"I hope we can go horseback riding someday."
Those words from my lovely wife-- and I don't believe in wishes, I believe in action.
So it was that I booked a guided horsie ride for two at Cornerstone Ranch in Princeton on an absolutely frigid November afternoon. Keep in mind, bookings were WEEKS out so I signed up for this guided ride WAAAAAY back before our October 10th anniversary-- in fact it was one of the gifts I was giving her for that event so it was likely late September when I reached out. I figured Nov 11th was still early enough for warmish weather-- I seem to remember a 50 degree Thanksgiving not too long ago.
Nov 11th was smack dab in the middle of a cold spell here in the Northeast-- and I mean Friggin' cold. Here in the Northeast we rate cold like the west coast rates Earthquakes.
- 1. Sweater Weather
- 2. Jacket Weather
- 3. Scarfs and Hats Weather
- 4. Cold
- 5. Friggin' Cold
- 6. Effin' Cold
We were advised to arrive a half an hour early and after a convoluted ride thanks to Google Maps and GPS we arrived at basically the middle of the woods at the Cornerstone Ranch-- a charming little place with a bunch of horses, a nice dog, a pig (yes I said pig) and a fire and some coffee and hot chocolate.
Walking up the path we saw a bunch of people on horses and they were all wearing helmets. Helmets are not my thing but this was a present so I wasn't about to argue the merits that I never saw John Wayne or Ronald Reagan wear a helmet so I found one that fit after many tries.
They assigned us horses based on our height and weight. Veronica got Louie and I got Happy. I hoped Happy was the slightly fat horse who was pretty low slung to the ground. I decided since there was about 10 minutes before we were to leave I would run to the nearby porta pottie to make sure I'd not have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the ride (brilliant thought) and when I got back Veronica was no longer where I left her, she was out beside a pair of horses that looked nice and friendly so I wandered out only to find out this was indeed Louie and the other horse was for the little girl that I hadn't noticed standing waiting for her horse.
My horse, Happy, didn't seem to want to come out and the little girl who was wrangling him had quite a bit of trouble getting him over. He was massive. Not as big, mind you, as the last horse I'd been on who was named Thunderball and he ran like a race horse, but still easily the biggest horse in the group.
It is here I should mention that I'm not incredibly poseable. I can run very quickly in a straight line but if I have to make a turn I tend to fall down. I have about the same articulation as a Ken Doll which means my arms and legs basically go straight out and up and down and I can turn my head.
I managed to get up on top of the horse and stay there and as I made friends with Happy it was pretty clear how he got his name.
"Is he named Happy in an ironic way?" I asked the young woman who helped me get up in the saddle.
"Yes." she laughed.
Within a few minutes we made our way through some thick woods in a single file with Happy and I at the back of the group. I noticed several times some of the other horses were walking right into the brush and at one point Happy seemed like he was trying to scrape me off his back on one of the trees.
I decided Happy was going to do what I told him to do whether he liked it or not, and despite the fact he had about 1000 pounds on me. So to make him go to the left I would pull the reigns out and down in the direction I wanted him to go and I would apply pressure with the leg on the opposite side. After 2-3 times this started working like a charm.
There was one point where he looked back at me and started raising his head up and down but I pulled back on the reigns, readied myself for a Lone Ranger style hind leg stand and got him to calm down.
The pig at the farm is adorable. I can see why people keep pigs. He followed along with us on the probably 2 mile hike constantly getting himself under the legs of Veronica's horse. I tried petting him and he was sharp and bristly-- not sure I'd want to do any cuddling with this little guy.
I had opted for the hour ride rather than the two hour ride only because I wasn't sure how it was going to go. My last ride (at a different ranch) involved running and jumping horses, a couple of bears and some panic among the group-- this was much more low key and fun.
But at the end of the hour my non poseable legs were feeling it-- the horse is wide and it's like sitting on 4 oil barrels in the cold for an hour so I figured when I got off I would just accept a non dignified fall from the saddle landing hopefully on a soft spot on the ground, but Sarah our guide helped me down to which I was eternally grateful.
I recommend them-- and if you're looking for a nice way to spend a hopefully warmer day this is a fun way to do it. CORNERSTONE RANCH