Riding through Maryland’s Beauty
Fun Fact: Maryland is known for horse riding. In fact, one of the most important horse races in the world—The Preakness Stakes—is held in Baltimore every May. Maryland was actually the first of the 13 colonies to organize equestrian sports; the first thoroughbred race was held in Annapolis in 1745, and the winner received a silver punch bowl. Maryland’s equestrian past is also part of its present, with more horses per square mile than any other state.
Maryland offers many options for riders of all levels. There are stables, riding schools, horse shows, and horse races throughout the state. From the wild horses running along the shores of Assateague Island near Ocean City to the horse ranches and stables around Cumberland in the Appalachian Mountains, horses are a big part of Maryland’s culture. Horse riding can be a recreational activity or a competitive sport; there are options for all interests and skill levels.
Places to Go Horse Riding in Maryland
1. River Vallley Ranch
River Valley Ranch is an expansive 500-acre property in the northern end of Carroll County, by the state line with Pennsylvania. 1- and 2-hour trail rides are available for riders aged 12 and older, through rolling hills and along the Gunpowder River. The scenic trails are complemented by three riding areas, including one indoor arena. In addition to trail rides and horseback riding lessons, they also offer horse summer camps for young ladies between the ages of 9 and 17.
2. Holly Ridge Farm Equestrian Center.
Horseback riding near Ocean City, MD includes Holly Ridge Farm Equestrian Center. Year-round trail riding provides visitors with the opportunity to meander through woodland trails with wildlife that includes deer, foxes, and even bald eagles. Riders ages 12 and older can enjoy a 1.5 hour Adventure Trail Ride, while children ages 5 and older can enjoy the Family Fun Ride, which also includes instruction on grooming, setup, and safety.
3. Circle R Ranch
Visitors to Deep Creek Lake in the far western end of the state can enjoy trail riding at the Circle R Ranch, set in the Appalachian Mountains. Trail rides include ponies for children of any age and 1-hour rides for riders ages 10 and up. The trails meander through apple orchards, along streams, and through oak and maple forests. Circle R Ranch also offers picnic hayrides with a return journey under the stars, and winter sleigh rides with giant Clysdale horses.
4. Elk Mountain Trails
If you’re looking for horseback riding in Frederick, MD, Elk Mountain Trails is a nearby option. Complement your trip to historic Harpers Ferry with a trail ride through the Blue Ridge Mountains or along the Potomac River and the C&O Canal. Note that the riding season at Elk Mountain Trails is March 9th through December 1st, and they are closed in the winter. In addition to trail rides, there are also periodic Sunday brunch rides on certain holidays.
5. Southern Grace Farm
If you are looking for horseback riding in Clinton, MD or the southern DC metro area, check out Southern Grace Farm in Bel Alton, which has been open since 1897. This 56 acre facility offers a long 3-hour ride with a stop for breakfast, and a shorter 1-hour ride through the woods of the farm. There is also a Texas Ribs Trail Ride with a stop for a barbecue lunch. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own bicycle helmets and call ahead of time to ensure availability.
Riding Schools in Maryland
Waredaca Farm in Laytonsville has been a place to learn about horseback riding in Columbia, MD since 1937. The 200 acre farm has several instructional tracts. For the youngest riders aged 5-7, there is the Pony Kids to help develop confidence, balance, and coordination. For riders 8 and up there is the Pony Club, where participants begin learning cantering on their own and jumping small cross-rails at the trot. Waredaca farm has also partnered with local educational institutions to offer horseback riding to students as an extracurricular sport.
Horseback riding in Bel Air, MD can be found at Fairwinds Farm and Stables across the Susquehanna River in the northwest corner of Maryland. It’s also a fairly decent option for horseback riding in Baltimore, as it’s less than an hour away from the city. Horseback riding lessons are available for riders as young as 8, with group lessons and one-on-one instruction. There is an indoor riding ring with fantastic sunset views, and lessons can be booked from 9:00 AM to 7:30 PM.
If you want to learn about horseback riding in Annapolis, Beech Grove Farm is a local stable offering group and private lessons. Beech Grove Farm prides itself on providing comprehensive instruction about horsemanship, which to the repertoire of riding adds important considerations such as equine psychology, biomechanics of horse and rider, as well as good communication with your mount. In the summer and fall there are camps and a riding home-school program.
Those searching for instruction in horseback riding near Hagerstown, MD can visit Misty Vale Stable, a family-owned farm and horse-riding school offering instruction to riders of all ages and skill levels. There are individual lessons and group events, as well as stabling training. Owner-operator Mary Schneider has almost four decades of experience in training, instruction, and equine management. The farm itself is set in the beautiful rolling farmlands of Hagerstown Valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Horse Shows and Competitions in Maryland
The main horseback riding competition in Maryland is the Preakness Stakes, which is now in its 148th year. Occurring every May this is the second jewel in the Triple Crown (the other two being the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes). The race occurs every year at Pimlico Race Course in the northwest corner of Baltimore City.
Another fun horse-related event occurs at the World of Pets Expo, at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium, just outside Baltimore. Although this convention is all about animals in general, there is a special section called Horseland which is all about introducing participants—especially young participants—to the equine industry.
The Jim McKay Maryland Million Day is an annual fundraiser and showcase event to promote Maryland stallions. There are races, competitions, and other forms of entertainment. Also known as Maryland’s Day at the Races, this event has been hosted in Laurel, MD since 1986 to celebrate the racing and breeding industry in Maryland, which is not esteemed to comprise economic activity of over $2 billion.
The Maryland Horse Shows Association has a full calendar of events year round for all types of horses and riders of all ages. Although the calendar of events is online for perusal, membership in the association is paid. Another organization is the Maryland Open Horse Show Series, which also helps raise money for local charities. Events and shows run year-round and you can check their event calendar to see when and where a horse show is happening near you
Another opportunity to see horse races or horse shows can be found at your local county fair. The dates, times, and locations of these fairs vary from county to county, but generally speaking, they occur in the summer and sometimes in late fall. These county fairs often provide opportunities for local farmers and ranchers to showcase the agricultural economy, which of course includes equestrian interests such as breeding, riding, and racing.
Lastly, if you are interested in horse shows, competitions, and races, you can contact some of the farms and ranches listed above. Many of them have their own shows and competitions periodically, which may be paired with fundraisers and events where food and other entertainment accompany the main attraction: Maryland’s horses.
Safety considerations for horse riding in Maryland
It’s important to recognize that equestrian pursuits have their risks, which include injury and death. Horses are living animals with a wide range of temperaments, and a key aspect of good horsemanship is learning how to care for and communicate with your mount. That said, many of the farms and ranches that offer horseback trail riding in Maryland are providing experienced trail guides and well-behaved horses. Additionally, they will almost always require that riders wear a helmet and clothing and shoes that are suitable for riding, like jeans and shoes.
When riding, you always need to pay attention to your surroundings, the terrain around you, and other riders. There may be other hazards such as wildlife or traffic, depending on where you are riding and if you are crossing or riding along any streets or busy areas. Always remember to follow proper trail etiquette by yielding to other riders and keeping your horse’s speed and behavior under control. Keep in mind that many schools, training facilities, and farms offering trail rides in Maryland will ask you to sign a liability waiver.
Horses: A Maryland Pastime
As you’ve seen, there are a number of incredible opportunities for horse riding in Maryland for riders of all ages and experience levels. Whether you want to immerse yourself in learning to become an experienced horseman, or just take an occasional casual weekend trail ride through some of the state’s beautiful scenery, there is something for you. And even if you would rather just observe a horse race or a horse competition, there are also plenty of opportunities to take in the equine skills of local riders.