Experiencing the great outdoors on horseback is an incomparable experience. The feeling of symbiosis with a powerful animal adds to the sense of being one with nature. Challenging your physical endurance is enhanced by developing a bond with your steed. Conquering steep mountain trails requires quite different skills than racing, as speed offers a different kind of adrenaline. If the racecourse is more to your liking, have a look at this practical US horse betting guide for an extra bonus. But if you are the wilderness rider type, Cascadia is your dream realm.
If you are at a loss as to where to begin, a good resource is the organization Back Country Horsemen of Washington (BCHW). They have 31 chapters across the state dedicated to keeping trails open for all users, educating horse users in Leave-No-Trace practices and providing volunteer service to resource agencies.
In the neighboring states you will find Oregon Equestrian Trails (OET) who have been on the same mission for more than 45 years and care for several horse trails and horse camps. On the Canadian side, you will find the Back Country Horsemen of British Columbia, with over 900 members and 23 chapters. The Idaho Department of Commerce – Tourism Development can point you to dozens of ranches and farms that offer horseback treks in nature.
National parks offer a trove of attractive horseback adventures. North Cascades National Park in Washington, for example, has several wonderful riding trails for you. Some treks can be contained in day trips, others are great for longer adventures with overnight camping. The most popular are located in the southeast of the park, along Bridge Creek (Pacific Crest Trail) and throughout the Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. Among the major west-side stock trails you will find the East Bank Trail, the west side of Ross Lake, Big Beaver Trail and the Thunder Creek Trail. Be aware that these are limited to small groups: maximum 12 participants, people and stock (horses, mules, donkeys, and llamas) combined.
In case you are a stubborn urbanite who needs to acclimatize to nature gradually, try “the wilderness in the city”. This is a frequently-used nickname for Bridle Trails State Park, a popular getaway for Seattle and Eastside residents located between Kirkland and Redmond. This horse-friendly resort is a 489-acre day-use park with 28 miles of trails. Equestrians are welcome here (but you have to bring the horse along – no rentals available), as are hikers or simple strollers. This is closer to the city, but mind you, it is still wild country: a cougar has been sighted in the park, along with bobcats, black bears, coyotes and barred owls).
“Horse-friendly zoning” is actually a serious theme, a measure of land planning that is being used in certain areas to control the urbanization in the Pacific Northwest’s Cascadia corridor and soften its impacts on both cities and rural areas. This innovative approach will hopefully be followed by others.