Unique is an understatement when describing Cypress Trails, a private facility in Humble (pronounced "Umble"), a suburb of Houston, Texas. From pleasure rides to a challenging, all-day Adventure Trail Ride with meals included, your wish is just a phone call away. You can even lease the facility for private parties or corporate outings.
Located six miles by vehicle and one mile by trail from George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Cypress Trails offers mild, sandy trails (great for gaiting or training horses), as well as more challenging trails for adventuresome riders.
The surrounding Harris County parkland and nearby airport property offer close to 85 miles of trails. Fifty of those miles are on Houston airport property, so you must have security clearance to access them. "If you want to ride the airport property, you may apply for a one-day liability release pass," says Cypress Trails owner Darolyn Butler. "Otherwise, apply several weeks in advance for an Airport Ranger badge that's good for three years."
The Houston Airport System, in cooperation with Cypress Trails and area horsepeople, established Airport Rangers in 2003. The mounted patrol has access to the trails in the undeveloped, secluded acreage surrounding the 11,000-acre airport property. Riders cleared for using these trails must carry a cell phone and have the required phone numbers to alert law enforcement of any suspicious activities.
"Surprisingly, the horses aren't as frightened of the big planes landing and taking off as one would think," says Butler. "Of course, living near the airport, the planes are part of our horses' everyday lives."
Even if you don't ride on the airport property, the many trails along Cypress and Spring Creek are worth your time. It's like being in two worlds at once - riding secluded trails under the canopy of pine trees, surrounded by thick scrub undergrowth active with wildlife and birds, while in the middle of suburbia. Bobcats, armadillos, water birds, barred owls, bald eagles, and even a cougar have been spotted in the piney woods.
Cypress Trails has easy access for large rigs, but there's limited parking/camping on an acre of land at the front of the 10-acre Cypress Trails Ranch. However, expansion is being considered.
Try an Arabian
At Cypress Trails, you can bring your own horse or rent a trail-savvy mount. Toss aside any preconceived notions about "rental horses." Butler not only has quality Paint Horses, Appaloosas, Spanish mustangs, and draft-type horses on her string, she also offers the use of her personal endurance horses - Arabians and part-Arabians.
"When people ask why I call it 'Adventure Trail Rides,' I always smile and tell them it's because we use Arabians," Butler says with a grin. "Actually, it's almost a necessity. Our heat and humidity are so great from May through October that most other breeds just fold if asked to go all day long, especially if trotting or cantering. The Arabians are amazing in their ability to carry light to heavy riders and work all day."
Arabians that have carried Butler to National and International acclaim and that provide the base for Cypress Trails' rental/lease string. Her life revolves around endurance riding under the auspices of the American Endurance Ride Conference.
"Renting out my competition horses helps keep them in condition," Butler says. "And it thrills people to be able to say they have ridden a champion endurance horse! I could never, even with the help of two extra riders, keep the quality of condition and the number of horses going without our riding customers. This business also allows the horses to be trained under the 'long, slow distance' method that we all promote in our sport."
Adventure Trail Rides are one hour to all day. Butler also offers lessons to children and adults on the nearby forest trails. Real obstacles, such as ravine and log crossings quickly teach riders why balance, good hands, and a solid seat are so important. Most lessons are comprised of three riders or less, and the riders are grouped according to skill levels. That way, no one is slowed down or frustrated by others of unequal skill being in the class.
Ride with the Best
Riders come from all over the United States and foreign countries to learn about endurance riding at Cypress Trails' clinics. You may bring your own horse or lease a Cypress Trail's horse for a one-day mini-clinic or a five-day in-depth clinic. You'll learn, firsthand, how to care for and pace your horse, and all the "inside" secrets of endurance riders. You'll also know the correct horsemanship necessary to compete. If you're ready to try competing in an endurance ride on your own horse or a leased on, you may do so under the mentorship of Butler and her daughter, CeCi Butler-Stasiuk.
You can't help but enjoy Butler's company and riding at Cypress Trails. Just wait until you see her galloping down the trail, reins in her teeth, cell phone at her ear, and long-handled pruning shears lopping off overgrown vines and pine branches! As one regular trail rider aptly describes her, "Darolyn is a female counterpart of John Wayne!"
At Cypress Trails, both veterans and beginners can find enjoyment. Young riders may apply for internships or a day camp. Older novice riders can participate in the FFF Clinics: FFF stands for Female (although some men participate), Free (children are grown and gone), and Forty (but riders younger and older than 40 also attend). FFF Clinics are designed for people who always wanted to ride but never took the time, or who have the economic ability to ride for the first time in their lives.
While wranglers come and go, you'll be amazed and encouraged by long-time wrangler Joseph Sublett, 81 years young. As a young man, he wrangled in Canada before taking a job at the Detroit Institute of Arts; he retired in 1988. Born with his legs bowed, he laughs and says, "Maybe that is why I am so comfortable on a horse!"
No matter what your riding level and trail aspirations, put Cypress Trails on your list of places to ride. There's no place like it, and you'll want to return again and again."