On a dreamy autumn day, could there be a better find on a simmering afternoon than filtered sunbeams shooting through the overhanging maple leaves and cool, refreshing creek by your side.

Oh, I doubt it! I just knew it is was the right place to start an adventure when I arrived at the Monument Traihead near Gates, Oregon to meet a small, dedicated group of horseback riders who were to guide me into the wilds of the Santiam State Forest.

Into the Wild Equine Adventures began in 2009 when Jahn and Sheila Hoover decided to teach city folks to ride tall in the saddle aboard their fine stable of Arabian, Percheron and Tennessee Walker horses so to see the outdoors from a different point of view.

First, comes the training – not for the horses – (that’s happened daily through many years), – but for the people – folks like me who haven’t done anything like horseback riding in years. So, I got to know Venus, a 12 year-old Arabian mare through a 45 minute refresher training course that taught me the basics of correctly sitting in the saddle, hold on to the reins and then guiding the horse forward, backward, and turning left and right. I followed Jahn Hoover’s every word of guidance and soon found it easier and easier to handle Venus.

I was soon in control and in the comfort zone, sitting tall in the saddle and ready to ride across new country – in fact, this was country I had never been before. We were on the “Magic Trail” and it is one of several that are set-aside in the Santiam State Forest for non-motorized use.

On a warn autumn day, with the temperature flirting with the 80′s, it was much cooler under the sprawling canopy of fir, alder and big leaf maple. The trail was gentle with a bit of rise and fall that shifted the scenery and made the ride interesting. It was the sort of riding experience that put my mind at ease and allowed me to really soak up the countryside.

After a couple of hours, we arrived at the Santiam Horse Camp – complete with corrals and fresh water for folks who may wish to make their trip a longer stay. The horse riding community helped the state develop the trails and the campground.

The Santiam State Forest is a fine forest to explore and horseback is a wonderful way to get there.

Editor’s Note: Grant’s Getaways is a production of Travel Oregon brought to you in association with Oregon State Parks, Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife and Oregon State Marine Board. Episodes air Thursdays and Saturdays on KGW Newschannel 8 and Saturdays on Northwest Cable News Network.

About the Author: Grant McOmie

Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.

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