When your children are little, a trip to the
nearest nature preserve is a day-long family enterprise of digging
in the mud, skipping stones and watching bugs together. But as kids
get older, it can get difficult to persuade them to put down their
iPhones and experience the outdoors with you.
Enter the horse: 1,200 pounds of raw muscle at your
command, plus a new vantage point from which to experience the
sights and sounds of nature. What tween or teen could resist the
Just a short drive past the city limits you'll find
stables that offer guided trail rides to riders 10 and up. You and
your children will need an Illinois trail license ($3, available at
most stables), and you'll also need to sign a release form. Rates
generally run between $25 and $35 per hour, with some stables
offering special group rates, multiple-ride packages or cash
Before you go, dress for a comfortable ride in full-length
jeans and boots with a 1-inch heel. The stable should provide an
SEI-certified helmet for each rider. To check the fit, fasten the
chin strap and then try tipping the helmet up and down on your
head. It shouldn't come up above your hairline or down over your
eyes. If it does, select a smaller helmet, tighten the chin strap,
A guide or assistant will help you onto your horse,
usually from a mounting block. Some will ask if you've ridden
before, but on a busy day, it may be up to you to ask for pointers
if you need them.
If you have younger children
Sarah's Pony Rides in Willow Springs offers
family trail rides, allowing parents to ride horses while their
pint-sized cowpokes mount onto hand-led ponies.
If you've never ridden before
Don't know a stirrup from a snaffle bit? The knowledgeable
staff members at Fitzjoy Farm Riding Academy are patient with
beginners (and so are the horses).
If you love to ride
Equestrian Center in Wheaton offers a package of six trail
rides ($150 for in-county residents, $240 if you're out-of-county),
which you can use anytime within a year from purchase.
If you like local history
A ride at the venerable Forest View Farms in Tinley Park will take you
within a horseshoe's throw of the Illinois & Michigan Canal
National Heritage Corridor.
If you want to get away from it
Chain O' Lakes State Park Riding Stable in Spring
Grove is worth the drive for nature enthusiasts, who will enjoy
spotting birds and wildflowers as they amble along the bridle
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