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Giddyup! 5 places for horseback riding in central Ohio

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Maybe you rode a horse as a child and miss that fleeting sense of partnership. Maybe you’ve never been near a horse but see pictures and long for the feeling of freedom. If you’ve never been serious about it, you may be surprised to learn that horseback riding is not just for the young and athletic; it’s adventure and lifelong exercise for everyone!

Hit the trails

Guided, group trail rides are often the first step into the world of horses. Mine was in Kentucky, on a scruffy pony named Hudson, and my life changed course forever.

Most trail facilities are well outside of city limits, because of land availability. Fortunately, it’s a one to two-hour drive from Columbus to many of them, making trail riding a fun option to include in a day trip.

Some popular trail riding stables in the area are Marmon Valley in Zanesfield, Uncle Buck’s in New Marshfield, The Spotted Horse Ranch in Laurelville, and Equestrian Ridge Farm in New Plymouth. If you’re looking for a unique experience, the Wilds, in Cumberland, offers horseback safaris overlooking their open-range endangered animal areas and butterfly habitat.

Photos by Brian Kaiser

For safety, trail rides have age, weight, clothing, and weather limitations, all of which are shared ahead of time. When you arrive, you’ll sign paperwork and learn some basics. The horses will be saddled and ready to ride.

Most guided trail rides for novice riders are one to two hours. That time sounds short, but trust me, balancing on a horse uses a whole different set of muscles, and you’ll likely have sore legs the next day.

Trail guides and operators are trained to help first-timers mount up, walk, stop, steer, and discourage their horses from stopping for snacks. For the most part, though, seasoned trail horses walk quietly in single file, giving you the opportunity to enjoy the scenery from a whole
new perspective.

Yes, riding is a sport

Trail rides are fun, but learning to really ride is a great workout,
and you can get that workout through dozens of different equestrian sports or disciplines.

If attention to detail is your strong suit, look into dressage, reining, or hunt seat jumping. Are you a speed demon? Set your sights on rodeo-type sports like barrel racing, or on timed jumping events. If that level of intensity isn’t enough, there are more extreme sports like eventing (a sort of triathlon) and endurance riding.

Photos by Brian Kaiser

You also can chill out with pleasure riding, or, if you’re not ready for the saddle just yet, you can work the horse “in hand”—leading it through patterns and obstacles.

No matter what you choose (and these are just a few options), you’ll develop balance and coordination, along with strength and aerobic capacity.

But doesn’t the horse do all the work?

I hear it all the time: “How can that be exercise? You just sit there, and the horse does all the work!” And then I get out my soapbox.

True, at a walk, the horse does most of the work. But increase the speed, and before you know it, you’re in a full-blown cardio workout. Your abs, back, and legs will thank you (after they get done yelling at you).

Then, there’s the fact that a half-ton animal isn’t going to scrub off the mud, saddle itself and trot around in a circle for fun. Even though horses enjoy exercise, their main priorities are usually the same as mine: friends, snacks, and naps. A rider has to use strength, coordination and balance to manage a horse on the ground as well as control speed and direction from the saddle.

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It’s all about you

Set aside the mental images of glamorous cowgirls in lip liner and cowboys showing off their 6-packs. Most riders are in it for the fun, not for the fashion. Of course, if you want fashion, there’s plenty of it—especially in the show ring—but most beginner programs have a comfortable-but-safe dress code for lessons.

Beginning riders start at all levels of fitness; your instructor will help you progress through lessons at your own pace. Although horses do have limits on how much weight they can carry, many barns have one or two horses who can carry heavier riders. Just ask! 

Beginner lessons are fairly similar, no matter what style of riding you choose. It’s a good idea (and also fun) to start at a facility that offers a range of disciplines, so you can try out different styles of riding. You might change your mind after trying a few things—I’ve bounced through at least a half dozen disciplines over the years. 

Local stables that offer cross-discipline beginner lessons are all around the Columbus area: Dare Equestrian Center in Hilliard, Central Ohio Riding Club in Marysville, Cherokee Stables in Grove City, Triple
Edge Equine
in Canal Winchester, and Field of Dreams in Blacklick are just a few.

The good thing is, you don’t need fancy equipment to start. Most stables require only long pants, closed-toe shoes or boots with a low heel, and a helmet. After you choose the style of riding that fits you, you can start investing in more specialized gear, a little at a time.

photos by Brian Kaiser

Your first lessons might be more walking than riding. You will learn to lead the horse, groom it, and put on its tack (saddle and bridle). These are essential skills; plus, the time spent on the ground helps the horse and you get to know each other. Soon, you’ll be arriving early to get your horse ready, maybe even riding in group lessons or shows, and reaping serious exercise benefits.

Central Ohio is full of riding programs. If one doesn’t fit your style, personality, or budget, there are many others. Give it a try. That feeling of freedom is waiting for you. 

Plus, as I used to tell my own students, “Ride a horse, and you’ll never have to do crunches.” •

Melinda Green is a multi-discipline rider, horse owner, and former beginning-level riding instructor

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Food & Drink

Restaurant Review: Alqueria puts twists on American faves

Mike Thomas

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Bringing a new restaurant to market is an undertaking notoriously fraught with peril—in most cases.

Scroll down to win dinner for 2 during Restaurant Week July 15-20!

“We took the keys the last week of October, and we told everybody we wanted to be open by the middle of January,” chef Patrick Marker says of Alqueria Farmhouse Kitchen, which he co-owns with his business partner, chef Jacob Hough. “The way these things usually work out, there are tons of setbacks, and I think we were really lucky.”

There may be some luck involved in avoiding red tape and construction delays that accompany the typical opening, but the smooth sailing enjoyed by Marker and Hough is also the result of countless hours of hard work
and preparation.

As the former home of The Angry Baker, the University District space Marker and Hough chose for their restaurant was already fairly well-suited to their needs. When it came to executing the renovations necessary to bring their concept to life, the duo did much of the heavy lifting themselves.

“It was a lot of long days of us and our bar manager Michael [Marsan], the three of us in here together, just kind of squirreled away,” explains chef Hough of the construction process. “We know everything about each other now,” he adds with a laugh. “There are no more secrets!”

After 10 years working together in the tight confines of a kitchen, it is hard to imagine that any secrets would remain between Marker and Hough. The two met at upscale German Village staple Barcelona, where they spent a decade working together as sous chefs. 

Prior to their shared stint at Barcelona, the two chefs each forged their paths in the culinary arts in their own way. Hough’s is the classic story of learning from his mother and grandmother in the kitchen as a child, often using ingredients plucked fresh from his grandfather’s garden. He attended culinary school at the Pennsylvania Culinary Academy in Pittsburgh right out of high school and has never looked back.

In Marker’s suburban upbringing, food was viewed as a necessity more than a communal family experience by his busy, working parents. He discovered his love for cooking through a high school job as a dishwasher in a nursing home, where he was sometimes called upon to lend a hand preparing meals. A culinary degree from Johnson and Wales in Provincetown, Rhode Island followed, and Marker spent his twenties in kitchens in tourist destinations of the American South, before finding his way to Columbus’ Barcelona.

It comes as no surprise that the marriage of two distinct food influences is the defining feature of Marker and Hough’s new menu. At Alqueria, locally-sourced American comfort food classics are often presented with a Spanish twist, an homage to the duo’s shared history at Barcelona.

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Pan-roasted Lake Erie walleye is paired with gnocchi in a Spanish-inspired green sofrito broth. The menu’s charcuterie offerings bring Spain’s meats and cheeses to bear, while charred octopus—a holdover favorite from the Barcelona days—encourages patrons to push their boundaries outside of the familiar.  

“It’s been freeing, because the constraint was trying to stay in the realm of Spanish cooking,” chef Marker explains of making the transition from Barcelona to his own restaurant. “There were some flavors that maybe we wanted to explore that we didn’t get the chance to. Here, we’re saying it’s American with some Spanish influence, but we feel like we can pull any ingredient in and make it successful.”

Twists on American classics help the fare at Alqueria stand out from its peers in the elevated comfort food scene. Nashville-style hot chicken, the ubiquitous menu item for any modern comfort food joint worth its salt, is here paired with a cheddar and pork-infused waffle. This lunch entree is served with a drizzle of buttermilk dill dressing and topped with horseradish pickle slices for a unique, deconstructed approach to the modern classic dish.

Marker and Hough take a farm-to-table approach to procuring their ingredients, which in their view means always sourcing local ingredients when they are available, allowing for some wiggle-room for creativity when necessary. (You won’t find too many Ohio-sourced octopi, after all). For the two chefs, the farm-to-table mentality extends to the design sense of the space, which is adorned with ample reclaimed barn wood and assorted antique knick-knacks.

Along with bar manager Marsan, who constructed the restaurant’s drink menu of locally-minded beer, wine, and signature cocktails, chefs Marker and Hough are excited to see what the next chapter of their culinary journey has in store. “If you’re seriously committed to a life in the culinary field, I think the idea is that you want to have your own place,” says Marker, with Hough adding of their experience so far with Alqueria, “It’s been a fun journey; we’re living a childhood dream.” •

Alqueria is located at 247 King Ave. Visit alqueriacolumbus.com for a menu and hours.

Click here for a chance to win dinner for 2 during Restaurant Week!

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Hobbies 101: How and why to get hooked on knitting

Laura Dachenbach

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Welcome to a series of articles to help you find your next hobby. Hobbies give us something to be passionate about, a creative outlet, and an alternative way to be productive. So stick around. Better well-being is just a lazy afternoon away.

Knitting

via GIPHY

“It keeps me from killing people.”

That’s a response I got from an actual knitter when I inquired about his hobby. It’s true that knitting literally helps you unwind. But knitting isn’t just a way to relax. (Or the above case, to serve as a public service.) It’s a way to be productive, because at the end of each session, you’ve got a unique, maybe slightly misshapen, full-of-love project to keep or pass off as a gift. And you’ll join a bevy of celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, David Arquette, Ryan Gosling, and Amanda Seyfried who turn their cares to a pair of needles and yarn. 

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Seriously, knitting promotes mindfulness through repetitive motion and rhythmic patterns. The effects can be similar to meditation. The movements your eyes make as you knit are thought to be a memory booster, and it’s a completely portable hobby that you can take virtually anywhere: the doctor’s office, the break room, a bar. No matter where you and your ball of yarn go, you’re sure to strike up conversation. “Watcha makin’?” Or in my case, “Do you have any anger management issues I should know about?”

If you didn’t get personal knitting lessons from grandma, don’t worry. A host of craft and textile stores are ready to help you get started on your next scarf, hat, shrug, or blanket.

614 Knit Studio | 4400 Indianola Ave.
A project-based approach (mittens, hats) to knitting for all levels. If you get hooked, join the Happy Hour Yarn Club!

Sew to Speak | 752 High St.
You’ll find beginner knitting for kids and adults (including finger knitting!) with suggested materials. 

The Yarn Shop | 1125 Kenny Centre Mall
An assortment of leveled classes and projects. 

Knitting Temptations |  35 S High St.
Knitting Temptations offers beginning and advanced classes in knitting and crochet, as well as groups that knit projects for charitable causes.

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Watch: Columbus couple becomes first to say “I Doo” at Doo Dah Parade

Mitch Hooper

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Lead by Scott Hammond, Morgan Miller and Jamie Figley became the first couple to tie the knot while marching in the completely mobile wedding at the Doo Dah Parade 2019.

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Video by Mitch Hooper.
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