Camp Martin Travels

These entries will be a combination of historical day trips, graduate level travel courses, and just little stops along the way. I have been teaching 8th grade American History for over 25 years. I am also a Civil War Reenactor and have traveled to Germany and Austria with several groups of exchange students and written about our adventures. Please check all my posts by using the monthly Blog Archive tabs shown below. I have posted over 150 Blog Episodes since 2009... Please explore them all!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Chester County Trail Ride

Sheeder Mill Farm
Family Trail Ride Adventure

Katelyn at LCTR Lesson
As many of you know, my daughter Katelyn has gone through a lot of adversity during her young life. She has survived a cancerous brain tumor she developed when she was eight years old but has some permanent disabilities as a result of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy treatments.  Katelyn has persevered, is very independent, and just graduated from high school. Over the past three years she has been doing therapeutic riding at Greystone Manor Farm where the Lancaster County Therapeutic Riding program (LCTR) operates, helping many people with various disabilities.  Katelyn has been riding for several years to help improve her balance and self confidence.  The program has done a great deal for her and she wanted to test the horse riding skills she has worked very hard to develop, by riding more independently.  The excellent staff at LCTR suggested she try a trail ride experience at a place called Sheeder Mill Farm about an hours drive near Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.  I decided to check it out at the end of last summer in 2009.  

Happy 70th Birthday Dad!
My father grew up on a small farm outside Lititz on Owl Hill Road, when it was still an unpaved dirt roadway.  He rode horses in his youth and has always loved these large powerful majestic animals.  He sometimes accompanied us when we went to Katelyn's riding lessons and he caught the urge to ride a horse once again.  At the end of last summer, I decided to visit the suggested Sheeder Mill Farm by taking my dad on a surprise ride for his 70th birthday.  It was a beautiful setting in the woods as the two of us set off to spend an hour long guided tour of the surrounding woods and meadows.  It was a beautiful day and a great experience we would never forget.  We both really enjoyed it and hoped we could return again next summer with Katelyn for another ride.  

 Our Posse Passing the Stallion
So this summer we decided we would return to Sheeder Mill Farm to take Katelyn and the whole family on a trail ride in beautiful Chester County, Pennsylvania.  Our scheduled ride would begin at 10:00 AM and we would have to arrive a half hour early to sign some paperwork to exonerate Sheeder Mill Farm of any liability for anything stupid we might do that would lead to physical injury or frivolous lawsuits.  My wife rode horses a couple of times when she was sixteen and wanted to give it a try again.  We also talked my son Tyler into coming along, selling it as a cool new experience he could post on his MySpace wall to impress girls.  He was game.  The real challenge would be to somehow pry Tyler's fingers from his Xbox 360 controller and extract him from his boy cave into the sun filled outside world for a few hours.  It wasn't easy!

 Sheeder Mill Farm
We worked through our regular routine of fighting the kids for an hour to get out of bed and get dressed.  Next we piled into the van, picked up my dad, and headed east from Lancaster County toward Chester County.  We decided to take the scenic route, bypassing the PA Turnpike for the rural routes of 222, 322, and 23.  It was a beautiful drive through the farm belt areas of Weaverland, Blue Ball, Churchtown, toward our destination in Spring City.  This is truly the Bread Basket of the state of Pennsylvania, feeding the bookend cities of Pittsburgh to the west and Philadelphia to the east.  We stopped midway along the route to release our morning coffee and get Tyler some breakfast.  He forgot.  Following a hearty meal of salt and vinegar chips and a Slim Jim, (Breakfast of Not Champions) he was good to go and we piled back in the van to continue on our journey east.  We arrived at the peaceful farm and watched as our horses were prepared for our upcoming trail ride.

 Entering the Trail Area
It was perfect weather for a mid summer's day ride with the heat wave of the previous week recently broken by storms that had rolled through two days earlier.  The temperature on this first day of July was in the mid seventies with a refreshing breeze.  All five of us were mounted our rides with my father on Ivory, Susan on Maude, Katelyn on Summer, Tyler on Shawnee, and myself riding Eve.  Our guide Kelly (I didn't catch the name of her horse) was about Katelyn's age and has been riding horses on the farm since she was seven years old.  She led us onward out of the paddock area and through the pasture.  We rode though a fenced pathway toward the woods and passed by an impressive bay stallion who had quite an impact on the ladies we were riding.  They all got a little excited as we were about to enter a short but steep ravine down into a creek.  Half way down, my wife's horse Maude did a 180 and headed back to the calling stallion, which was not a great way to start things out.  Kelly came back up the ravine to get hold of Maude's reigns to pull her away from her jealous boyfriend.  We got back in line and back on track, passing through a shallow shaded stream.

Forging French Creek
We learned quickly that the horses' paycheck for carrying us through the woods was the available fresh greenery that was abundant in all directions.  Any break in the pace was an excuse for the horses to take a quick pit stop to grab a bunch of fresh leaves for a snack.  After a while, we all learned to spur and turn the horses back to the task at hand.  This was only my second time riding a horse but I could pull from my experience last year to feel more at ease and just let the horse do its thing.  It amazed us all how steep, rough, and rocky some of the terrain was we covered but the horses all seemed to know exactly where to step to avoid trouble.  In some parts of the trail the horses feet fell into the same spots as the many that had passed before them, pounding evenly spaced troughs for their shoes to find. When you think about it, horses really can't see where they are stepping, since their feet are always behind and below their eyes.  They must have a sixth sense?  Maybe that's what they mean by Horse Sense?

Emerging into the Meadow
Our guide, Kelly, led us onward through the narrow trail which had many twists and turns through the woods that eventually led to an opening containing a small meadow.  We were able to ride in a variety of areas during our hour-long adventure including roads, meadows, fields, woods, and water.  Susan had her eye on Katelyn and I was watching over Tyler who both did great.  Tyler enjoyed it so much that he asked how soon we could come back again.  My father was bringing up the rear as the most experienced rider in our group.  We came to a steep hillside that looked a little intimidating but the horses knew just what to do and we scaled it in stride before we could really worry about it.  Piece of cake!

Susan and Maude Climb
Like all good things, our trail ride came to an end and we headed down a dirt farm road along side a cornfield, passed a colonial era stone barn, and came within view of our starting point.  Before we dismounted, a staff member took a picture of the five of us together.  Getting five horses to line up for a picture is not the easiest shot.  A special thank you to our guide Kelly, who was really friendly, personable, and PATIENT! On our return trip home, the car was buzzing with recollections of what we had seen and memorable things that happened during our adventure.  It may have only been an hour but seemed a lot longer with all the different places we had been on the trail.  We are already planning to return in October to experience the beautiful foliage colors of fall.

The Fabulous Five Gang

For more information of going on your own trail ride 
please note the following...

Sheeder Mill Farm
12 Sheeder Mill Road
Spring City, PA 19475
(610) 469-9382

 Crossing the Creek


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