The Hippo


May 29, 2020








On a trail ride at Charmingfare Farm. Kelly Sennott photo.

Beginner trail riding

Charmingfare Farm, 774 High St., Candia, 483-5623,, trail rides usually cost $60 per rider, zoo also available for viewing ($10 discount if you order online), registration required, plan on 1.5 hours. Must be 10 or older.
Lucky 7 Stables, 15 Litchfield Road, Londonderry, 432-3076,, scenic five-mile guided horseback trail ride, no experience necessary, must be 8 years or older, $35 per person, group rates available; on Fridays, there are also sunset trail rides that begin at 6:30 or 7:30 p.m., depending on the time of year.
Castle in the Clouds, 171, 455 Old Mountain Road, Moultonborough, 476-8350,, guided horseback trail rides through historic wooded areas at the mountaintop estate, which passes by Shannon Pond and through wooded trails and by fields with views of Lake Winnipesaukee, according to the website ( The trail rides are an hour long, walk only (no trotting or cantering). Costs $50 per rider, must be 8 or older.
Take a lesson
Verrill Stables, 205 Kingston Road, Danville, 819-4127,,
Lucky 7 Stables, 154 Litchfield Road, Londonderry, 432-3076,,
Grandview Stables, 599 Main St., Danville, 365-8199,,
Greenwood Stables, 2 Frost Road, Derry, 
Concord Equestrian Center, 56 Sanborn Road, Concord, 731-2624,
Hollis Ranch, 192 Wheeler Road, Hollis, 
Five Stars Farm, 147 Pickpocket Road, Brentwood, 580-5691,,
Bright Bay Farm, 296 Lane Road, Chester, 303-7567,
Jakobi Farm, Deering Center Road, Weare, 533-7354
LaBrie Stables, 49 Rod Gun Club Road, 
Chester, 548-1265,
Cartier Farms, 371 Chester Road, Candia, 483-0171,
Pinnacle Rock Stables, Lyndeborough, 381-6516
Windswept Farm, 92 SW Road, Canterbury, 783-4151,
Patch Wood Farm, 42 Hawkwood Road, 
Sandown, 978-273-0893,
Tri Color Equestrian, Candia,,
Mack Hill Riding Academy, 3 Mack Hill Road, Amherst, 801-0958,
Mountain View Farm and Equestrian Center, 710 S. Barnstead Road, Barnstead, 
Chase Farm, 146 Federal Hill Road, Hollis, 203-8313,
Hidden Hollow Farm, 78 Depot Road, E. Kingston, 642-8128,
Fortune’s Path Farm, 111 Reservation Road, Deerfield, 799-5078,
Twin Ridge Farm, 223 Pumpkin Hill Road, Warner, 456-3031,
Shannon Trails, 208 Shannon Road, Salem, 231-0256,
Serenity Boughs Farm, Heath St., Newton, 819-9960,
Sea Star Stable, 73 Middle Road, Brentwood, 772-1227
Chestnut Hill Stables, 167 Brown Road, 
Beede Farms, 162 Pillsbury Road, 
Londonderry, 434-3720,
Old Coach Farm, 999 Province Road, 
Barnstead, 435-6412,
L&M Horseworks, 62 Collins Landing Road, Unit 64, Weare,
Ever Green Stables, 7076 Oak Hill Road, Loudon,, 455-4127
Sport Nature Riding & Recreation Center, Pine Hill Road, Hollis, 236-2132,
Just In Time Farm, 191 Litchfield Road, 
Londonderry, 432-6262,
Van Ry Stables, 29 Main St., Atkinson, 
Sunrise Farm, 99 Windham Road, Pelham, 635-7631,
Giordano Farm, 41 Frye Road, Danville, 
Renaissance Farm, Center for the Equestrian Arts, 11A Jennison Road, Milford, 759-4726
Graceful Image Farm, 858 Candia Road, Chester,
Elmcroft Farm, 147 Eaton Road, Pittsfield, 325-2389,
Vanguard Equestrian Center, 40 Dunbarton Center Road, Bow, 774-0438
Equi-librium, 60 Queen St., Stoddard, 
Halona Stables, 113B Mountain View Road, Deerfield,, 320-4043
Four Season Farm, 108 Stage Road, 
Nottingham, 679-3370,
Kearsarge Meadows, Warner, 456-6022,
Covered Bridge Farm, 13 Mason Road, Brookline, 801-5633
Sleeper Hill Farm, 20 Severance Road, 
Hillsboro, 478-1100
Pingree Hill Farm, 576 Pingree Hill Road, Auburn, 703-2462
Hurricane Hill Stables, 69 Hurricane Hill Road, Mason, 966-6164,
Grant’s Christian Stables, 72 Croft Lane, Chester, 965-6052
The Carriage Barn, 8 Sarah Way, Newton, 378-0140,
Wingedspur Farm, 24 Currier Road, Candia, 860-5529,
Ashwood Farm, LLC, 41 Thornton Road, New Boston, 487-5009
Cabin Fever Farm, 63 Taylor Road, 
New Ipswich, 878-1560 
Perry Hill Farm, 32 Perry Road, Bedford, 471-2929,
Apple Tree Farm, 49 Wheeler Road, Hollis,, 465-9592
Townsend’s Training Farm, 536 4th Range Road, Pembroke, 224-9141,

Horses 101
Get started with lessons or trail rides

By Kelly Sennott

 As a little girl, Greenwood Stables owner Julie Hersey dreamed of riding horses.

“My dad made the mistake of bringing me out on a trail ride when I was 6 at a horse farm down the street from us,” Hersey said during an interview at her Derry barn on a recent Wednesday morning. “I was hooked from that point forward.”
She’s owned the farm for 13 years, and it now boasts an indoor arena for year-round lessons, particularly convenient during the sunny summer months, and about 45 students (43 of whom are younger than 18).
At the time of the interview, she’d returned just hours before from the Pinto World Championship Horse Show in Tulsa, Okla. (She brought two students, ages 16 and 17, with her. They did well, with two first-place finishes.)
Despite the jet lag, despite the late night (2 a.m. return flight) and early morning (5:30 a.m., to feed the horses), Hersey was happy to sit down and talk horses on that hot Wednesday morning.
“This is a dream for me, being able to show, own a farm and work with students,” she said.
Maybe you want to take a lesson or two, or head out on a trail ride. The Hippo talked to Hersey and other just-as-enthusiastic equestrians about what you should know before you get in the saddle.
So you want to ride a horse
Or your kid does. Most horse barns start lessons for kids at age 8 or older. This varies from farm to farm; Hersey, for instance, starts kids as young as 5. 
First lessons at Greenwood are usually spent learning how to groom and saddle the horse. Students will learn the equipment for the first 15 to 20 minutes, followed by a 30- to 40-minute lesson on the horse.
“In those first lessons, we teach the proper position to sit on the horse, how to hold the reins, where your legs go, how to steer, how to stop,” Hersey said. 
In these initial lessons, the student’s horse will be attached with a lunge line, a 30-foot nylon rope that resembles a giant dog leash. Hersey will hold the other end, maintaining control while the students still get an independent feel.
These first lessons will also vary from farm to farm.
“One of my suggestions to parents is that, while they’re looking for places for kids to ride, find out what the instructor’s plan is for the child,” Hersey said. 
She’s known some instructors to wait weeks, even months before allowing a new student to actually ride the horse.
“Ask to watch a lesson before you sign up, so you can make sure you and your child are comfortable with how the program is run. Some instructors are really good with little kids. Some aren’t,” she said. 
English vs. Western
It’s not a bad idea to also determine what sort of riding you (or your kid) will want to do.
“There are two basic types of riding: English and Western,” Hersey said. “In English, you have a flatter saddle, used for hunting, jumping, that sort of thing. A Western riding saddle has a horn up front and is a bit more secure.” (Western riding evolved from ranching and riding in the American West, enabling cowboys to work long hours in the saddle. It’s more popular in U.S. states outside the Northeast.)
Hersey usually starts newer riders on English saddles; they require more balance, and because of this, it’s easier for a rider to transfer from English to Western than Western to English. In New England states, and in other parts of the globe, for that matter, English riding is dominant, but in New Hampshire, you’ll find a mix.
“The majority of New Hampshire will teach more English than Western, but there are farms where all they do is Western,” Hersey said. Some, like hers, do both.
Some stables also offer, or specialize in, dressage (defined as the “highest expression of horse training” and often referred to as “horse ballet”) and Gymkhana (speed racing/timed games on horse).
Male vs. female horses
“Typically, a lot of beginner horses are female,” Hersey said. “Most horse people have preferences. When they’re going to buy a horse, they want either a male or a female horse specifically. Male horses are always fixed; they don’t have a lot of hormones.”
Female horses, she said, are difficult to spay, and many owners won’t have them fixed. Because of this, they’re known for having a little bit of an attitude — but still with protective instincts.
“However, what I’ve found over the last 27 years of riding is that female horses have motherly skills. If a kid loses balance on the horse, a male horse will keep going, while a female horse will try and scoop down to catch them. They’ve got that babysitter mentality,” she said.
Because of this, all the horses at Greenwood are female. 
On the flip side, all the horses we rode on during a trail ride at Charmingfare Farm (see below) were male; having male horses in this type of riding, said our trail leader Briana Donovan, was helpful because they were more mellow and indifferent about having inexperienced riders hopping on.
Good lessons and 4-H
Of course, getting to these levels requires lots of time, lots of practice, and lots of good lessons from trained professionals. It will be of little use to find the best “deal” while shopping for horse lessons; if they’re conducted in the right way, they’re going to be pretty expensive. Plus, when you’re starting out, quality counts, Hersey said; it can take twice as long to unlearn bad habits as it does to learn good ones. 
“The biggest issue I’ve seen in the past, when people start their kids up with lessons, is that they don’t realize how expensive they are,” Hersey said. “When your kid is riding a 1,000- to 1,200-pound animal, you want your child to be safe, and good instructors are going to charge a decent amount for their lessons.” 
There are also 4-H programs for extreme enthusiasts and for people who don’t want to ride or can’t afford lessons. Greenwood Stables’ costs $25 for a year and meets Wednesdays from 6 to 7:30 p.m. During these meetings, members learn all about horses. 
Recreational trail rides
For those who want to get on a horse but aren’t interested in lessons, trail rides are a good option. Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of riding Charmingfare Farm’s “resident fat kid,” a big black beauty named Doc. 
“He acts like we don’t feed him, but we really do,” said trail guide Briana Donovan as Doc reached again to scarf down leafy greens on the trail’s edge. We were partway through a trail ride, the last of four for the horses that day, and we were in the clearing Donovan had warned us about; the dirt path was thin, the vegetation thick, and Doc was still hungry.
The ride through the 300-plus acres of Charmingfare Farm is one of the draws to summer, spring, fall, even winter visits to the farm. The most popular time of year for trail rides, by far, is autumn, owner John Pyteraf said in a phone interview.
“Especially in the fall, we advise people book their rides three, maybe four weeks in advance,” Pyteraf said. “The busiest time of year is during fall foliage, from right after Labor Day through the end of October.”
Charmingfare Farm offers trail rides through its private trails every weekend, now through the wintertime. The only requirements Pyteraf has of his riders are to wear clothes appropriate for the season (but with long pants recommended; short shorts would be extremely uncomfortable during a nearly two-hour ride, unless of course it was above 90 degrees), sunscreen and footwear with at least a ¼-inch heel (open-toed shoes are forbidden). Most of the time, you have to be 10 years or older to ride.
But even in the scorching hot days of summer and the freezing cold weeks of winter — Donovan remembers needing help jumping on the saddle one cold day, she was so bundled up — people want to ride through the woods. Also, because of insurance and liability issues, there are fewer places around that offer recreational trail rides. You need to be stringent and consistent when training the horses. (Lucky 7 Stables in Londonderry and Castle in the Clouds also have recreational trail riding programs.)
The horses we rode  — named Doc, Jasper, Titan, Rover, Dusty and Kip — are trained to be mellow walkers. During the trail rides, their single-file order rarely varies, and neither does the pace.
“Horses are creatures of habit. We keep ours consistent. … The horses stay at a walk for their sanity and well-being,” Pyteraf said. 
Our ride was led by Emily Bryant, a new employee at Charmingfare, with me and Donovan at the rear — six riders, four newbies total. I had never ridden before, and neither had two of my riding companions, Chris Kinback and Colleen Kennedy, both of whom drove all the way up from South Boston for a try on a horse. 
But we weren’t alone; about 90 percent of people who participate in the farm’s trail rides have never ridden horseback before, Donovan said as we shuffled past grazing cows, grassy pastures and a twinkling lake on the warm, sunny Saturday afternoon. They’re not hopping on because they want to become riders, but because they want the experience enjoying the outdoors atop a horse. It’s an experience, according to Kinback and Kennedy, worth taking a drive for.
Before we left, we were given instructions on how to steer (to go left, pull on the left rein; to go right, pull the right), to stop (pull both back at the same time), how to get your horse moving again (give him a good kick — this characteristic, she said, is unique to these horses, as often, horses are trained to respond to squeezing legs). 
She also told us what not to do — for instance, don’t pull up on the reins, but rather, pull straight back. Also, don’t slow down the group by letting your horse eat too much. You can prevent him from reaching down by pulling his head (the rein) in the opposite direction. Give him a “swift kick” to prevent him from stopping.  (This might have been my downfall — I felt bad kicking the fat kid.)
But the ride itself was relaxing. There was little need for steering, as the horses follow one another out of habit. 
“Everyone loves horses, right? Most little girls dream of owning one one day. They’ve been a part of our lives for a long time,” Pyteraf said. 
As seen in the June 26, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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