There’s nothing quite like taking a walk through the trees on a beautiful fall day. Yellow trees, blue sky, crisp air, gentle breeze, the crunch of leaves… Yep, this is our Colorado – and we love it. So we decided instead of giving up on a fall stroll due to Dre’s limited mobility, we’d hitch ride from a four legged friend. On our mission to continue to find ways to keep this beautiful state we live in accessible, we took a trip to check out Chatfield Stables at Chatfield State Park.
Booking our Ride
A vast open space park well on the southwestern side of Denver well known for its dammed lake and water activities, the park also has miles of trails to explore. Fortunately for us, it also has horses to help explore those trails. Open year round, the stables offer a variety of opportunities to get up on a horse and out in the park.
It is important to note that the stables do not specialize in rides for handicapped patrons. When we called to schedule our ride, we explained that Dre has MS and limited mobility. He is able to walk to and from the horse, stand, and with assistance, pull himself into the saddle. The person who scheduled our ride let us know that the wranglers could assist patrons getting on and off the horse but wouldn’t be able to lift him into the saddle. Dre also would have to be able to balance himself once on the horse as well as hold on and steer himself.
Dre did a couple of practice “mounts” pulling himself up on the railing on the back porch, and we figured we’d give it a shot.
A Trip to the Park
We set out for our ride on a beautiful fall Friday morning. The stables were easy to find, about a half a mile south of the entrance. There is an $8.00 park day pass you will need to purchase if you don’t have an annual pass to the park.
The parking lot for the stables is about a fifty yard walk from the check in point. There is no designated handicap parking, but there is a ten minute drop off that shortens the walk to about twenty yards. The trail to the check in is level, but it is dirt. After all, we’re at a stable, so there’s a lot of dirt. Dre was able to walk the distance but did use his cane for assistance.
We had opted for the hour-long ride, which was $35.00 per rider, paid in cash at the check in. The ranger assigned each of us a horse as we checked in, which became her way to identify each of us throughout the ride. I was assigned a white mare named Gin, and Dre got a black gelding named Ranger.
Once everyone was checked in, the ranger called us out one by one, by the name of our horse. So if you go, make sure you remember the name of your assigned horse, or you’ll throw everything off.
She called Dre over for Ranger first and let me help him walk the fifteen feet over since we had to leave his cane at the barn. Instructing him to hold on to the front of the saddle, put his left foot in the stirrup, and boost with the other leg, she got him ready to get on. Dre’s weak side is his right side, which is the side he was supposed to boost with. She gave him a little extra push and helped him swing his right leg over, and he was up on Ranger.
Once up on Ranger, Dre got settled in while the rest of us got saddled up. We had seven total people on our ride, which gave us some company without being crowded. Once she had us all up and ready to go, she started untying each horse. Gin was excited to get out on the trail, turning around and wrangling the horse next to her to move forward before the rest of the horses were untied. Fortunately, she was just a little eager, not too rambunctious, and I was able to stop her before she left Dre and Ranger tied up behind us.
Hitting the Trail
A few minutes later we were out on the trail. The ride started through wide, open valley, giving us some space and time to adjust to each of our horses. Having ridden when he was younger, Dre settled in quickly. Ranger liked to lag behind so he could then trot and catch up to the rest of the horses. Actually, it might have been a joint plan since Dre seemed to enjoy it just as much as Ranger did whenever they would trot.
The ride took us past one of the smaller ponds to the South of the main lake, then we crosseda road and made our way into the trees. The path narrowed, winding through trees still holding on to their fall colors, making for a beautiful, winding stroll full of color. Too soon we reached the turn around and made our way back to the barn.
Perhaps the most difficult part of the ride was Dre getting off the horse, as it is a struggle to lift his right leg, which he had to swing back over Ranger. Since I was already off my horse, the Wrangler let me come over and help Dre swing his leg over while she helped him balance as he landed on the other side. Once off, we were simply careful not to spook Ranger from the back and made our way back to the barn.
Tipping the wrangler, we shook out our legs and headed back for the car. Legs might be a little stiff, back might be a little sore, but perhaps the muscles that hurt the most were our cheeks from the big smiles on our faces. Nothing like a walk through the woods on a beautiful Colorado day!