At the end of last May, my wife, Doris, and I headed north from southwest Florida to New Hampshire with our two Paso Fino geldings (Diamonte, 5, and Conquistador, 8), along with Caramia, our Australian Shepherd, and Max, the Tibetan terrier.
In planning the trip, we agreed that we had to return for the second year for five or six days to West Virginia and Shalimar Farm. We'd spent six days there in 2005, and had such a wonderful riding experience that it's now become a "must stop" for every trip north.
I must admit that the location in Cass, West Virginia, is a bit remote. However, once you arrive, it offers one of the best trail-riding experiences you could ever hope for. Shalimar owners Mickey and George Dieke have taken special care to make sure that the miles of trails on their more than 1,000 acres are not only well-maintained, but also provide some of the most scenic views anywhere in the East. The trails are surrounded by three parks in the mountains of West Virginia.
We stayed at Trackside, one of the three cabins. All are well-appointed and very comfortable. We enjoyed this location on the hillside, looking over the mountains and down at the lush pastures, where our horses thought they were at a five-star restaurant. They did complain a bit, as we had to muzzle them part of the time to curb their grazing.
A great added bonus this spring was the new indoor riding arena. During the few rainy times, we could work with our horses without being out in the elements.
Oh yes, and there's a first-rate Mennonite bakery only 20 minutes away.
The riding is outstanding and offers wide, beautifully groomed trails through the woods, along meandering streams, rolling fields, hills both small and steep, and unsurpassed views in every direction. The trails range from easy to difficult, while the altitude ranges from around 3,000 to 3,500 feet above sea level.
There are constant surprises - benches with daffodils, a temple, a maze, and even a steam train. Now there's a real training opportunity! We never tire of the views and the endless variety. This year, we never left the farm, which leaves us miles of trails to explore next year on the surrounding public lands.
Mickey and George made us feel so welcome, we're going to book early for spring 2007, as this is a required stop for us. The beauty and tranquility are unsurpassed. We people and critters all give Shalimar five stars.
For more information on Shalimar Farms, call (304) 456-4852, or visit www.shalimarfarm.com.