(first appeared in the June 2016 issue of The Equiery)
Looking for something fun to do this summer without taking a week off from work? There are plenty of interesting and horse-related things to do right here in Maryland! Below are our staff’s favorite places and things to do within the Free State related to horses, all wrapped into one-day trips.
Some feature actual riding, others historic locations or even a chance to watch the pros work. In addition, we have pointed out some great photo-op locations and would love for our readers to share their selfies with The Equiery! Email your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org and look for them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Have a suggestion for a horse-themed day trip in Maryland? Email details to email@example.com.
The Fair Hill Natural Resource Management Area in Elkton is best known for the competitions and race meets held there each spring and fall. But year-round, the grounds are open to trail riding and driving and the summer is a great time to spend a day exploring the former duPont estate. The carriage paths, which are also used by trail riders and hikers, are very well marked. Markers and maps were made by our very own Equiery photographer/writer Louisa Emerick, who is a fantastic Fair Hill historian as well. Maps can obtained by emailing LouisaEm@comcast.net.
Along the various routes, you can see the bullpens once used by William duPont for his successful cattle operation, now used as horse paddocks; the turf course he designed, still used today for steeplechase racing; and the iconic covered bridge, still standing and a great place for a photo-op! If you would rather rent a horse for the day, call up Fair Hill Stables, located at what was duPont’s Foxcatcher Hounds kennels, or Fairwinds Stables, just up the road in North East.
While at Fair Hill, give the Fair Hill Training Center a call and set up a tour of the training and therapy center. Many stakes winners and contenders can be seen training on the all-weather track in the mornings. The therapy center houses state-of-the-art treatment options such as a hyperbaric oxygen chamber and a cold saltwater spa for these elite equestrian athletes.
Right in the heart of Bowie is what was once one of the top racing stables in the country, the Belair Stud, built in 1907 by William Woodward. Belair, which was officially founded in the late 1740s by Governor Samuel Ogle and Colonel Benjamin Tasker, was home to Gallant Fox and Omaha, the only father/son pair to both win the Triple Crown. Ogle and Tasker imported the incredible mare Selima, who is often considered the mother of American Thoroughbreds. Nashua, 1955 Horse of the Year, was also produced at Belair along with champions Johnstown, Fighting Fox and Vagrancy.
Today, the stables themselves still stand as the Belair Stable Museum. Inside, visitors can see racing silks, photographs and memorabilia from the era, including Nashua’s horseshoes (photo-op!) Within walking distance just a block away is the Belair Mansion, also open for tours.
For a bite to eat while looking at more racing memorabilia, go over to Rip’s Country Inn. The booths in the restaurant look like horse stalls from Belair and the exterior resembles a barn from the Belair Stud era. The walls are decorated with photographs from races, nearby farms and more.
And if you want to end the day with some live racing, head over to Laurel Park and their recently revamped grandstand. Live racing picks back up in July and runs on weekends through mid-August.
Deep Creek Lake State Park in Garrett County has something for everyone, from wine tasting to fishing to trail riding. Many areas of the park allow riders to bring their own horses but if you need to rent a ride, head over to Deep Creek Lake Stables at Circle R Ranch in Oakland.
For those looking for a bit more of an adventurous ride, try Elk Mountain Trails in Knoxville (Frederick County) for their mountaintop and river rides. River rides are along the Potomac River as well as on the C&O Canal Towpath. Mountaintop rides head through the Blue Ridge Mountains bordering two National Parks. Once a month, the farm offers Sunday morning brunch rides that are a perfect fun family activity. Reservations are recommended with some rides geared towards beginners and others towards more experienced riders.
If you would rather ride your own horse out through the hills of Western Maryland, we recommend combining your ride with a bit of history at Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg. Considered the bloodiest one-day battle in American history, the Battle of Antietam ended the first northern invasion of the Confederate Army and led to President Abraham Lincoln’s preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, later formally issued at the conclusion of the Battle of Gettysburg. If on foot or in a car, there are several self-guided tour options as well as tours given by park rangers and even a battlefield scavenger hunt. While wandering through the park, take a selfie on the famed Burnside Bridge.
When many think of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, they think of spending time on the Chesapeake Bay or the Atlantic Ocean. But the Eastern Shore is so much more than just water!
If sun and surf are what you are looking for, then add a bit of pony-watching to your day at Assateague Island National Seashore just off the coast at Berlin. We highly recommend that first-time visitors stop by the visitors’ center and see exhibits on the history of the island as well as how the unique ecosystem and its pony residents are maintained. There is plenty of pony watching while driving, hiking or biking around the island, as well as a public beach for swimming and picnicking. Please note that trail riding on the Maryland side of the island is only allowed during the “off-season” from October through May.
Head back to the mainland for lunch at Ruth’s Chris Steak House, located inside the GlenRiddle Clubhouse on what was once the famed Glen Riddle Farm, home of Thoroughbred racing legends Man o’War and War Admiral. The restaurant is housed within the main stable and is filled with photos and memorabilia from the farm’s glory days.
Take a trip to the Wild West without ever leaving Maryland at Frontier Town. Located just outside Ocean City in Whaleyville, this Old West-inspired 1880s replica town features a Wild West Show that includes everything from bank holdups, gunfights and can-can shows to Native American dancing. In addition, visitors can take a ride on their stagecoach, which makes for a great photo op! The campground is open year-round but the Wild West Show is only held from June through Labor Day.
And for dinner, have a great meal and watch some live Harness Racing at Ocean Downs Raceway and Casino. First opened in 1949, the track is located between Ocean City and Berlin. The casino was opened in 2011 and offers a variety of dining options overlooking the track.
There are a ton of great horse-themed destinations in the northern Capital/Baltimore region so here are just a few suggestions.
For those looking for a good indoor activity on a hot summer day, head into downtown Baltimore and check out the Baltimore Museum of Art. That is where the Preakness trophy, the Woodlawn Vase, is on display along with other trophies. The silver trophy is valued at a million dollars and is considered the most expensive trophy in American sports.
Also in downtown Baltimore is the Maryland Historical Society Museum where you can find rare books relating to horses in Maryland as well as trophies and Lafayette’s silver spurs.
On your way out of the city, stop by the Mount Washington Tavern for lunch where you can peruse the walls of artwork, photography and artifacts from Maryland’s racing history. Above the bar is a 5 x 10-foot painting of Pimlico’s old clubhouse, also visible from the Pimlico Room at the Tavern.
Just outside the city in Monkton is the Ladew Topiary Gardens. Currently there is an outdoor exhibition by artist-in-residence Matthew Harris called “Seeds, Steeds and Beautiful Weeds.” The exhibition features several of Harris’ sculptures including a metal horse. While walking through the gardens, don’t forget to take a selfie in front of Ladew’s famed foxhunting topiaries, two horses and riders jumping hedges while following hounds chasing a fox. The Manor House, built for foxhunter Harvey S. Ladew in the early 1920s, is also open for guided tours.
©The Equiery 2016