In October, I had the pleasure of participating in the New York State Horse Council’s 53rd annual Fall Pleasure Ride. My Tennessee Walker gelding, Little Joe, stabled with his equine pals Suzie and Honey, owned by Susan and Jim Knauer, at the Madison County Fairgrounds in Brookfield, NY. Ninety people with over 50 horses registered to ride and participate in non-riding activities. This popular family-oriented event attracts riders and families for a broad range of activities.
Little Joe and I covered approximately 40 miles of the Brookfield Trail System in three days. The weather was brisk and sometimes rainy, but the hills were ablaze with autumn color. When the sun did come out, the orange and red color of the changing leaves was breathtaking.
On Friday, I made a new riding friend by going on a trail adventure with Cathy Floetke and her five-year-old Tennessee Walker gelding, Brewster. We encountered a couple of logging trucks on a main truck trail. Both drivers were very cordial and maneuvered their vehicles so we could pass.
One of the reasons we’re fortunate to have the Brookfield Trail System is the amount of state forest acreage that is actively managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) for wildlife habitat, natural resource conservation and logging. Many of the trails were well groomed, with an interesting mix of truck trails and single-track trails with bridges and access to water for the horses.
On Sunday, Cathy and I rode to the scenic overlook, where there is a plaque for Glen Bacon, who was driving force behind the creation of the Brookfield Trail System and co-founder of the NYSHC. The 130-mile trail system traverses Charles E. Baker, Brookfield Railroad and Beaver Creek state forests in southeastern Madison County. These three state forests collectively provide 13,750 acres of public land managed by the NYS DEC for multiple recreation purposes. The lands are open to the public free of charge for camping, hiking, trail riding, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, snowshoeing and mountain biking.
There are NYS DEC permit requirements for large groups. The Brookfield Trail System is a model for other trail systems, and is supervised by Christopher R. Sprague, supervising forester, Region 7 Sherburne District Bureau of Forest Resource Management Division of Lands and Forests. For more information and maps of the Brookfield Trail System go to brookfieldny.us/brookfield-trail-system.html.
Special activity highlights of the Fall Pleasure Ride weekend included a social hour on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings at the dining hall. A professional photographer, Michael Boettcher of Desdelan Photography (desdelanphotography.com) gave a special presentation after dinner on Friday. He is a long-time trail rider and has attended many NYSHC Fall Pleasure Rides, taking photographs of riders on the trails and at the fairgrounds.
Other activities included a poker run on Saturday, a “Guess the Weight of Your Horse” competition and an auction to benefit the NYSHC.
“Jar Wars” took place Sunday evening, when tickets were purchased to place in jars for a chance to win a basket full of various new items. Approximately $1,500 of crafts, beverages and food were donated for “Jar Wars” to benefit the NYSHC.
Fall Pleasure Ride Manager Paula Chiazza did an excellent job throughout the year handling pre- registration, organization of events and coordination of fairground management and volunteers during the event. Chiazza received the special Erica Raab Award, which is dedicated to the memory of Raab, who passed away in 2009. Raab was a vibrant horsewoman with an incredible zest for life and was a fixture at the NYSHC Annual Fall Pleasure Ride. In her honor, the NYSHC presents an annual award to recognize a trail rider or volunteer who assists at the Fall Pleasure Ride and demonstrates dedication, motivation, leadership, perseverance, altruism and is an inspiration to others.
Chiazza received a beautiful engraved piece designed by Judith Goldthwait, Equine Art & Pet Portraits. It is a great task to manage the NYSHC Fall Pleasure Ride. In addition to handling registrations and event planning, Chiazza worked with approximately 30 volunteers at the Madison County Fairgrounds who served in various capacities including the barn manager, groundskeepers, registration assistants and special events and kitchen staff.
I had a wonderful time with friends Susan (current president of the NYSHC) and Jim Knauer and making new friends at the Annual Fall Pleasure Ride. It will be on my horse trip calendar for 2023. If you are not a member of the NYSHC, I encourage you to check out the membership levels and join us next year.
The NYSHC is a nonprofit organization supporting the equine industry. Their mission is “to create a strong unified voice for all interests toward the preservation of a future for horses in New York State.” The NYSHC is a strong advocate for protecting trails and outdoor opportunities for horseback riding. For more information on membership go to nyshc.org or the Facebook page for the New York State Horse Council.
by Pauline E. Burnes, RLA