Echo Lake

Stress Release

Where to Ride

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Corrections or additions?

This article by Mary Jasch was prepared for the September 3, 2003

issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Happy Trails Across NJ

Pat Sargeant, foreman of the Double D Guest Ranch,

saddles up 37-year-old Spot, his appaloosa, then Concho, the owner’s

11-year-old ex-race horse, and Buck, a Tennessee Walker, age 15. I’m

riding Buck.

We hop on the horses and clip clop past the others who watch us


from their small paddocks. Rounder the dog runs ahead, leading our

equine trio down a farm lane that sidles along the woodland near


north of Interstate 80 in Warren County.

It’s been a year since I have ridden at one of northwestern New


fun, trail ride friendly stables. Here in the most densely populated

state, horseback riding comes as a pleasant surprise — pure


from the daily grind, a welcome escape into the New Jersey wilds.

Yes, there are stables right in the heart of central New Jersey (see

listings below) but most are limited to lessons and riding within

gated paddocks. But in northwestern New Jersey you can ride trails

that at some points resemble the open range, with many different


from which to choose your riding style, landscape, and trail terrain.

Our path turns into a narrow strip of trees, then the landscape


to hay, then darker woods which, I can see, will offer a colorful

ride come fall. We ride up small hills covered in dense brush, mostly

wild roses, with autumn olive and raspberry bushes. My denim jeans

come in handy against the grabby thorns.

The horses follow the narrow footpath as it winds through the foliage.

Sometimes, ducking under grape vines, I get to know these plants


It’s a little like reaching for that brass ring on a whirling


as I lean out and grab a fresh raspberry as Buck follows along behind

his companions.

The trail winds, maze-like, through young fields of red cedars and

wildflowers. The horses carry us into oak, hickory, and tulip tree

woods where we pass a campsite especially designed for riders who

want to stay overnight.

Soon the trail rims the edges of high fields with vistas

of New Jersey’s own blue mountain ridges. Colorful wildflowers accent

the view. Sargeant tells us that sometimes you can see clear to the

Delaware River from here. The ride at Double D is a nice walk through

the woods and fields on gentle, comfortable horses.

Double D offers two-hour rides — priced at $60 per rider —

on the Paulinskill Valley Trail (PVT), an abandoned railroad bed now

cindered for good walking on a scenic path alongside the Paulinskill

River. The ranch will trailer horses for one person or twelve.


in the business of making people happy," says owner Phil Dukes.

Half-day rides — $85 — cover 13 miles on the Paulinskill


through towns and country with backdrops of water falls, trestles,

and bridges; all-day rides take six hours. Lunch is included and both

rides are offered year-round.

"Whatever I do in Montana, I do here," says Dukes. "I

try to bring a Western experience back East."

His overnight camp ride starts at 9 a.m., when riders leave for the

PVT, have lunch, then come back to the campsite at about 4 p.m.


6:30, I come out and cook dinner — steak and chicken — and

leave you alone by 8," says Dukes. At 8 a.m. next day, Dukes is

back at the pit cooking bacon, eggs, and biscuits. The tent even has

a wood stove, providing enough comfort that riders can spend New


Eve there if they choose. The ranch offers corporate group rides,

too. A few days before my own ride, Edy’s Ice Cream had a sales


for 14 out on the trail.

Dukes has experienced horses for rent. Most can take kids.


all very good horses. If they do something wrong they get fired —

we don’t like to say `canned’," he laughs.

Silver Bit

On Route 23 in Whitehouse Station, a yellow and green

sign by a post and rail fence announces the turn down a dirt lane

to Silver Bit and Spur Farm. Horses stand at hitching posts under

a spreading tree, feed buckets in front of some. Bridles hang hooked

over saddle horns and the horses stand, waiting for work.

Three riders from Staten Island are mounted and ready to go. It’s

their third visit here. Ed Rauer is taking his daughter Samantha for

a birthday ride. Rauer’s friend Michele Boffa had never ridden before

she came here, but she’s not afraid to go out without a guide as they

do here at Silver Bit. Can she walk, trot and canter? "I guess

so," she says. And what does she see out there? "Trees and

forest stuff."

Owner Jean Eggemann matches riders to her stable of 60-plus horses

according to their ability. "When people are mounted, they’re

given basic instruction on how to ride," she says.

A group of six young Manhattanites arrive. "I love riding,"

says Aveena Jharma. "It’s nice to get out of Manhattan."


lost is Jharma’s concern, but in this group of six the horses will

follow each other. One man asks if his horse will run and Eggemann

tells them to take it easy. "If one goes, they all will go."

People with their own horses can ride them here for a day charge.

Jennifer and Bob Paulson ride here because they like the people and

think the trails are great.

Silver Bit accommodates pony parties and picnics too. Small children

can ride a pony for a half-hour as parents lead them around wherever

they like — even through the woods. Eggemann owns the farm with

her son, Danny. "I’ve been doing horses since I was 11 and I’m

58 now," says Eggemann. "It’s horse heaven here for people

who love them."

Big Eyes Win

Borderland Farm proprietor Virginia Martin says you

cannot properly step into a trot or canter unless your horse is doing

a proper walk. "These horses were not born to carry us," she

says. "They were made to be eaten by lions and tigers and us.

That’s why they were made to run away."

"I don’t give a hang what the color of a horse is or the breed.

I care about the way he moves and his attitude. You can tell a lot

about attitude when you look into his eyes."

Martin says that a horse should have big eyes on the side of his head

— the better to see a predator. "Many horses that spook have

little pig eyes in front. They don’t see as well so if they hear a

noise far away, they’re liable to shy and spook. Big eyes see it all

and feel familiar." Her horses have big eyes, one of her selection


She insists that people treat her horses gently. "We have horses

you could put your great grandmother on," she says. "We


`riding in lightness.’ There’s no kicking or pulling. It’s just a

light touch with both heels, but don’t grind them in. "

An hour trail ride at Borderland winds through various wooded habitats

and fields, with a river crossing and railroad crossing. The woods

are old, open, and big. Autumn paces are open to the public who can

bring their own horses. The Jolly Jumping Jaunt is a trail ride


the woods with jumps. Corporate group rides can be arranged.


offers catered gourmet trail rides with advance reservations.


spread out on the large lawns of Borderland’s 230 acres that are


by Farmland Preservation.

Neophytes Welcome

Nancy J. Williams, stable manager at Lord Stirling


in Basking Ridge, a beef farm turned public stable that is owned and

managed by the Somerset County Park Commission, says that special

attention is paid to neophyte riders.

"We get the horses ready and bring them out to the mounting block.

We take the stirrups down and tighten the girth. We do everything

— all anyone has to do is get on," says Williams. The stable

presents a list of available steeds to the rider, who chooses his

or her own according to weight and level of expertise.

It’s a safety issue, she says, and if a neophyte prefers, he can take

an introductory ride to discover if English riding is for him, or

if he qualifies to rent a horse. "We value our safety record.

We’re concerned about public safety and we don’t want anyone getting

hurt," says Williams.

Rides ramble over 14 miles of trails on bridle paths throughout the

stable’s 450 acres. The stable is just half of Lord Stirling Park,

which also houses an Environmental Education Center. During driving

events, carriages whisk down the level grassy paths. "If they’re

good for carriages, you know darn well they’re good for horse


says Williams.

The land is relatively flat through varying habitats like old woods,

swamps, and meadows which offer riders changing views and glimpses

of wildlife along the way.

The Friends of Lord Stirling Stable run two nature rides a year for

non-riders and anyone who feels like a comfortable walk through the

woods on somebody else’s legs. "At different times of year you

see different things. People point out colorful foliage and animals

that you might not normally spot," says Elaine Taub, co-chair

of the ride. The next Nature Ride is scheduled for Sunday, October

5, from 7 to 9 a.m.

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Echo Lake

At Echo Lake Stable in West Milford evening rides are

special. Riders set out at 7 p.m. and ride an hour until they reach

their destination — a cowboy cookout in the woods where wranglers

cook and sing. After the barbeque, riding back through the moonlit

trees will engage each cowpoke’s imagination in another time and


Echo Lake’s 35 horses know the terrain well. They are handpicked

Texas ranch horses that have done just about all kinds of ranch work.

They are great riding horses for the novice. Long rides up to seven

hours can be accomplished without covering the same trails twice on

this 80-acre wooded property.

Top Of Page
Stress Release

The drive off Paulinskill Lake Road into Spring Valley

Equestrian Center crosses a bridge over a pond and heads up the hill

to the big blue barn. That’s where the hacking — pleasure riding

as opposed to formal riding — begins. "We’ve been here for

31 years. We own all our horses and are familiar with them, and the

railroad bed is quite nice to ride on," says manager Christine


Jillian Davey, trail leader, saddles up horses for me and two other

riders. I ride Billings, one of the oldest trail horses here. We climb

the hill behind the barn and turn into the woods where four guinea

hens peck away at bugs. The trail runs on a ridge top with soft


edged in trees. The trail becomes wide dirt through a forested


The horses negotiate the winding the path that leads down to the PVT

that runs alongside Paulinskill Lake here. It’s shady and cool. The

horses walk slowly enough for me to inspect the different color


that grow beneath the oaks and birch. Six deer run in front of us,

then stop to browse. They are not afraid. "They smell the horses

and not us," says Davey. "The horses are just other friends

they share the pasture with."

Billings is slow and steady on the downhill. Bird song accompanies

the creak of leather and snort of horses. Joggers jog by and Billings

tosses his tresses high as we trot.

Back at the barn, a peacock shakes his tail feathers at guinea hens,

people wash horses for a show, a woman shaves her horse’s muzzle —

a flurry of activity. People bustle in the tack shop as they inspect

English and western gear, fancy clothes, horse jewelry, models and

books, boots, stickers, chaps and tees.

As rider Laura Hanley describes it, "other than my walks in the

morning, this is my touch with nature, with God — my stress


Top Of Page
Where to Ride

Borderland Farm, Route 94, Vernon/Warwick. 845-986-1704.

Boots with a heel and English riding helmet are required. Helmets

loaned. Reservations necessary.

Double D Guest Ranch, 81 Mount Hermon Road, Blairstown.

908-459-9044. Open every day from 9 a.m.

to dusk. Western. Reservations required.

Echo Lake Stable, 55 Blakely Lane, Newfoundland, West

Milford. 973-697-1257. Daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Western, walk-in.

Lord Stirling Stable, Somerset county Park Commission,

256 South Maple Avenue, Basking Ridge. 908-766-5955.

Friends of Lord Stirling Stable. 908-654-8541 or 732-302-9167. Trails,

indoor and outdoor rings. Riders must be 12 years old or above. Boots

with a heel and English riding helmet are required.

Silver Bit & Spur Farm, Route 523, Whitehouse Station.


Spring Valley Equestrian Center, 56 Paulinskill Lake Road,

Newton. 973-534-4010.

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Close to Home

These Princeton area stables specialize in lessons and

formal riding such as dressage and jumping. None offers open trail

riding such as that described above. Some have trails that are open

only to qualified riders, usually those who own their own horses.

Canterbury Tails Farm , 80 Petty Road, Cranbury 08512.


Hasty Acres , 121 Laurel Avenue, Kingston. 609-921-8389.

Hillsborough Equestrian Center , 124 Wertsville Road,



Hunter Farms Riding Club , 1315 Great Road, Princeton.


Jem Stables , 1203 Windsor Road, West Windsor.


Piedmont Riding Stables , 564 Province Line Road, Hopewell.


Princeton Riding Center , Cherry Hill Road, Princeton.


Sand Hill Farm , 91 Major Road, Monmouth Junction.


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