Horseback riding as a family can foster a lifelong love of animals and create cherished memories. Finding facilities and parks that offer this service is sometimes challenging.
Can you go horseback riding at Letchworth State Park?
Letchworth State Park’s 60+ miles of trails are horse-friendly and offer stunning views. You must bring a horse and ride carefully, as you’ll share the trails with other horseback riders, hikers, dog walkers, and the local wildlife.
This guide to horseback riding at Letchworth will answer all your questions, from the top trails for an enjoyable ride to horse availability and more.
What Are the Best Trails for Horseback Riding at Letchworth State Park?
Letchworth State Park offers more than 14,000 acres of natural New York beauty and approximately 66 miles of trails. Some are better for horseback riding than others, so let’s explore which options you and your family should seek.
Trout Pond Trail Loop
The Trout Pond Trail Loop is great for your first horseback ride as a family through Letchworth. This one-mile loop trail only elevates 52 feet, so it should be a smooth, easy ride the entire way through.
The ground remains flat around the loop, and it should be dry most times of the year. However, you can expect some slickness if you visit the park after it snows or rains. The trail can get downright muddy if it rains for long enough.
Hikers can complete the Trout Pond Trail Loop in about 21 minutes. You might circle around this trail in a little over 20 minutes on horseback, or it could take longer.
Don’t rush the experience, as the tranquility of being bordered by trees and embraced in the elegance of nature is something to be savored.
This trail is popular with other horseback riders, so you and the kids might not be the only family exploring the park with a pony. The Trout Pond Trail Loop also attracts hikers and dog walkers.
Letchworth Finger Lakes Trail via Mount Morris Dam
The other horse-friendly Letchworth trail is the Letchworth Finger Lakes Trail via the Mount Morris Dam.
This trail is opposite the Trout Pond Trail Loop in virtually every way. It’s far longer, has much more elevation, and – despite being a relatively straightforward path – is considered quite difficult.
The entirety of the Letchworth Finger Lakes Trail spans 53.6 miles. The trail’s highest point of elevation is 3,641 feet. You can see some truly mesmerizing views if you reach the highest summit, but there is plenty of natural wonder to drink in the entire time you’re on this trail.
The Letchworth Finger Lakes Trail is mostly dry, but again, it depends on the season. Anticipate a few stream crossings. Conditions will be slick around these areas unless the weather has been very dry.
If it’s rained recently, conditions on the trail can turn from slick to muddy. That can further complicate what is already considered a rather difficult trail, so maybe reconsider your ride until conditions dry up.
Hikers can finish this trail in a little over 19 hours. The leisurely pace at which horseback rides occur could easily stretch this ride closer to 24 hours. The area has lean-to campsites, but you’d first need a New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation permit.
Then there’s also the question of what you’d do with your horse overnight. You’re probably better off riding some of the trail and then turning around instead of trying to traverse the entire trail on horseback.
Do I Have to Bring My Own Horse to Ride at Letchworth State Park?
Letchworth offers all the amenities you need to make your trip unforgettable, from bridle paths for horses to campsites, showers, food concessions, dump stations, a gift shop, and more. However, the park does not provide horses.
You must bring your own horse onto the park grounds for riding. You’ll find plenty of horseback riding experiences near Letchworth across Castile and surrounding areas, but you typically only ride on their farms and cannot take the horses elsewhere.
At What Age Can My Child Go Horseback Riding at Letchworth State Park?
Letchworth State Park has no lower age limit for guests to enter, so parents must use their discretion regarding what’s a smart age for kids to start riding.
Children as young as two or three can safely ride a pony if supervised the entire time. The animal should be trained not to ride very fast.
There are plenty of benefits to teaching toddlers to ride a horse. They’ll improve on the skill as they get older and feel more comfortable around horses at a young age.
If you didn’t get to expose your kids to horseback riding that young, the next best age for them to learn is between six and nine years old. They still must be supervised, as they will ride bigger horses.
Horseback Riding Safety Tips
Horseback riding is personally one of my favorite family activities, but a horse is still an animal at the end of the day. That’s why you must exercise caution. Here are some tips to help.
Wear a helmet
It doesn’t matter the age of the horseback rider; everyone should have a helmet on. Not just any helmet will do. Your helmet should meet ASTM standards so if you fall, the helmet will protect you from potentially fatal head injuries.
A horseback riding helmet isn’t the same as a bike helmet but should fit similarly. The helmet should sit firmly and snugly on your head without any gaps or pressure points. It’s okay if the helmet is lower on your head, as that’s the proper fit for a horseback riding helmet.
Always ride with supervision
I have five kids, and although keeping an eye on all of them at once is tough, I always do it. I know older kids will beg to ride alone, but you must watch them throughout the horseback experience to ensure everything goes right.
Take it slow
Horseback riding is a leisurely experience and a nice reprieve from our fast-paced world. The kids might find it hard to slow down but remind them not to rush through. The faster the horse gallops, the greater the risk for injury and the harder it may be to slow the animal down.
Know the trail
Conditions on any of Letchworth’s trails can change overnight. Perhaps there’s a temporary area closure, or weather has made conditions slicker than usual.
Fortunately, you can always check the park website the morning of your trip to get a read on what to expect on your preferred trail before your visit.
Learn how to do an emergency dismount
Sometimes, a situation calls for an emergency dismount from your horse. This is a different set of steps than a traditional dismount. Here’s what you do.
Remove your feet from the stirrups, then release and move the reins. Lean nearer the horse, holding the saddle horn or the wither with two hands. Next, swing your legs until you generate enough momentum, then push back with one leg.
Use the horse’s neck to help you jump off (without hurting the animal), and remember to bend both knees for an easy landing. Then step to the side quickly, as the horse will still be galloping.
An emergency dismount is no easy task because the horse is still in motion, and there are a lot of wrong ways to do it. Relying too much on the horse’s neck during a dismount could hurt or panic the animal, which makes getting off the horse difficult.
I recommend teaching your children the steps so they know them, then keep them tucked away in the back of their minds. Most horseback rides shouldn’t require sudden dismounts.