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Giddyup! 5 places for horseback riding in central Ohio

Melinda Green

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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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Things To Do

Where to get your Red, White & BOOM on this July 4th

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It was a bummer to hear that Red, White & BOOM would be canceled and changed to a virtual format for 2020. However, that shouldn’t stop you from celebrating in a somewhat traditional sense. Even with one of the biggest fireworks celebrations put on hold, there’s still plenty to do around Columbus, fireworks or no fireworks.

We here at (614) know that given the modern-day circumstances, people have the choice to celebrate in whatever way they feel most comfortable. Below you can find three ways to celebrate–Local 4th of July events; Red, White & BOOM alternatives; and places where you can legally celebrate yourself.

THINGS TO DO ON JULY 4TH

Fourth of July Fireworks

West Jefferson July 4th Streetfest

When: July 4 at 10 p.m.

Where: Watch from home

Obetz Fireworks

When: July 4

Where: Watch from home

Fourth of July Activities

Neighborhood Bike Brigade

When: Various start times

Where: Dublin neighborhoods

Sherm Sheldon Fishing Derby

When: June 26 through July 4

Where: Any Dublin pond

Fourth of July Parades

Front Yard Parade in the Round

When: July 4 at 6 until 9 p.m.

Where: Your front yard

2020 Cruisin’ On The 4th of July

When: July 4 at noon

Where: Northbridge Ln., Columbus, OH 43235

New Albany 4th of July Parade & Festival

When: July 4 at 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

Where: Church of the Resurrection, 6300 E Dublin Granville Rd., New Albany, OH 43054

Other Fourth of July Events

Zoombezi Bay Family Movie Night featuring The Goonies

When: July 3 from 6 until 11 p.m.

Where: Zoombezi Bay, 10101 Riverside Dr., Powell, OH 43065

HOW TO CELEBRATE WITH RED, WHITE & BOOM

Red, White & BOOM was gearing up for its 40th anniversary before COVID-19 shut the mass gathering down. However, the beloved Columbus fireworks show will be hosting a virtual event over the first four days of July. The virtual campaign will air on NBC4.

Here are some of the events that will take place:

  • Highlighting the best Red, White & BOOM stories
  • Stories from local veterans inducted into the Ford Oval of Honor
  • Broadcasting the best Red, White & BOOM fireworks over the show’s 39-year history
  • Looking back on the tradition of parades honoring veterans

HOW TO TAKE CELEBRATING INTO YOUR OWN HANDS

We here at (614) also know that setting off fireworks yourself is illegal. We also know that buying them within the state is legal (OK?).

So here is a list of places around Columbus you can buy fireworks from. What you do from there is up to you, but we advise you to stay within the law:

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Zoo Babies! We’ve got the photo cuteness

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Start the ooo-ing and ahhh-ing, Columbus, because we’ve got Zoo baby pics!

A Masai giraffe calf, a sea lion pup, two red panda cubs, and a siamang (gibbon) baby—all recent births at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium for these endangered species. It’s a show of commitment from the organization how they were able to nurture these species populations at-risk for extinction and bring new generations of them into the world. 

“We are extremely proud to welcome these babies as they all represent hope for the future of species that are increasingly facing challenges in their native ranges,” said Columbus Zoo and Aquarium President/CEO, Tom Stalf. In the press release, Stalf detailed how special these births are as the threatened species received around-the-clock, top-quality care by the Animal Care staff over the three-month-closure of the Zoo, due to COVID-19. 

OK, no more waiting—get your fill of cuteness below with these Zoo baby pics!

Masai Giraffe Calf

“A Masai giraffe calf was born on June 28, 2020, at 2:29 p.m. to mother, Zuri, in a behind-the-scenes barn of the Zoo’s Heart of Africa region.”

Sea lion Pup

“During the early morning hours of June 25, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium welcomed the first sea lion pup ever to be born at the facility!”

Two Red Panda Cubs

“Two healthy red panda cubs were born at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, a welcomed addition to this endangered species.”

Siamang (Gibbon) baby

“On the morning of May 29, 2020, the Australia and Islands region welcomed a baby siamang. Mom, Olga, is being very attentive to her little one, whose sex and name have not yet been determined.”

Get information about conservation at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium here.

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Kids

City council aims to give youth opportunities this summer

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Walking down Weber Rd. toward I-71 this week, something was happening that most probably thought wouldn’t for at least another year: a group of kids playing basketball and being mentored by adults.

With the 2019-20 school year canceled, children have been confined to home, with most basketball hoops being boarded up. Summer camps were postponed and parents were starting to wonder, “What am I going to do with all of this bottled-up, youthful energy that’s been bouncing against my walls for the past few months?”

That answer was partially given on June 15, when Council President Pro Tem Elizabeth Brown and Mayor Andrew J. Ginther announced legislation to provide funds to programs for Columbus youth. The $2 million in grants was supported by Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds. 

“Providing a safe place for our kids to learn and grow during the summer is vital for them and for working parents everywhere, and Columbus children deserve every opportunity to access enriching services that connect them to nature, wellness, and creativity,” Brown said in a press release.

In mid-June, the Columbus Recreation and Parks opened a select number of programming and camps with adjusted group sizes and increased safety protocols. With funds from the CARES Act, Columbus can expect to see more opportunities arise over the next couple of months.

To find a full updated list of programs that the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department will be offering this summer, click here.

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