretty standard North Georgia - secondary growth, mixed hardwoods, a couple of creeks, not too much brush.

The girls and I were super familiar with this kind of forest. Chucky (Isabel's boyfriend)...

Me and Chucky

...had never seen anything like it, and seemed to be digging it.

We meandered around for an hour or so. My horse didn't like me trying to tell her where to go. She complained a bit, but she'd do what you wanted if you were persistent.

One kid up front somehow managed to get spun around, facing back toward the rest of us, and his horse walked about 10 feet back toward us before he got it to stop. He seemed pretty scared. His dad just started fussing at him: "You've got to control your animal!" "Control him!" Not actually telling the kid how to achieve said control, and struggling to control his own horse the whole time.

Iz, the gymnastics coach, knows exactly how to get scared kids to follow directions. Iz to the rescue.

"Hey buddy, try hold your reins like this." "Yeah, like that." "Now pull with this hand..." (shows hand) "Keep pulling and he'll turn around." "Yeah, just like that!" "Keep going, you got it!" etc.

Actual direction, with positive encouragement. Works every time.

We came down off the mountain and crossed that same creek again. Somehow, my horse didn't have to be led through that crossing, just the first one.

Then, there was a field, and we were told the horses like to get up to a good trot in the field. They sure did!

Riding Through the Field Near the End 1 Riding Through the Field Near the End 2

Somewhere in there one of the kids up front lost his reins and the leader stopped to get it back for him. This made everyone stop. One of the horses near the back started backing up and managed to step into the loose reins of the girl's horse behind her. You know how a cat acts when it gets tape on its paw? It was like that. Iz to the rescue again. She talked the girl into throwing her reins over the head of her horse so they'd flop all the way onto the ground. Then the stuck horse could just step out of them. This worked, but now she had to retrieve her reins, which Iz also talked her through.

Meanwhile, I'm trying to get Emmy to walk over there so I can just hand her the reins, but Emmy was sick of me telling her what to do at that point and wouldn't budge until everyone was moving again. Even when I tried to nudge her aggressively, she just reached back and bit my foot.

Ha! Ok, we're not going anywhere until she wants to, which wasn't until the whole group started moving again.

And, that was about it. We rode up to the barn, dismounted, walked through, got the saddles off, and left. I didn't get to see much of Sophie for most of it, because she was so far ahead of us, but we talked a lot in the car. Turned out she had a very cooperative animal and had a great time riding!

Well, we finally got to do it. I'd been thinking about it since right around when Sophie was born. Maybe it's apt that we did it to celebrate her 18th birthday.

Great idea Sophie!


  1. WOW. Riding a horse is awesome. But the best thing I was ever on is an elephant. You guys should try that too.

    1. I know the feeling. Those are totally different. Though I never considered riding as a birthday plan. Thanks to you, I've got plenty of rides in my mind. LOL

    2. Isn't it risky to ride on elephant?

    3. Hi Ross,

      Is it is risky but you can't actually count that a risk. Risk is involved on every kind of riding. Compared to house riding, elephant riding is much less risky.