Midwest Trail Ride, LLC, located in south-central Indiana near the town of Norman, is a mecca for trail riders. It offers excellent trail riding both onsite and in the nearby Hoosier National Forest, a well-appointed equestrian campground, cozy cabins, riding clinics, great home-cooked food, evening entertainment, and more.
Whether you opt for an organized ride or open camping, managers Jeff and Kim Humphries strive to make your stay enjoyable.
Midwest Trail Rideis well-known for itsnumerous organized rides, priced from $130 to $275. For this fee, you’ll get a 25-by-100-foot camping space with water and electrical hookups, and an 8-by-8-foot stall with shavings. Extra stalls are available for $10 per day.
A round pen is available (unless in use by a clinician), and there’s a challenging-but-fun trail obstacle course to test your horse’s skills, as well as your own.
As you plan your trip, note that buffet meals, entertainment, and clinicians vary from ride to ride. Some rides offer Sunday-morning cowboy church service for those who want to attend.
American Quarter Horse, Association’s Ride Program: (806) 376-4811; www.aqha.com/recreation/ride
Bluespring Caverns Park: (812) 279-9471; www.bluespringcaverns.com
Hoosier Back Country Horsemen: www.hoosierbackcountryhorsemen.org
Hoosier National Forest: www.fs.fed.us.r9/hoosier/
Outpost Store: http://stores.ebay.com/mtr-outpost
Midwest Trail Ride, LLC: (812) 834-6686;www.midwesttrailride.com
"There’s no extra charge for clinics, although some clinicians have been known to charge for individual instruction, so you need to ask," says Kim. "And, there may be clinicians at a ride who aren’t listed on the schedule. For instance, our gaited-horse clinician, Gary Lane, is often here giving demonstrations, answering questions, and helping riders work through riding or handling issues."
A sampling of scheduled rides: Smokin’ The Trails attracts owners of single-footing and racking horses, but all breeds are welcome. The Halloween weekend offers a haunted hike, costume contests, and campground trick-or-treating.
In November, the American Quarter Horse Association’s Ride Program holds its charity event, which benefits therapeutic riding centers in Indiana.
New last year was the Story Ride, a 50-mile roundtrip overnight ride. This year, the ride will be held in May, June, July, and September. This ride has a historical slant.
Story was founded in 1851 by Dr. George Story. During the Great Depression, the town gradually withered away. Overgrown and crumbling down, the town went up for auction in 1998; Rick Hofstetter and Frank Mueller purchased and restored the town.
The general store has become a bed-and-breakfast with a restaurant on the ground floor, rooms above (reputed to be haunted by the "Blue Lady"), and a tavern in the cellar. A few of the remaining buildings have been converted into guest cottages.
"On the Story Ride, we’ll ride from Midwest to Story, where we’ll stay overnight in the cottages," explains Kim. "Supper will be served, and then breakfast the next morning before we saddle up and ride back to Midwest. It’ll be about a seven-hour ride one way."
Explore the Trails
Whether you’re on an organized ride or open camping on your own, there’s no shortage of trails out of MTR’s family-oriented equestrian campground. There are seven miles of scenic trails on Midwest Trail Ride property and approximately 150 miles of marked trails in the adjacent Hoosier National Forest.
Trails are marked with numbers: The single-digit trail numbers are United States Forest Service trails; to use these trails, you must purchase a bridle tag for $5 a day or $35 for the year. The double-digit trails are on MTR property; no bridle tag is required.
Be sure to pick up a trail map at the check-in office located in the Outpost Store. Use the map to plan your rides according to your and your horse’s abilities. There are numerous loops you can make, increasing or decreasing your riding distance.
You could easily spend a number of days enjoying Hoosier Forest trails. Even short trips are enjoyable; if you arrive and get settled with an hour or two of daylight left, saddle up, and work the kinks out.
For a nice hour’s ride at a walk, take Trail 90 to Trail 90A loop and back. Want to go for two hours? Come back to Trail 90 off Trail 90A, but instead of returning to camp, turn left and continue on Trail 90 to Trail 90C. This trail will lead you to McPike Branch Rd., a gravel road with very little traffic. Turn right onto McPike, and continue until you reach Trail 80. Stay on Trail 80 to return to camp.
Another ride is to the Hickory Grove Church. This is such a popular route that the USFS and members of the Hoosier Back Country Horsemen have built hitching posts and chemical toilets there.
This log church, built in the 1800s, is open to anyone. Inside, read journal notations from past visitors, and walk with reverence around the cemetery stones that tell tales of short, hard lives.
Inside tip: If you’re looking for something different, head to the 37.3 miles of trails in the Deam Wilderness Area, located in the Hoosier Forest. The trailhead is only three miles away from MTR; however, reaching it requires some road riding. It’s best to take Jeff’s "horse taxi service."
Safety notes: Most of the roads the trails cross are graveled, and automobile traffic is minimal. However, ride with caution. Listen for vehicles, and move to the side of the road. Also, it’s always best to ride with a buddy, even if you’re an experienced rider.
‘Everything You Need’
Back at the MTR facility, note that everything you need is right there. The large mess hall seats up to 250 people, and there’s coffee and tea available throughout the day. Your riding club may meet there, and the hall is also handy for riding breaks and socializing. Plan group rides at Midwest for a 10 percent discount; events can be catered by MTR’s kitchen staff.
The Outpost Store offers most anything you might need for yourself, your horse, or your friends. It’s stocked with Steele Saddles, saddle pads, cinches, leather goods, clothing, boots, buckets, grooming tools, Southwest jewelry, jackets, gloves, and unique gift items.
The store also offers camping supplies and snacks, including Blue Bunny ice cream.
The large bathhouse is located in the same building as the mess hall and Outpost Store. Outside entry makes it easily accessible. Luxuries include hot showers and coin-operated laundry facilities, located next to the ladies’ bathhouse.
If you’d rather not camp, you can rent a cabin. All 20 cabins have two sets of bunk beds each, sleeping four comfortably; 12 cabins are more luxurious, with heat and air conditioning. You can park your trailer next to or in front of your cabin. There’s a handy water spigot outside each cabin.
Such attention to detail reflects the Humphries’ management style. "As trail riders ourselves, Jeff and I treat our trail riders as we would like to be treated if we were camping and riding," says Kim. "We’re always looking for ways that can make your vacation the best."
Adds Jeff, "We do our best to spoil ya!"
Note: When mapping your travel route to Midwest Trail Ride, avoid Mapquest, GPS, and other map programs; they contain misinformation regarding the final approach to the facility. Instead, follow the directions on the MTR website or call for directions.