A Splended Weekend for Horses!

Listening to the sound of whinnying, hearing the clatter of horseshoes on the pavement and being surrounded by horses for three days was so fun and different. This past weekend we continued our 150th Anniversary Celebration with the Mt. Washington Carriage Road Weekend. We had horse enthusiasts from all over New England and as far away as Pennsylvania who have been training for more than a year to make the ascent to the summit of Mt. Washington. They began arriving on Friday with horses poking their heads out of the trailers checking out their new home for the weekend. We had set up about 30 stables under a tent and a few areas for horses to graze here in the field. With the weather forecasted to be nearly perfect for the entire weekend I knew it was going to be an event we wouldn’t forget for a long time. Kelly, from our events department, was the Campground Host for the weekend. I spent the evenings hanging out with her, being in the horse atmosphere was awesome. The horse owners were so kind and polite. Folks were mucking the stalls, feeding their horses and sharing stories and most were in bed at an early hour-horse chores start early!

Saturday – blue skies and sunshine. Great Glen Trails opened up for horseback riding and carriage drivers. I took a walk around the “ranch” for some photos and chatted with some riders. I met a horse named Kaya and noticed her mane was a little different than the others. It was spiked, well buzzed, which made sense when I saw her tail, which was pretty frizzy. Her owner, Debbie Shade from the White Mountain Horse Association told me that’s the way this breed hair is kept. I also found out that Kaya is a therapy horse and works in the Special Olympics, no wonder, she was so calm and gentle.

A few riders from the Connecticut Horse Council were getting their horses ready for an easy trail ride. I noticed one of their horses was getting fitted with boots. My dad had horses when I was growing up so I’m somewhat familiar with equipment and I’ve never seen those before. I asked and “Cowboy Ken” explained that he’s never been here before and wasn’t sure what the surface of the trails were like. The horse didn’t have shoes on so the boots protected his feet. What a great idea.

As I continued walking around a big sign hanging on the back of a trailer and caught my eye-Mt. Washington or Bust!  I thought it was great!

I turned around and saw it, it was big, black, and beautiful. It was glistening in the sun with not a piece of dust on it, freshly painted and ready to roll. It was a Roof Seat Brake Carriage!

This team was from Stonington, Ct and owned 150 acres of land. My first question was about training. They pull sleighs all winter long and love to work. For the past two and half months they have been driving almost everyday on loops with hills to prepare for the climb. The driver explained, his mindset going into this event was to recognize that if the horses weren’t comfortable he wouldn’t push them and would turn back.

They also brought for show a Studebaker Street Sprinkler from the early 1900’s.

Most spent the afternoon trail riding on Great Glen Trails and didn’t stop talking about the beautiful weather, the scenery, and wonderful trails.

Sunday brought another perfect day, and the day everyone had been anticipating for months. The support stages were ready and all volunteers were equipped with necessary supplies available at every mile. Dr. Ted Johnson, the veterinarian, was also on the mountain to assess all horses. Horseback riders started the climb first at 5:30 am and about two hours later carriages began their ascent.

Followed by our sweep horses and riders, Steve Caming and Rhonda Bebeau-Shearlock. Thanks to Heather and Jason Blackeney for the horses.

To see horses and carriages on the road instead of cars made me think of the much simpler times and I caught myself imagining – this is how is was 100 years ago.

Once at the summit it was time for some well deserved rest, water and hay. And some photo ops!

This event was so different than any other event we have had here at the Auto Road. I don’t know how many times I went and visited the horses in the stalls and every rider I saw had the biggest smile on their face. Everyone was so happy to be here and excited to be part of our 150th Anniversary.
I’ll put my vote in now, to host horses here again even if it’s just on Great Glen Trails. -Meg

“They put on the most wonderful event. Everyone there said how great it was with perfect weather, great organization, and every thing set up perfectly for the horses. Thank you” -Debbie Shade, White Mountain Horse Association, Facebook.

“This was an incredible event! It was beautifully planned and executed! I am so thankful I was able to participate as a rider. I want to thank the Mount Washington Auto Road crew for making this the event of a lifetime. I also want to thank all of the volunteers who hung out in the hot sun on the lower half and the high winds at the top for all of their help. They were amazing and so helpful every step of the way! Awesome event!” – Rhonda Bebeau-Shearlock, Facebook.

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