UNION MILLS — Carroll County's equestrian trail system is the envy of riders from other parts of Maryland.
At a trail ride last weekend to introducehorses and riders to newly opened parts of the Union Mills trail,riders from areas outside of Carroll lauded the beautiful areas available for horseback riding.
"We wish every county in the state had something like this for horses and riders," said Margie Fox of Burtonsville,Montgomery County."There is nothing like this any place else with these great trails andplaces to park horse trailers."
Fox had traveled to Union Mills with her friend Jan Moore of Laurel.
"We have to trailer a lot to get to good places to ride,"explained Moore."This is the first time we've come to Carroll County, and this was fantastic. We will be back!"
While most of the participants Saturday were out to enjoy the beautiful scenery and comfortable weather, Moore and Fox and their mounts were putting in some work time. Moore rode her 4-year-old blue roangelding Indigo, a Tennessee walker, and Fox was aboard Moore's 12-year-old paint gelding, Sundown. They were preparing for the League of Maryland Horsemen's four-day camp-out and challenge ride later this month.
Carroll ride organizer Jean Schwartz had her work cut out for her, too, as she kept track of almost two dozen riders with varyingdegrees of experience. Regardless of their expertise, riders were treated to lovely vistas during the day.
"One reason I like it so much up here is that the scenery is so varied," said trail riding enthusiast and TROT (Trail Riders of Today) organizer Janet Breeding of Eldersburg. "There are parts where the trail is real wide, and you can ride three or four abreast, and then it gets narrow going through thewoods. There are all kinds of trees in places, and then lots of openspaces with good views."
The only problem the riders encountered was swarms of bees which wanted to share lunch and hitch a ride back down from the meadow.
"The first bees showed up right at the end of the lunch break," Schwartz said. "We had to split the group up to get around them."
Schwartz rode her young paso fino Smoke and, although the 3-year-old gelding "gets a little tuckered out on the long rides," he is "learning to be a fine trail horse," Schwartz said.
The ride attracted the entire Buchman family of Taneytown: Charles andDiane and their children Joshua, 9, and Bridget, 7.
Joshua is a veteran of local horse shows, where he competes in the short stirrup division. The family is partial to mares and were pleased with their performance on the trails, even when they encountered the bees.
Joshua rode Midnight, a 16-year-old black pony; Bridget was aboard a 12-year-old pony, Daisy; Diane and Katy, an 8-year- old Quarter Horse type, tackled the trails together; and Charles, who began riding when he was a teen-ager, rode Killarney, a 20-year-old retired race horse.
"Some friends of ours told us this would be a good time for our whole family to be able to ride out together," Diane Buchman said. "We had fun, and people complimented us on the kids' riding."
The lastgroup to return included Mary Ellen Crown of Taylorsville, Barbara Weishaar of Finksburg and Jackie Horner and Angela Biddison of Reisterstown.
"We took Option C -- none of the above -- to get around thebees," one of the women said with a laugh. The members of this groupwere all mounted on Tennessee walkers.
"I've always had Tennesseewalkers, they are so comfortable. She just floats through the trails," said Crown of her 15-year-old mare, Dolly. "This was a nice idea to show people how beautiful these trails are."
Horner, who rode her 5-year-old mare Gen's Flashy Lady, agreed, but added, "There needs to be some more work done -- like on the ditch we slipped into when the footing gave way -- but we really enjoyed this ride."
Janet Breeding agrees, though she and other volunteers have already spent hundreds of hours trimming and grooming trails.
"We need all the volunteers we can get to keep the trails open," Breeding explains. "The county provides some help, but volunteers maintain the trails almost completely.
"The trails started out being equestrian trails, but nowthey really are multiuse trails. I like to see bikers and hikers using the trails, but there needs to be more volunteer efforts from these groups."
Breeding said no permission is needed to ride the trails. Other trails in the county are at Piney Run, Morgan Run, "and, I hope eventually Gillis Falls," says Breeding.
Morgan Run is short on parking facilities, and since the hunting season runs from Sept. 1 through March 1, trail riding during those months is limited to Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays.