A trail-riding outfit only a half-hour outside Edmonton

photo: Thunder Ridge Trails Ranch facebook

Review by Carelyn Kostyk
photos from the Thunder Ridge Trails Ranch Facebook

When I heard from a friend that there was a horse trail riding company only a half hour out of Edmonton, I knew that I had to go.

I’ve loved horses for all of my life, and I’ll be the first to admit that I was always the “horse-crazy” girl. With summers spent at horse-riding camps and teenage memories of sobbing into a horse’s shoulder, I knew I had to see how this new company was offering trail rides despite all of the COVID-19 restrictions.

With most trail rides being offered in the foothills or the mountains, my curiosity was immediately raised when I heard about Thunder Ridge Trails Ranch. Would it be able to compete with the sights that places like Jasper and Banff promise? Would the horses be so well-trained that a complete beginner could ride them? Would someone who has ridden before enjoy the ride?

photo: Thunder Ridge Trails Ranch Facebook

With these questions in mind, I booked an hour ride with my dad and my friend, Ann. Thunder Ridge Trails Ranch offers two different rides: an hour ride for $65 and an hour and a half ride for $85. The maximum amount of people that can go on a ride together, according to the website, is four, although the company does mention that they do custom bookings if you call them. The lady on the phone mentioned that they might take more than four people on a ride as long as a few of them already have experience riding horses.

Booking the trail ride was easy enough, as all I had to do was call, select a date, describe the riders’ size and experience with horses, and then e-transfer the money. The other option for booking is to go on the website and book through there.

When we arrived at the site, the workers, who were all wearing masks and were practicing social distancing measures, quickly had us sign paperwork, gathered helmets for everyone, and had us meet our horses.

Because I was riding with two complete novices, I had been worried that the horses would be too high-strung for them, but my fears quickly disappeared when we mounted our horses and both of the beginners’ horses were completely calm. My dad, who’d admitted to me just that morning that he wanted a horse that allowed him to just sit back and relax, was riding a gigantic black horse named Judy. Without my dad even needing to do anything, Judy lined herself up at the gate, ready for the trail.

Meanwhile, Ann’s horse, a small grey Arabian named Tango, stood waiting, intelligence bright in her eyes. Tango’s front legs were wrapped up because of an injury that had just healed. The worker informed Ann that the wraps were only there for extra support, not because Tango was still injured, but because it was her first ride out since getting hurt. You could tell that Tango was ready to go, as she also lined herself up behind Judy, ears pricked forward.

My horse, whose name I unfortunately didn’t catch, was a beautiful dapple grey, with a bit more energy and go to her. As I’d ridden horses before and had requested a horse for a more experienced rider, I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest.

photo: Thunder Ridge Trails Ranch Facebook

The trail ride started off beautifully as we passed a small pond, the late afternoon sunlight striking the water as robins sang from the branches above us. Because we were on horses, the robins and chickadees flew right beside us, their song following us as we rode. There were pastures on both sides of the trail, and you could hear the nickers of the grazing horses as we passed. As we rounded a corner, the view quickly turned to fields of wheat—which I found quite peaceful as there wasn’t a building in sight, but the sight definitely couldn’t compare with the mountains.

Most of the ride from there was farm field. We rode along a trail that was between the edge of the wheat crops and the forest, providing us with just enough shade to keep us cool while still letting the sunlight sparkle through the leaves.

As we neared the halfway mark of the ride, I was surprised to find that there were ravines between the farm fields. Because the ranch was near Devon, I had fully expected for the entire trail to consist of wheat and barley fields, but I hadn’t considered that you’d be able to see down the ravines. Neither Ann nor my dad had expected this too, and you could hear the excitement in all of our voices as we chattered about the sight.

With the leaves just changing into their fall colours, looking across the ravine was relaxing. The trail took you to the edge of the ridge, allowing us to look down and see the mix of deciduous and evergreen trees. If you looked far enough down, you could just make out the stream that cut through all of the foliage.

Heading back to the ranch, the ride followed the same trail we had just ridden, so unfortunately there wasn’t anything new to see. We did, however, enjoy all of the vibrant colours that we rode through, and we especially enjoyed the little hill that we went down—the horses trotted down the hill and then back up, giving a little kick to all of the walking we had just done.

photo: Thunder Ridge Trails Ranch Facebook

On the way back, Judy was completely nice to my dad—she didn’t go any faster than a lumbering walk except for when we all trotted down the hill—but Tango and my horse sped up quite a bit, even trotting a few times, something that brand-new riders might not enjoy. As it was, I enjoyed the speed as I was itching to go faster anyways, and Ann later told me that this had been one of her favourite parts of the ride. She told me that because she’d ridden twice before she had been worried that the ride would be too boring for her, but having to control a trotting horse gave her something new and more challenging to figure out.

This was a point where it would have been helpful to have another worker riding in the middle of the group so as to provide directions to riders on what to do whenever their horses weren’t listening. As much as Ann enjoyed the challenge of riding a trotting horse, I did have to provide directions on how she should control Tango when the mare started to go too fast.

Overall, the trail ride was worth my money. Although the sights couldn’t compare with the mountains, it was the perfect event for bonding and getting away from all of the chaos in the city. The ride ended up being exactly an hour.

I’d recommend this trail ride for both beginners and advanced riders, although I would suggest that if you have a group larger than two, you have at least one other rider who knows how to ride horses. Because the group is spread out quite a bit at times, it helps to have this more advanced rider communicate to the novices what to do when their horses aren’t quite listening. However, if you’re a small group or you have someone who knows how to ride, Thunder Ridge Trails Ranch is definitely worth hitting up if you’ve been feeling the itch to get back into nature.

After spending the rest of the day talking about it with my dad and friend, we already can’t wait to book our next ride!

Thunder Ridge Trails Ranch
27072, Township Rd 504
Devon, AB T9G 1A0
(780) 818-0123

Website: http://www.thunderingtrails.com

Rides are available Thursday to Sunday and must be pre-booked
(Rides are available until the end of October)
Age range: 8 and up