By Carol Nelson Falcone
A family-friendly outdoor adventure to experience on the weekends, or during a vacation, is horseback riding. And if you're looking for a good spot to enjoy this engaging activity, the Shawangunk Ridge has much to offer. Beside the pleasure of simply being outdoors on a beautiful day, riding on the ridge gives participants a chance to experience the natural beauty of the area in an up-close and personal way — as well as giving one the chance to enjoy the company of loved ones in an environment that relieves stress and helps create a sense of well-being.
Horseback riding has long been known for its therapeutic benefits. Riding a horse can offer someone a sense of empowerment and confidence. Often, the beauty of the landscape and the bond between human and animal can create something that is greater than the sum of its parts, providing a sublime experience that results in a renewed sense of spirit.
It's also a great way to stay fit, forcing one to use muscles most people don't use regularly. RealBuzz.com, a website dedicated to healthy living sums it up, saying, "Riding is a great form of exercise which has both cardiovascular and muscle conditioning benefits. Although it may seem as though the rider is not engaging in any physical exercise, an hour's activity can burn similar calories to that of a 30-minute jog (6mph) or cycle ride (9mph). Therefore, all the health benefits associated with engaging in regular cardiovascular exercise are gained." Sounds better than a treadmill, doesn't it?
One place to experience the pleasures and benefits of horseback riding is at Juckas Stables located on Route 302 in the Hamlet of Bullville just outside of Pine Bush. Owner Karen Juckas agrees that the benefits of horseback riding are numerous.
"I really love the contact between the people and the horses. It's fantastic therapy being outdoors for mental, physical, and spiritual reasons," Juckas says.
A retired school teacher, Juckas started working with horses over 45 years ago when her husband bought a few of them.
"People would knock on the door and ask to ride them, so eventually we opened up the stables," she says.
Today the horse-riding facility boasts 117 acres of lush countryside to enjoy on any one of her 21 horses that she has come to love.
And people from all over the world visit her stable at the base of the Shawangunk Ridge, according to Juckas.
"The best part is the people you meet," she says, speaking fondly of the numerous customers she's gotten to know over the years. She smiles at the attention her stables received when, to her astonishment, she was included in an article that appeared in a Japanese magazine after a photographer from Japan visited her farm.
Juckas has also seen people that had various social or physical conditions that were transformed after visiting her farm.
"I've seen a tremendous change in people by horseback riding. They gain confidence; a sense of accomplishment. They're more self-assured," she says. "We had a handicapped child from England that had spina-bifida who walked with crutches, and it worked wonders for him."
Comparing her career of teaching students how to read and write, to that of riding horses, Juckas says that each discipline offers a sense of accomplishment, though in different ways.
"I've always loved teaching, but in school you don't see the results right away; it takes a few years," she says. "But with the horses you see the results after an hour, which is so rewarding."
Adults and children can experience a one to two-hour trail ride at Juckas Stables year-round; or, if they're so inclined, regularly scheduled lessons. Group rides, led by an experienced horse wrangler, are also available, giving riders a chance to experience the scenic property after a brief lesson around the horse paddock.
"We gear the ride to the person whether it's walking, trotting, or a cantor according to the group," says Juckas.
Although most area-stables have raised their costs, Juckas stables are affordable at a rate of $35 for one hour, $55 for one-and-a-half hours, or $70 for two hours. To experience the pleasures of riding this spring, you can call Juckas Stables at (845) 361-1429, or visit their website at www.juckasstables.com.
Other area-stables located around the Shawangunk Region are: Rocking Horse Ranch located in Highland, Pine Grove Ranch in Kerhonkson, Lucky C Stables in New Paltz, North Wind in Wallkill, and Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz.
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