Riding a horse is great exercise—it strengthens the core, improves balance and coordination and may even get your heart pumping. Here in north central Ohio, riding a horse also means the chance to soak in the serene natural beauty of family farms and ancient forests. Whether you've never sat in a saddle or are looking for a place to ride and train your own horse, there are plenty of options nearby.
Photo courtesy of Malabar Farms
1. Pleasant Valley Lake Park & Malabar Farm, Perrysville/Lucas
Both Pleasant Valley and Malabar Farm contain riding trails; there is also a trail that connects the two parks. These trails are free to use year-round. Riders can stage their horses from either park. The horseman's ground at Malabar is free to use. The staging area inside Pleasant Hill Park (located off State Route 95) requires a $5 parking fee for non-campers.
If you want to take your horse camping, Pleasant Hill's equine campground has 37 lots, each with its own campfire ring and picnic table and restrooms nearby.
Photo courtesy of Mohican Lodge and Conference Center
2. Mohican State Park and Memorial State Forest Trails, Loudonville
The Mohican Forest is filled with history. Once the hunting grounds of the Delaware tribe, it later became pioneer territory when Native Americans were driven out during the War of 1812. Later, John Chapman (or as he is more commonly known, Johnny Appleseed) planted trees in the area. Today, you can ride through this historic forest on 22 miles of public bridle trails. Two staging areas are available off of State Route 97 on the western side of the Memorial State Forest. They are free to use.
Photo courtesy of Equestrian Valley Farm
3. Equestrian Valley Farm, Mansfield
Founded in 1815, Equestrian Valley Farm is made up of 200 acres of rolling hills, open pastures and pristine Mohican Forest. Trail rides allow you to see it all from atop your horse as you ride up and down the hills and through the woods. You don't need to own a horse to ride at Equestrian Valley -- the farm's herd includes a Quarter Horse, Tennessee Walker, Haflinger, Mustang and Percheron. Rides last about 75 minutes and are suitable for newbie and veteran riders alike.
Photo courtesy of Raemelton Therapeutic Equestrian Center
4. Raemelton Therapeutic Equestrian Center, Mansfield
In 1918, Frank Black founded his estate and named it Raemelton Farm after the Irish town where his father was born. In 1995, the estate was converted into a therapeutic riding center with an outdoor riding arena, indoor riding arena, two barns and beautiful pasture. Today it serves more than 100 students each week.
Raemelton's programs are specially designed for riders with physical handicaps, impaired mobility, intellectual and/or developmental disabilities, and/or psychological and emotional disabilities. It also offers a non-mounted class for at-risk youth that explores goal-setting and emotional development. Active, inactive or retired military members and their families can access these programs for free through the Hooves for Heroes program.
Photo courtesy of All Hoofed Up Ranch
5. All Hoofed Up Ranch, Crestline
All Hoofed Up is a great choice for kids and beginners as well as skilled riders. The ranch's one- and two-hour trail rides begin with a brief lesson before venturing through the fields, into the woods, and maybe through a creek or two! Take in the breathtaking natural views while you ride a calm Paint horse, Draft mix or gaited Tennessee Walker.
Marc and Lisa Sleeckx also provide horseback riding lessons year round and a kids' summer day camp in June and July.
Courtesy of Triple M Riding Rescue Ranch
6. Triple M Riding Rescue Ranch, Loudonville
Triple M is a non-profit horse rescue that gives riding lessons and guided trail rides. The 3rd generation family-owned ranch consists of 200 acres of some of Ohio's most beautiful forests. Trail rides are led by capable guides in groups of 6 or less for a more intimate, personal experience.
Photo courtesy of Arnold Show Horses
7. Arnold Show Horses, Ashland
Chris and Debbie Arnold have been in the equine business for over 30 years. They offer numerous services including coaching, lessons and a youth equestrian team for junior and senior high students. The Arnolds love coaching riders of all ages and help them train their horses.
8. McCartney Stables, Mansfield
Mike McCartney has over 30 years of experience training horses. He designs lessons based on customers' needs with a focus on safety, horsemanship and establishing a connection between the horse and its rider. In addition to training, McCartney Stables offers trail rides and riding lessons.
Fun Fact: Morgan Freeman boarded his horse at McCartney Stables during the Shawshank Redemption.
Photo courtesy of Berry Valley Ranch
9. Berry Valley Ranch, Mansfield
If you need a place to board your horse, check out Berry Valley ranch. Berry Valley has over 120 acres of pasture and riding trails and facilities including a riding arena, tack room and 12X12 stalls with windows. Boarding options range from full care to stall only.