All Things Equestrian

By Beacon Staff

The Flathead Valley and Northwest Montana are great places for horse owners and enthusiasts. Regardless of what your equine interests may be, from “lover/dreamer,” breeder, trainer or competitor of any discipline, you will be amazed by the year-round activities this area offers. For visitors, there are guest ranches, and private owners offering trail riding, hay wagon, carriage and even sleigh rides during the winter. Nearly all the horse competitions offer free admittance, so hold onto your hats and take advantage of a variety of equine events.

If you are a current resident or hoping to make this area home, you will find everything your personal or professional horse life revolves around. The appeal is universal, the list of activities seemingly endless. Equestrians come from near and far to participate is this vibrant subculture of beautiful Northwest Montana.

Riding facilities and trails are abundant in the Flathead Valley. There is the Majestic Valley Indoor Equestrian Center, Herron Park, with miles of trails with breathtaking views, a jumping course and a dressage outdoor arena available for public use, many private arenas and boarding facilities, and of course, incredible wide open spaces in every direction.

Herron Park offers a fantastic trail system used by mountain bikers, horseback riders, dog walkers, hikers, cross country skiers and nature lovers of all kinds. There are beautiful grassy meadows with a creek, and stables provided for the horse enthusiasts. For many years, prior to the development of Rebecca Farm, Herron Park was the site for many top-rated competitions and it still offers dressage arenas and jumping courses. The Flathead Combined Training Association holds shows there throughout the summer months. In addition, other riding clubs including Hooves & Company sponsor “poker rides,” competitive trail rides and other equine events. Overnight horse accommodations can be arranged by contacting the Flathead County Weeds and Parks Department. There is an honor system that requires donations from the equine community to use the park.

How amazing it is to be able to throw your horse in the trailer, call a friend to meet you and be riding within 30 minutes. You can ride on the flats or ride forever on trails overlooking the entire valley and the mountains clear into Glacier National Park!

Thanks to a local group that has been diligently working on the Foys to Blacktail Trails in an effort to secure historic access to trails and lands connecting Herron Park to forest lands at Blacktail Mountain, these trails will be here for our continued use into the future.

Their mission is to provide long-term stewardship of the trail system through voluntary and cooperative means.

The valley caters to all things western when it comes to the world of horses. Rodeo, reining, showing, barrel racing, western dressage, cutting, team penning and O-Mok-See are very active with clubs and associations drawing new membership and spectators. PRCA rodeo is showcased at the Northwest Montana Fair and most communities support a thriving local rodeo series.

“English” enthusiasts are delighted with dressage, stadium and cross-country jumping and competition. We host The Event at Rebecca Farm, which draws serious riders from all over to compete on our renowned course. This three-day “Event” features some of the world’s finest horses and riders. The public is invited to witness this exciting competition and it is one of the valley’s most popular family activities.

Experiencing a Montana lifestyle is easily achieved as a patron of one of the many guest ranches that can be found throughout our region. These ranches provide an opportunity for those who are seeking the “western Montana experience” to spend their vacation fulfilling a dream and just enjoying an afternoon of trail riding in a leisurely manner.

Competitive trail riding is alive in Northwest Montana with a local club sponsoring annual rides. Some are for the serious competitors while some of the more laid-back poker rides are followed by a barbecue, for a day of enjoying your horse and friends on the trail. There are also groups that cater to those who would experience the bounty of the backcountry while teaching safety and packing techniques. Hunting guides take hardy riders out into the wilderness in pursuit of the “big one,” and provide everything needed to survive for days or weeks.

Others love to go on these trips preferring to shoot the scenery rather than the wildlife, or just purely for the adventure. Many choose to explore the glory of Glacier National Park on the various guided trail tours that wind their way through the forests and along gorgeous glacial streams. Skijoring is an amazing winter “man and beast” sport that has found a loyal following during the snow-filled days of our winter months. The options are seemingly endless when creating an outdoor experience on horseback. It is a visitor’s paradise as well as recreation that can be incorporated into any resident’s seasonal activities. If it can be done on horseback or involves these beautiful equine creatures, the Flathead Valley area truly has something for everyone.

Christine Noel is a real estate broker with The No Doubt Land Company.

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