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Riding in the Smokies

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  • Riding in the Smokies

    I want to go riding in the Smoky mountains near Gatlinburg Tn. I plan on trying to stay at least one night out on the trail. My problem is Im from Mississippi and have no clue how far I could expect to ride in those mountains in a day of easy riding. If anybody could help i would appreciate it.

  • #2
    You'd probably do 10-15 miles at a walk, depending on the trail you choose and how often/long you like to stop. Call up Orchard Cove stables; I bet they'll be happy to help you plan a ride/route.

    We often ride 20-25 miles, but I like some speed, and I wouldn't call it easy riding. If your horses aren't used to riding on LOTS of rocks, bring boots. If they are shod, do whatever you have to do to avoid slipping. Watching shod horses scramble and fall is my least favorite aspect of mountain riding.


    • #3
      You can ride with studs and not have issues, or lesser issues of falling on rocks. I have ridden many a miles on rocks with studs and not had a falling issue. We have lots and lots of rocks here. I shoe year round. I hate boots. No, not starting a shoe v boot debate.

      I ride gaited now after "retiring from endurance", and my mare has a really low set of hocks, and she has no issues sliding on rocks or roads. She has no studs, just a plain ole set of shoes. She is a rocky mt. Never had any issues of my arabs slipping on rocks either.

      Rode a 50 miler at BSF. Shod with studs. I saw rocks all day. No slipping did my horse or any other horse I saw on the rocks. TN has lots of wet flat rocks, and dry flat rocks too. And also all kind of rocks. N. AL also.

      Make sure you horse is rock experienced. You should have no issues with the heat and humidity there. Do elytes just to make sure they are well hydrated.


      • Original Poster

        Yeah ive rode on rock in Bankhead National forest in North Alabama a little but he was barefoot at the time. I go to college and really dont get to ride enough to justify shoes since our ground here is not rocky but i do plan on getting shod before we go up there. I was thinking about getting drilltech horse shoes put on. Do you think the drill tech shoes would be a good way to go?

        Also were looking at a 40 mile loop do you think we would be able to do that in about 2 and a half days.


        • #5
          I don't know anything about horseshoes, but I'm sure someone else will know the answer to that. We do have a ton of big, flat rocks that horses have to be able to walk on, not over. I honestly did not realize it was even an issue, since I ride a nimble, careful horse who is barefoot. I've seen several shod (regular shoes) horses fall recently, and it has really been awful for horses and riders (no real injuries - just scary). I wasn't trying to start a barefoot vs shod thing - do whatever you are comfortable with, but be aware of the issue. I have found that Gloves do fine on the slippery stuff, with Boas being more likely to allow the horse so slip, and that's the extent of my boots and rocks knowledge.

          I would think that would be pretty easy, assuming the horses are conditioned to ride 40 miles in a couple of days. It is a lot cooler in the mtns, than down here in the valley, but it is still likely to be pretty hot. The yellow jackets get worse towards the end of summer, but the scenery will make it all worthwhile!


          • #6
            Originally posted by cwsmith View Post
            Yeah ive rode on rock in Bankhead National forest in North Alabama a little but he was barefoot at the time. I go to college and really dont get to ride enough to justify shoes since our ground here is not rocky but i do plan on getting shod before we go up there. I was thinking about getting drilltech horse shoes put on. Do you think the drill tech shoes would be a good way to go?

            Also were looking at a 40 mile loop do you think we would be able to do that in about 2 and a half days.
            If you are planning on shoeing, I would go for the drill tech. It worked very well for me. I had it on the fronts only.


            • Original Poster

              We plan on going somewhere near thanksgiving so heat should not be an issue. Thanks for the help and if anybody has anything to add to this please do. Any advice on trails to take etc would be greatly appreciated.


              • #8
                My opinion on the Drill Tech is no, no and no.

                I much prefer borium because it does have a little give to it. Drill Tech does not have any give - it's what the Amish used on their buggy horses where I am originally from.

                I tried Drill Tech once and it sored my horse up because it has no give and he did have a bit of arthritis. The farrier came right back out, pulled the shoes, put borium on and he was never sore again.

                Many folks just put a set of slick shoes on a horse and expect them to go everywhere without slipping - that is not going to happen. Slick shoes are a dangerous thing out in the real world of trail riding, as far as I'm concerned.

                When I was hard trail riding and in the rocks a lot, I preferred St. Croix rim shoes with borium head nails<---as soon as I learned about them.

                I trail rode for years, using borium or borium head nails, and never once had a horse slide on the rocks, even when we crossed rock-bottomed creeks with slime on the rocks.

                I have one horse with a really long reach so I had the shoer use borium head nails in every other hole and standard nails in the remaining.

                If the OP is uncomfortable shoeing, buy a quality (rugged) set of boots that fit the horse well and are made for trail riding in rough country.

                Whichever way you go, get your horse's hooves squared away a few weeks in advance of leaving to be sure there aren't any soreness issues. (A) give the shoes time to "settle"; (B) Make sure the boots are a good fit and won't blister the heels after several hours of riding.

                JMO on what I would do, were it my horse


                • #9
                  well not to cramp anyone's style, but the Park has led the way in removing horse trails in favor of foot traffic...even when I worked in the Cove in 1988/89 they wanted the horses OUT then

                  despite the ads,the best trails were closed years ago so the hikers would not have to step in poo...

                  so what is left is dead head follow along's with Miss Ohio 1978 and her three short clad grandkids ;>

                  which is the main reason that Big South Fork went crazy popular 15 years or so ago...you'll have a better horse time at BSF. just saying

                  Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                  I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


                  • #10
                    Riding from Deep Creek Horse Camp the Bryson City NC side of the park one can borrow one of his GN trailer to haul to one of the trail heads, and access one of a few horse-friendly back country camp sites. If you look on the GSMNP map, it details which campsites allow horses. No grazing is allowed, you must pack in your horse's feedstuffs. We're pondering doing a trip up Noland Creek to #61 this Fall.

                    Beware of the yellow jackets if you are coming with a large group. They can be bad.

                    I enjoyed a wonderful long weekend riding from that side, it's not so blown up and busy with tourists as is the Gatlinburg/Townsend side of the world. We rode all day 4 days and saw no other riders and only a small handful of hikers. This was early June, prime time for flowers.

                    Riding from the Townsend side we stayed at Gilbertson's Lazy Horse Retreat. Homey, clean, and a one mile ride down the pavement to the park. Orchard Cove is much nicer, including an indoor arena and top class barn. They are right at the park's edge. But it's dry riding over there- no water for horses for many miles of those trails.

                    Hauling into the park from the Townsend side you can camp at Anthony Creek. It's a busy trail head though with tons of hikers and pipe standing stalls. Not my cuppa tea. Muddy looking, too.

                    Tamara's correct that BSF is much more wide open WTH-ever you wanna do than is the GSMN. And yes, GSMNP leadership isn't horse friendly. But I'll keep going as long as I can, if only because we really enjoyed meeting the owner of Deep Creek and though it's a home made sorta place, he's the real deal and just a great guy.

                    my pics from that June trip:



                    • #11
                      yes the NC side of the Park is not as obnoxious as our side is.
                      Thank you for reminding me of that :>

                      Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                      I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


                      • #12
                        lol you'll not catch me on the Townsend side again. Sweet Jeesooos.


                        • #13
                          I lived right on Tuckaleechee Creek..30 feet maybe from it...

                          my neighbor was an old old woman whose family had been moved out of the Cove by the Park when they took it...

                          She made the best sweet pickles in the whole world...

                          but no...there is nothing left there that I remember other than that.
                          Not a Thing :/
                          BSF (for all the tourists) is what our side of the Park used to be.

                          Production Acres,Pro A Welsh Cobs
                          I am one of the last 210,000 remaining full time farmers in America.We feed the others.


                          • #14
                            That is all great advice. I like East Fork Stables better than anywhere in TN for lots of trails, well maintained, and friendly horse people. There are still great trails in the park, and I haven't come across any rude hikers, but they are always out in quantity. The horseback riding rental place in Cades Cove was run by a really rude bunch who would tell you that they own the trails (yeah, right, in the national park), and privately owned horses weren't allowed on them. I just asked for some written proof of that, and they suddenly changed their tune. The Smokies are a gorgeous and different place to ride, but its not a horse friendly area, the way all of BSF is.