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Two For Trails Part 2: Jefferson County Trail Users Forum

While the volunteer patrollers directly serve the visitors and parks; the Trail Users Forum works as a liaison with the county and other users.

The Trail Users Forum was originally created in 1995 to facilitate the increased park attendance and different types of trail users.  The forum is made up of volunteer citizens from the majority user groups – equestrians, hikers and mountain bikers, as well as Open Space Advisory Committee representatives and Open Space Staff representatives.  The purpose of the forum is to take ideas, compliments and concerns from the different user groups and then make recommendations to improve trail use experience for all users to enjoy a safe, quality experience while they also consider the protection of the natural resource.  There are eight Equestrian and Hiking Representatives and seven Biking Representatives.

The Trail Users Forum improved the horse trailer parking at Centennial Cone as well as implemented the alternating use schedule for hikers and bikers.  The schedule is as follows:  equestrian use is allowed everyday; weekdays are multi-use and weekends allow bikers on even days and hikers on odd days.  This way, equestrians that do not wish to encounter bikes can plan accordingly.  In March 2010, the forum implemented changes at Apex Park once it was learned that equestrians had nearly stopped using the trail because the speed of bikers was a safety issue with the horses.  Now the park strictly enforces that on odd days, bikes are only allowed to travel one way to allow a safer speed for bikes and horses to interact. For more information on the Trail Users Forum go to: http://jeffco.us/openspace/openspace_T56_R127.htm. The Trail Users Forum Equestrian Representatives also have a FaceBook page at “Jeffco Colorado Open Space Equestrians”.

Get out and enjoy the many trails in our Jefferson County Open Space Parks this summer with your friends and horses!  Remember the folks who volunteer to protect the trails, users and our natural resources and maybe even consider serving along with them as a patroller or on the forum.  Happy Trails!  Copyright 2013 H. McWilliams, MtnHomes4Horses.com

Back In The Saddle with Stephanie Bell – Coming Back to Riding

There seems to be a trend lately and it is that people who grew up riding are getting back into horses.  A few of these people are all connected to one of our local trainers, Stephanie Bell.  Stephanie has some great thoughts for people getting back into riding and states that one of the great things about riding is that you can always come back to it, no matter how long it has been, even in your retirement years.  Each section has tips for riders coming back after years out of the saddle as well as just a few months.

Lessons and Trainers – Years off:  Review the basics with a trainer.  When looking for a trainer, do some research.  Talk to other horse people you know, look for directories like NewHorse.com that sorts trainers by discipline and area, go observe trainers giving lessons to see if they suit your learning style, take lessons from a couple different trainers and ultimately, find someone you trust.

Months off:  Stephanie suggests setting some goals for the new season. These can be anything from riding a certain number of times a week, moving up a division at the horse show, or improving your sitting trot. Depending on your goals, it may be productive to take some lessons and share your specific goals with your instructor.  They can give you feedback on a realistic timeline and plan.  Even if you have your own horse, it might even be a good idea to take a lesson or two on a school horse.  For example, if you are hoping to learn a new movement, it may be helpful to ride a horse that already knows how to do the maneuver and get the feel for it.  Also, ask your instructor for “homework” to practice in between lessons and recreate some of the exercises you felt good about. If you are taking lessons, both private and small group lessons are valuable.  The private lessons allow you to focus on issues specific to you and your horse while the group lessons give you the opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes.  Taking a video of you riding can be very helpful.  Sometimes in riding things will feel very different than they look.

Horses! – Years off:  Initially, school horse lessons are a good place to start.  You can get your feet wet again without a big commitment and you get to try different horses.  If you had been a more experienced rider in the past, it may not take long for you to outgrow school horses.  Leasing or a partial lease on a horse is a good next step.  Leasing is a good way to experience some of the benefits of horse ownership without as much of a financial and time commitment.  Eventually, you may decide to buy your own horse.  When you are looking to either lease or buy it’s a good idea to enlist the help of a trainer – they can help search for, evaluate, and negotiate prices for horses.  They are also great resources for getting you connected with a vet, farrier, etc.  Also remember that if you hire a trainer to help you find the right horse, they have a vested interest in doing everything they can to make sure that horse is a good fit for you.

Months off:  Make sure your partner is up to date with their dental work and their hooves are in good shape and shod, if necessary.  Put together a fitness plan for your horse.  While you’re getting them in shape again there’s a few exercises that are always good to include:  TRANSITIONS!, adjustability – lengthening and shortening stride, bending, and eventually riding up and down hills – even consider riding bareback a little.

Equipment –Years off:  If you still have some of your old tack, it may be time to update.  Some of your items may be just fine, but others may need to be replaced for reasons better than just keeping up with trends.  If you have a saddle you love, it may work – you’ll need to have the tree checked and if an older English saddle, it may need to be re-flocked.  It’s also important to check all of the leather, stitching and hardware.  If you have an old helmet, Stephanie suggests investing in a new helmet regardless of if your old one still looks great.  New safety standards have been implemented in recent years and it’s recommended that helmets be replaced after each fall or number of years.

Months off:  Clean/condition and look over all of your tack to make sure it is in good repair and nothing needs repaired or replaced.  Also, if you ever ride alone Stephanie suggests getting the Horse Rider SOS App (HorseRiderSOS.com).

Fitness– Stephanie believes that a rider’s emotional confidence improves when they feel stronger and have more body awareness, translating into better riding.  When you’re only riding once or twice a week, it’s great if you can incorporate other activities like yoga or Pilates.  These will improve core strength and body awareness.

Your fitness level should relate to your goals – but no matter what they are, improved fitness does translate into improved confidence and better riding at all levels.  There are fitness classes specifically designed for riders – a great way to meet other horse crazy people!

On a final note Stephanie states, “expect riding to be as rewarding as you remember, but there may be some other things you experience differently.  As a child you may not have had much interest in the “why?” behind the exercise.  Typically adults understand the theories intellectually but struggle when their execution isn’t perfect.  It’s important to remember that although riding is and should be challenging, it should primarily be safe and fun- forgive yourself and your horse for mistakes.”

Stephanie Bell’s lesson, training and showing program is called North Star Equestrian LLC (see www.northstarhunterjumper.com) and operates out of Lone Star Equestrian in Evergreen as well as other venues in the Denver area.  Her students range from 6 to 60’s. She teaches the basics in most all riding disciplines, but the majority of her education and experience is in English. She lives in Englewood with her husband and 4-year-old daughter.  Stephanie can be reached at stephanieabell@msn.com or 720-209-8361.  Heather McWilliams © 2013.  For past articles, events, business directory and horse properties, go to MtnHomes4Horses.com.


Two For Trails Part 1: Jefferson County Volunteer Patrollers

Trail riding season is upon us and what better place to live than Jefferson County with our vast Open Space Park system!  Of our thirty-two Open Space parks, thirty of them include horseback riding as part of their multi-use standard, while White Ranch and Reynolds Park has even provided equestrian friendly campsites.   Jefferson County’s website offers detailed information about each park including maps, history, use schedules, planning tips and other important information.  (See the MtnHomes4Horses.com Trail Guide for slide shows, links and other information about several of our local parks).

With hikers, bikers and equestrians all enjoying our trail systems, two groups have come out of the desire to take care of our parks and to serve as representatives for different trail uses; The Jefferson County Volunteer Patrollers and the Jeffco Trail Users Forum.

The Jefferson County Volunteer Patrollers serve as ambassadors within the Jeffco Open Space Parks.  Of the over one hundred and fifty patrollers, about fifteen of these are equestrian patrollers, fifty are bikers and the remaining are hikers or seasonally cross country skiers.  As with each patroller group, equestrian patrollers provide services to park visitors and look to add more each year to serve in their group.  The patrollers utilize their training to alleviate park visitor conflicts through patrol and peer education. Patrollers accomplish this by using their training to work independently with first aid, emergency response, education, and resource protection.  This training includes CPR, dog on leash education (our number one park issue), flora and fauna identification and care, fire awareness, and equestrian (or otherwise) specific skills.

For more information about the Jefferson County Volunteer Patrollers, go to: https://www.co.jefferson.co.us/openspace/openspace_T56_R118.htm. While the volunteer patrollers directly serve the visitors and parks; the Trail Users Forum works as a liaison with the county and other users – Two For Trails Part Two features the Jefferson County Trail Users Forum.

Visit to Idyllic Equestrian Venue in Georgia

On a recent trip to visit family in Georgia for Easter, we went to visit the palatial equestrian event venue called Chattahoochee Hills in Fairburn, Georgia.  The gorgeous barns you see are only used during events.  Chattahoochee Hills has hosted the USEA American Eventing Championships for the last few years.  The arenas were amazingly large and the footing seemed ideal made from a sand-like material (maybe just sand!) with carpet fibers mixed in.  The cross country course was expansive, rolling and beautiful.  The Chattahoochee River bordered the far side of the property and there were several lakes and an incredible new barn being built.  Enjoy the slideshow!

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