Connecting across species on open land
When small children visit Rush Ranch Open Space, whatever excitement they’ve bottled up in the car tends to ramp up at the sight of horses.
The horses of Access Adventure crane their necks over the corrals, sniff and snort, and make their tiny admirers squeal with delight and gasp in wonder. This pure interaction is what connecting people to agricultural land is all about, and witnesses want to capture that magic again, joining the volunteers of Access Adventure who feed and care for these incredible animals, and help riders of all abilities join the fun.
In the days of ranch founder Hiram Rush, horses were a mainstay of daily life, the means of transportation to any destination, the mileage behind any delivered mail. Wagon wheels at the Ranch signal back to that time, and some early automobiles chart their gradual replacement.
Nowadays, it’s possible for a kid to get through twelve years of schooling without encountering a horse. That’s unfortunate. Most people encounter enough dogs and cats to get a sense of whether they are dog or cat people, but people who could become equine enthusiasts often miss their chance to make that connection.
Horses can be intimidating. They’re large and muscular and they relate to people in a way that feels complex and foreign compared to the easy amiability of dogs. Caring for a horse requires great investments of resources, space, and time, so owners naturally exercise caution when keeping their animals from modern life’s many stressors.
That’s why it’s so special that you’ve protected open land where horses and people interact, and where people experienced with horses can help others overcome their bashfulness. The three open spaces below offer horse riding trails in a region where these are hard to come by, and they give children and curious folks of all ages opportunities to have safe, educational, and rewarding interactions with the animals.
Access Adventure is a separate non-profit from Solano Land Trust, and since their founding in 2005 have earned national standing as a premier program for therapeutic riding. They provide services at no cost for adults with disabilities and, under the devoted leadership of Michael Muir, utilize a wide stable of volunteers. Visitors joining Get the Rush! can often join their wagon rides and see that, while Rush Ranch is a fun place to slow down and relax, it’s a lot of fun to watch it zip by too!
Recently, other wagons joined the party. The Antique Carriage Club, which rides 19th century style-wagons around northern California, rode through the South Pasture trail during Rush Ranch Open House. The group strives for period authenticity, and as they galloped towards an unbroken horizon of swaying grasses and blue sky, Rush met the moment.
The horse trails through Lynch Canyon take riders to stunning views from the ridges of this working ranch between Vallejo and Fairfield.
Among the riders are Al and Susan, who are part of the Sacramento Valley Equestrian Patrol. The married couple and their lovely horses, Handsome and Teddy, provide eyes and ears on Lynch Canyon Open Space through their participation in SVEP. SVEP’s riders serve as ambassadors for their own group and equestrians in general. At the Lynch Canyon Kite Festival, Al and Susan showed people how to pet a horse, read its body language, and approach the animals in ways that set them at ease.
Patwino Worrtla Kodoi Dihi Open Space Park
When this park opens at the end of the year, it will feature ten miles of multi-use trails for Solano County’s riders and parking spaces where people can unload their trailers. There will also be an equestrian trailhead, and informal gathering spot for horseback riders, with its own horse trough, picnic table, water fountain, and other equestrian features.
At nearby (and highly popular) Rockville Hills Regional Park, horses aren’t permitted, and people have long wanted to ride these beautiful hills.
And while public access is presently limited to guided tours and special events, one supporter of the Land Trust won our “Cowboy for the day” auction item, and joined rancher Bill Bishop on a guided ride.
We can’t wait for others to follow in their hoofprints soon.
Photos by Tom Muehleisen, Nicole Braddock, and Samuel James Adams