KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (November 18, 2004) - Nestled among the rising blue clouds that encompass the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, Twin Valley Bed & Breakfast and Horse Ranch is a haven for horseback riders extraordinaire and novices alike.
Fenced in on every side, the ranch is considered by its owners, Ken and Janice Tipton, to be open range. In addition to 12 horses, the Tipton's also have goats, a donkey, a llama, chickens, peacocks, dogs, and cats - a veritable petting zoo.
The animals are a draw to Kathy Huber, who visits the ranch often with her sister to hike or play with the animals if they've chosen not to ride that day.
"In my quest to find the perfect riding experience here in the Smokies, I rode at a number of stables in the area," Huber explained. Another rider soon who told her about Twin Valley. "She has my undying gratitude," said Huber.
As far as riding goes, guests like Huber sometimes ride every weekend, with just a few weeks off throughout the year. But Twin Valley is perfect for beginners as well. Any novice can participate in a ride at the ranch, and experienced teacher and trail guide, Janice Tipton, will have them riding with confidence by the end of the day.
An early morning rising allows ranch guests time to wander up to the lodge for a delicious southern breakfast followed by a short hike down to the stables. Riders are allowed to help saddle the horses prior to breakfast if they like, thus having ample opportunity to get to know their horse.
Tipton is thorough with each guest, talking with them until she finds out how experienced they are with horses. By the time she's through, she knows exactly which horse will best suit the rider. After a brief tutorial on mountain riding, including important information such as how to stay in the saddle when going up a steep incline, and answering questions about the horses, Tipton takes her riders on a short (hour and a half), half-day or full-day ride through the Great Smoky Mountains.
According to Huber, who grew up riding in New Jersey on flat, open terrain, mountain riding is her favorite style of riding because it's "challenging physically and mentally."
"I like the ups and downs," Huber explained. "I like some obstacles, and I like being a very active rider," she continued. "I like the coordination and awareness needed for mountain riding. I do not have to ride fast to have a good ride, but I sure do like grabbing mane and cantering up those steep hills."
For visitors who want the full ranch experience of the Great Smoky Mountains, the French Broad Outpost, located in Del Rio, is Tennessee's only dude ranch. Their weeklong itinerary includes horseback riding, cattle driving, whitewater rafting, and team penning, a game where horseback riders try to pen steers into a box. Every evening, the ranch provides entertainment varying from live bluegrass music to sing-a-longs, from bonfires to line dancing. Each Friday night, guests enjoy a Square Dance and Hoedown.
The week begins with roping and horseback lessons. Throughout the week, the temporary ranch hands (ranch guests) learn the new methods of training and understanding horses, as horse whisperers teach them how to interact with their horses, from saddling to grooming, from riding to feeding.
Guests saddle up daily for a ride through the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains, and mid-week finds some guests sleeping on a mountaintop with their horses.
For more information on mountain riding in East Tennessee, visit tnvacation.com or call (615) 741-2159 to order a free Tennessee Vacation Guide.