Horses as Trail Users

Horses as Trail Users by Chelle Grald The outside is good for the inside of all of us. Whether we get onto the trails with our feet, skis, wheels, or hooves, the most important thing is that we help each other to get there. Different trail users have varied goals, needs and impacts, so thought ... Read more

Landowners, our riders have something to say…

We’ve pulled together a selection of thank-you notes written by our Fall Foliage 2019 riders with photos taken during the 2019 Season. This is an extended letter of appreciation to the landowners who make GMHA trail rides such a great experience. Enjoy! Land Owner Thank You

Competitive Trail Rookies

Welcome to the fun and friendly sport of Competitive Trail Riding! In our region of the U.S., the sanctioning organization is the Eastern Competitive Trail Riding Association (ECTRA). Always a good place to start, their website has an up to date listing of Competitions and the Rulebook. By becoming a member of ECTRA, you can ... Read more

Getting Real About Horses and Trails

by Chelle Grald The paradox of living in a trail rich environment is that the more trail users there are, the bigger the potential for conflict. At the root of this conflict are varying goals for the trail. Hikers, bikers, snowmobilers, ATV operators and equestrians all have different versions of the perfect trail experience. Landowners ... Read more

Endurance Rookies

Endurance Rookie FAQWhere do I start if I want to try endurance riding? Contact us to find a mentor – we may know someone in your area who is actively competing in endurance who can help you to get started. On the AERC website, look under Education for the Rider’s Handbook. Reading that is a great ... Read more

Trail Preservation Pathways

By Chelle Grald “There is more to lose than land. A way of life and an understanding of who we are is also at stake. Horsemanship is important to our country’s history and lore. It teaches us responsibility and stewardship and how to care for another life form. When we protect this, it enriches our … Read more

What Makes Woodstock Worthy

by Chelle Grald

If the area around South Woodstock were a fabric it would be a charming tapestry, patterned with scenes of horses, antique homes and rolling hills. The weave would be a bit rustic – reflecting the old Vermont traditions that are still alive and well. Quality would be evident – in rich colors, softness and artistry. The tapestry that is greater Woodstock would stand out as unique when laid alongside Burlington, Middlebury, Manchester, or Montpelier. It would look more similar to Southern Pines, North Carolina; Aiken, South Carolina; Middlebrook, New York; or Middleburg, Virginia – yet with a character and charm all its own. The common threads would be horses, landscapes, and people enjoying both.

GMHA icon Roger Maher put it well when he expressed our founding purpose by stating that, “riding country is our priority – dirt roads and trails – and the GMHA members who come to South Woodstock to enjoy them.”

For almost a century, like- minded equestrians have populated this landscape and woven that priority into the community. They have settled here or bought second homes, impacted town government, raised children, started businesses, and developed over 300 miles of interconnected trails to perpetuate their joy. They have been joined by hikers, bikers, cross-country skiers, snowmobilers, hunters, loggers, conservationists and others who recognize the value of the land. Together we make a trails culture that is more than just nice – it makes economic sense.

The Bigger Question

We already know from a 2010 study by the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College that GMHA impacts the local economy to the tune of $4.2 million per year. That comprises both GMHA and visitor spending of $3.3 million and secondary impacts of $.9 million. Local businesses agree that GMHA impacts the community positively, with 81% believing our presence is ‘Positive’ or ‘Highly Positive.’ But there’s more to this economic picture than how much GMHA and its visitors spend each season. We can ask a bigger question: how do trails and open space impact the value of real estate and the resulting tax revenue that supports towns? Who lives here and pays those taxes, and how does that impact the nature of day-to-day commerce, job opportunities and overall health?

Even in winter, the equestrian charm of this community invites romance. Here, a couple celebrates their wedding day with a sleigh ride across our grounds courtesy of Kedron Valley Stables.

Horses and Property Values

The Equestrian Land Conservation Resource researched this question across the U.S. in 2012 and concluded as follows: “For the community as a whole, proximity to green space improves land values and, therefore, tax receipts. Conserved agricultural land generates a reliably high benefit. For example, for every one percent increase in conserved agricultural lands, studies in Maryland, Colorado, Oregon and Texas revealed that communities experienced revenue increases ranging from $250,000 to $500,000.” But there’s more. There seems to be an even greater connection when horses are involved, as their study showed that “In communities where land is preserved specifically for horse usage, economic benefits are greater still. In addition to increased property taxes, communities experience a range of financial benefits that come along with the horse industry. For instance, in Montgomery County, Maryland, a survey determined that their 783 horse farms, mostly of modest size, generated nearly $90 million in economic activity, with the average farm infusing more than $84,000 into the local economy. In Aiken, South Carolina, a 2007 study revealed that the horse industry was the community’s largest and most reliable economic driver. Moreover, both communities determined that the horse industry was an important lifestyle consideration to equestrians and non-equestrians alike in choosing to live in the region.”

The South Woodstock General Store makes equestrian, bicycling, and pedestrian trail tourists welcome in the warmer months and snowmobilers welcome in the colder months. Its trail side location gives it a unique advantage.

Although the specific connection between horses and real estate value has not been researched here at home, we can make a strong inference. City Data reports that the median income of Woodstock area residents is 20% above the statewide number and growing more quickly than the surrounding areas. The median house value is about 40% above the statewide amount. The population is also very stable in comparison to the state and country as a whole. What this means is that people who come here, stay here, and that’s good news for community viability and health.

Trails and Property Values

An American Horse Council study asserts that equine trails offer a 4 to 1 payback on investment for communities. That payback comes in the form of increased tax revenue because of higher property value, economic growth through ecotourism and medical cost savings from a healthier population.
A study in Oregon found that large natural forests have a greater positive impact on local property values than small urban parks. Homes located within 1,500 feet of a natural forest area enjoy an average value of $11,000 more than comparable homes not near the forest.

In Maryland, it was found that for a 1 percent increase in preserved agricultural land in Calvert County, the increase in housing values within a 1 mile radius generated $251,674 in municipal tax revenue – enough to purchase an additional 88 acres of park land in one year.

A study of the Little Miami Scenic Trail in Cincinnati, Ohio, a 12 mile hiking, biking, and riding trail, revealed that housing prices increased by $9 for every foot closer the property was to an access point on the trail. This translates to a $9,000 premium for a property that is 1,000 feet closer to the trail. All of this leads us to concur with the National Association of Homebuilders, who concluded in a 2008 study that “Trails consistently remain the number one community amenity sought by prospective homeowners.”

A location near the trails is worth paying for and worth staying for.

Trails and Healthy Communities

Good real estate investments can be found in many places, but locating near trails benefits quality of life – something that’s hard to quantify but undoubtedly valuable: reduced traffic congestion, cleaner air, flood control, wildlife habitat, water quality and healthy lifestyle in general are correlated with proximity to trails and open space. According to the Institute of Medicine, living close to recreational trails is consistently related to higher physical activity levels for both adults and youth. A Lincoln, Nebraska, study showed that for every $1 investment in trails for physical activity, the yield was $2.94 in direct medical benefit.

How to Keep It That Way

So, what is the point of all of this? Perhaps it seems quite obvious: GMHA is at the epicenter of a trail system that has multiple benefits to equestrians and the community as a whole. This sets us apart as a high value place to live, work and play. There is literally nothing like it in scope and size anywhere in New England. GMHA has become something of an island for equestrian recreation as New England and other northeastern states become increasingly more developed and significant trail networks disappear.
How do we ensure the health of a trail system that sustains our health as a community? We are not a community clustered around one large tract of public land, but rather a mosaic of small public and private tracts, connected by age-old footpaths, fields, and dirt roads. This makes our area especially vulnerable to fragmentation. The answer is not one magic bullet. It is a toolbox. In our next issue of GMHA magazine, we’ll look at the spectrum of trail preservation options. We’ll see how other equestrian trail communities around the U.S. are getting it done and how GMHA adapts those tools to our unique community profile. Finally, we’ll bring it home to you. Every GMHA member and supporter has a role in the health of our trails culture. You may be surprised at the difference you can make.

Appreciation

A Selection of Landowner Thank You Notes

It has become a tradition during the Fall Foliage Pleasure Rides to ask riders to write personal notes to landowners thanking them for the privilege of riding their beautiful trails. This year, 85 notes were written, so many of our landowners received more than one. They are uplifting to read and a great reminder of why GMHA was founded 90 years ago.

“This is my first time to GMHA. I am blown away by the beauty. I am so glad people have preserved and developed such an amazing place for people to enjoy their equine friends. Thank you so much for allowing horses on your property. It is so much appreciated.” –Karen Hancock, Worcester, Mass.

“I’d like to express my appreciation and thanks for the opportunity to ride the trails on your property. The views are truly incredible! I cannot thank you enough. As a landowner myself, I can certainly appreciate what it takes to open your property to horses and riders. Thank you again.” — Sharon Tanner

“Thank you so much for allowing horseback riders to cross your property! I’ve been coming to GMHA for many years, and the trail system just keeps getting better every year. This is entirely due to the generous nature of people like you! Please accept our endless thanks!” –Anon.

“Thank you so much for the gorgeous riding on Saturday. It was my first solo GMHA ride on my Thoroughbred. ‘River’ and me both especially enjoyed the “Top of the World” – me for the views and her for the grass.” –Jackie and ‘River’

“Thank you! I am a Connecticut resident who came to GMHA 25 years ago and the experience has been life altering. What vistas! What trails! What friendships! Your generosity in sharing your land with us makes every visit unique and so special.”– Nancy Thorne

“Thank you for sharing your fantastic trails and views with us!” — Lisa DeMayo and gang – members for over 30 years

“Thank you so much for generously allowing us to ride on your property. The GMHA Fall Foliage Ride is one of the highlights of the year. It’s so wonderful to have this very special opportunity to ride through this beautiful countryside with good friends and good horses. Thank you so much for being a part of GMHA. It’s such a special organization and this area, likewise, is a treasure.” –With sincere thanks, Tracey Van Kempen, New York, NY

Landowner Profile: Victoria Thrane

Victoria Thrane’s farm in Hartland has been a gateway to a rich network of trails since before she came to own it twenty-one years ago. Located at the end of a peaceful road tucked into the hills where South Woodstock and Hartland meet, it is a familiar spot at the end of the Upwey Farm Trail. Victoria is a lifetime horsewoman who is happy to be a part of GMHA’s trail riding tradition.

“I just love the sound and sight of the horses and riders,” says Victoria. “It’s nice to see them enjoying the trails.”

These days, Victoria shares her farm with a donkey and a pony, who also enjoy being part of the welcoming committee. She has always loved horses, and grew up as a “wild cowgirl, riding the wildest horses.” After a few brushes with mortality, she has come to favor the companionship of slower, steadier equines. Her farm is quintessential Vermont – a quiet and sturdy complement to the landscape. It is a timeless reminder of the treasure we have in our network of trails, and the welcoming spirit of the landowners who make it possible.

 

Landowner Profile: Gayle Davis

One of the highlights of our Fall Foliage Rides this year was the Friday lunch stop at the top of a rolling field in Hartland with a spectacular view of Mt. Ascutney. That field, and the 200 acre farm that surrounds it, is gladly shared with GMHA riders by Gayle Davis and Kraig Murphy of Lull Brook Farm. Gayle has been a life member of GMHA since the 1980’s. “This has been my stomping ground for the past 30 years,” says Gayle as she describes GMHA. She is an active competitor in Eventing, and also enjoys riding with the North Country Hounds and hacking through the beautiful trails on her property and throughout the GMHA network.

Gayle has lived across the river in Cornish, New Hampshire for most of her adult life, and hadn’t planned to move to Hartland, but fate intervened.

“My good friend, who lives nearby, encouraged me to look at Lull Brook Farm. Peggy Cummings owned it at the time, and was in ill health. I fell in love with the place. After I heard that Peggy was giving her blessing for us to buy it, I knew that I would be moving to Hartland,” said Gayle. “We moved just days after Hurricane Irene blew through the area in Fall of 2011.”

Lull Brook Farm has a well-established trail system that has been used by the local horse community and by GMHA for the past century. Gayle and Craig consider themselves stewards of the land and the trails, and have improved and maintained them each year. “We have a little piece of heaven here, and we want to share it,” she says. The farm consists of an amazing brick farmhouse that was completely restored from the ground up in 1997, a barn, and both indoor and outdoor arenas. Along with sharing her trails, Gayle hosts hunts, hunter paces, and clinics from the facility

Landowner Profile: Tina Barr Tuckerman

Have you ever considered opening up your land and designating trails or wooded areas for Green Mountain Horse Association Members to ride through? Fifth generation South Woodstock resident, Tina Barr Tuckerman tells us about the benefits and pleasures of sharing her family’s Vermont farm with the GMHA community.

There have been Barrs on the family farm in South Woodstock, Vermont since the early 1900s.  According to Tina, Earl and Aggy Barr (Tina’s grandparents) opened up their land to GMHA sometime in the 1960s with the simple request, “that the land be used appropriately.”

Earl Barr installed a water tank on the property placed there expressly for the horses. One of his greatest pleasures was watching the horses come through and stop for a drink, which gave him a chance to exchange a few words with the riders. Tina says, “My grandfather loved the horses—my grandmother—not so much!”

The horse-loving part must have been passed on to Tina. She was inspired by her grandfather’s enthusiasm and says she literally “grew up” with GMHA, participating in 4-H and other events. Tina says, “I learned so much at GMHA. I was so privileged as a child to be able to go there and use real jumps instead of just hay bales and logs.”

When asked about the benefits of opening private land to GMHA, Tina is heartfelt in her response. “Being a horse person, I just love watching the horses go by—sometimes it’s the only way we see our neighbors! During the 100-mile event, a lot of the competitors stop in, remembering my grandparents. And the letters we get every year—oh, we get such great letters from riders!”

When asked if there are any drawbacks to sharing the family’s land with riders, Tina says with feeling, “I don’t know of any drawbacks. Everyone is so polite and nice! It’s a privilege to share our land and be an ambassador for Vermont. We keep our 125 acres neat and tidy and whether it’s on the back of a horse—or on the back of a snowmobile—it’s just so nice to share our Vermont farm with everyone.  It’s a nice way for us to give back to the community.”

Tuckerman, One Chicken at a Time

Latte’s Lathers, One Chicken At A Time Farm

In keeping with a time-honored family farm tradition, Tina Barr Tuckerman and her family own and run Latte’s Lathers, which features goats milk soaps containing all natural ingredients. Tina says, “the hand-made soaps are made the old-fashioned way, the way my grandparents used to do it.”

Apparently, “Latte” was the name of a goat that Tina took in. “Latte was found in a mud puddle and than lived with us in the house for three months,” says Tina. “And than one goat turned into eight goats. My husband finally said, ‘What are you going to do with all of these goats? This is no longer a hobby—you have to do something with these goats!’ So I thought to myself, what can a goat do? A goat can make cheese, a goat can make milk—and a goat can make soap. “ Providence stepped in when about that time one of Tina’s daughters developed sensitivity to certain soaps. The dye was cast; soap was the product of choice and Latte’s Lathers was created.

Eight goats soon became 30 and Tina says there are usually closer to 50 during kidding season. Tina says the goats are all “part of the family” and apparently love horses, and have their own horse, Araby. In addition to Latte’s Lathers, the farm sells maple syrup in the spring, and hay and garden produce in the summer.

Latte’s Lathers soaps can be found locally at the South Woodstock Country Store.  Or you can contact Tina directly at latteslathers@gmail.com or face book at www.facebook.com/One-Chicken-At-A-Time

 

 

 

 

 

 

Landowner Profile: George Wiswell

 

At the top of Town Hill Road in Reading there is an oasis called High Meadows Farm. George and Harriet Wiswell’s 300 acres began as a rustic winter retreat for their family. After discovering the pure fun of skiing at Suicide Six in the 1960’s, they purchased 150 acres of raw land with the help of their new friend, Roger Maher, a GMHA founding father. They plunked a cabin on the land and retreated there from their home in Connecticut for winter recreation. As their 3 sons grew, so did the house. Years later, they purchased the neighboring farm, doubling the size of their property and moving into the 100 year-old farmhouse. The old Stage Road, now known as Rich Trail, runs down the property boundary. It is a major artery for equestrian travel and a part of the GMHA 100-mile trail.

Since owning the property, the Wiswell’s have added a network of trails through their fields and forests that connect to a system of neighborhood riding trails.

“We’re not horse people,” says George Wiswell. “We just enjoy seeing them and we have so many neighbors and friends who are horse people. Horseback riding and GMHA are part of the fabric of life up here. We never want to see it end.”

The trails through the Wiswell’s farm began when one of their sons took up Nordic skiing in high school. George made the trails for his son and his classmates and then he and Harriet took up Nordic skiing as well. “At that time,” says Harriet. “We had a period of very snowy winters. We would pack a lunch and ski all the way to South Woodstock and back. We had snowmobiles as well, and we would travel all over the hills with our friends.” George recounted tales of sledding parties that ran straight down Town Hill Road with a snowmobile-powered tow to the top.

Through the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, High Meadows Farm was rented to horse people in the summer as the Wiswell’s chose to spend their summers sailing off the North Shore of Massachusetts. “At that time, many of our friends from Glastonbury, Connecticut participated in Pony Club. GMHA was their summer headquarters, so the hills were filled with kids and their ponies,” says Harriet.

The view from High Meadows Farm on a crisp October evening
The view from High Meadows Farm on a crisp October evening

As their sons grew, George and Harriet became more interested in living and learning in rural Vermont, spending more time at High Meadows. One son learned about sugaring while at Middlebury College, and George began helping out at the neighboring Jenne Farm. Soon they had a sugarhouse and a few hundred tapped trees. Now, their sugaring operation has 10,000 taps and is managed by Green Mountain Sugar House. There was a foray into sheep farming, but that only lasted a few years. Most of the Wiswell’s land is productive managed forest. They have enjoyed learning about forest stewardship and managing the resources of the forest, including the trails.

Although their sons are grown and have children and now grandchildren of their own, High Meadow Farm continues to be their oasis. Every year, they enjoy Thanksgiving together at the farm. George and Harriet spend more time here in the summers now, in the midst of the place where they have so many rich memories of family, neighbors, and friends. When health permits, they enjoy venturing out to see the horses, meet new faces, and learn something new.

Trail Use Policy

Our Promise to You as a Landowner

Permission

GMHA does not use trails without documented permission to do so. For clarity and mutual protection, we prefer a signed written permission that stays in effect as long as you own the property but is revocable by you at any time. This form specifies the trail(s) to be used and is customizable to your wishes. For a copy of our permission form, please contact Chelle Grald.

Easements

Through a straightforward and flexible process, you can donate a trail or trails to GMHA, giving us a legal easement that runs with the land in perpetuity. This option ensures equestrian use of the trail for the future. Learn more about easements here.

Insurance

GMHA holds liability insurance that covers members, employees, event participants and volunteers when they are on the trails. We will also obtain a certificate naming a landowner as additionally insured upon request. All event participants sign a waiver of liability which names landowners.

Trail Use

Each spring, all landowners with permissions in place receive written notification of the dates and specific trails requested for use by GMHA during that year. Ample time is given for response and any adjustments desired by the landowner.

Maintenance

GMHA is happy to help maintain and even improve your trails with your permission. We will not perform any maintenance without your permission. We rely upon the generosity of donors to our trail fund for the resources to improve trails throughout the network.

Trail Sharing

GMHA supports multiple uses and trail user cooperation according to landowner wishes. We work together with all of the local trail using organizations and continually strive to improve communication for the betterment of all. We are landowners ourselves, holding a multi-use trail easement on our own property.

Safety

GMHA makes every effort to identify any safety concerns on the trails and bring them to your attention. We will close a trail and re-route as needed, always keeping you informed.

Trail Closures

You as the landowner always have the right to close a trail if conditions become unsafe or detrimental to the trail. We appreciate notification as early as possible so we can plan accordingly.

Trail Season

In general, we do not use trails before Memorial Day weekend and after November 1. Some maintenance and marking may take place in those times if conditions are stable.

Trail Marking

With your permission, we can install GMHA trail signs with trail names at our expense. This is optional. We also provide “No Horses” signs to mark trails that you do not wish horses to use. If you give permission for a Member’s Trail, there will be permanent white arrows with the trail number stapled to trees to mark the trail. Our event-specific markers are colored plastic cards with arrows and the GMHA logo accompanied by matching color streamers. These are affixed to trees and other fixtures by staples and removed when the event is over. We make every effort to remove event markers within the week after the event.

Mapping

We use GPS to mark and document trail routes. It is enormously helpful in determining even mileage and course planning. We do not share the data without your permission. If you have concerns about use of GPS on your property, please let us know.

Communication

All GMHA landowners who are not GMHA members are given the option to become GMHA subscribers. This gives you access to our calendar of events, magazines, e-newsletters and other announcements so that you can stay informed.

Land Ambassadors

All GMHA landowners are assigned a Land Ambassador, who is either a volunteer in your neighborhood or a member of GMHA staff. That person is your contact for all questions, concerns, and general correspondence.

Latest Dirt on Trails: Fall 2016 News

GMHA Trail Event Statistics

The Latest Dirt on the Trails

By Chelle Grald

Maintenance Roundup

Our year on the trails started early in 2016 with a warm, dry spring. We had the luxury of being able to safely check the trails on all of the Member’s Loops before Memorial Day. Other than some downed trees, there were very few maintenance needs. We smoothed out some ruts and damaged waterbars created by motorized vehicles on some of the local Class 4 roads that we frequently use. We enlisted a ‘clipping brigade’ of mounted volunteers who rode all of the Member’s Loops and clipped low hanging branches along the way. We made a few trips with the chain saw to do some heavier maintenance in a few areas. One small section of trail received a major upgrade, including new waterbars, ditching and an erosion control membrane under a new layer of gravel. This trail, called the Stone House Farm trail, was repaired in cooperation with the North Country Hounds and the two landowners. It is a part of the Blue Trail on the 100-Mile Ride and is an important connector to a very large system of trails in Hartland.

New Adventures Await

This year, we explored two new trail systems – one in Bridgewater and one around Mt. Ascutney in West Windsor. We ran small organized trail rides on both networks that were very well received. There is more exploring to do and more adventures to have in those areas in 2017. Through generous landowners, we were able to open up, repair and use a very helpful trail that enables us to avoid two rather busy and narrow roads in Hartland. We are working on opening up two more routes directly from GMHA that allow us to get on and off the property without traveling along the road.

Mapping Project

This year, we completed an ambitious effort to accurately map all of our Member’s Loop trails and the entire 100-Mile course with survey-quality GPS. We also mapped some of the additional trails used commonly for our pleasure rides. In 2017 we will continue to add more trails as we use them. The goal, slated for 2018, is to have all of the GMHA-utilized roads and trails accurately mapped in digital form to make course planning and maintenance much more efficient.

Easement Updates

The trail preservation work continues as we actively maintain our existing 26 trail easements and work within the community to identify more prospective trails. Together with the Easement Advisory Committee, we are creating a strategic map with short- and long-range goals. I have met with the Upper Valley Board of Realtors and the West Windsor Conservation Commission this summer to discuss ways that we can collaborate and spread the message about the value of conserved trails. We actively participate in joint care of the trails with the North Country Hounds, Upper Valley Land Trust, and VAST. This year we have also worked to strengthen communication with the local mountain bike groups who are becoming much more active with events and trails management.