Until one fine, albeit steamy, afternoon in June, it didn’t occur to me that there’s a better way to experience Audubon Park than on foot. Ambling through stately columns at the entrance, taking in the fountain and centuries-old oak trees adorned with Spanish moss and enjoying the sights and sounds at Bird Island are just a few of my favorite things about the vast green space. The stables however, live at the top of my list, which made learning about the trail rides an even greater delight.
While Cascade Stables (891-2246, CascadeStables.net), opened in Audubon Park in 2006, there always has been a horse barn in the park. In addition to group and private riding lessons, Cascade offers two-mile trail rides year round on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for ages 8 and up. A trail ride is $40 per person, and you must wear closed toe, flat soled shoes (no sandals or heels and long pants are suggested and trust me, you don’t want to ride a horse in shorts or a skirt).
We arrived early to fill out paperwork and settle up, and then were led out to meet our guide, Cory, who is patient, knowledgeable and fun. My horse for the day, Sheriff, is an approximately 13-year-old white horse sporting a chic braided mane, compliments of the riding camp children. Cory warned me that Sheriff likes to snack on leaves throughout the trail, so the trick is keeping his reigns tight. Mark saddled up on a big brown beauty called Sandler, a child of the 1990s, like his rider. Let us just say good old Sandler isn’t one to be in a rush.
We moseyed of the stables, clip-clopped across Magazine Street and as soon as our little posse began its slow procession under the oak trees, we were transported to another time and place near the turn of the 20th century and the park’s beginnings.
It was a relaxing and serene hour, filled with nature and my constant yanking of Sheriff’s reigns to keep his jaws away from the magnolia (and other) trees. Having grown up with horses in Kentucky, riding is an activity I love and miss, but more than that I miss just being around the animals.
While I love the opportunity to trot or better yet canter with the wind whipping through my mane, and the horse’s, a trail ride is no place for such high speed antics. Expect something more akin to a leisurely saunter. Between the skilled guides, slow gait and experienced trail horses that are no strangers to street noise and hubbub – they walk yearly in Mardi Gras parades – those who have never been on a horse need not worry. Cory will even give you a judgment-free step stool if you need one to make easier that climb up onto your sturdy equine.
Before we parted ways with Sheriff and Sandler, I retrieved a handful of leaves from my pocket. Sheriff unceremoniously sucked them up into his mouth, setting to work on the business of chewing and we strolled off into the sunset – OK, the parking lot, but you get the picture.