Southeastern Equestrian Trails Conference Highlights

My adventures in Lexington, Kentucky at the largest equestrian trails conference in the nation and a barn party.

by Darley Newman

It was nice to meet so many people who care about horse riding, sustainable trails, conservation and horse communities in Lexington, Kentucky for the Southeastern Equestrian Trails Conference (SETC). I was able to meet many of the people that I've met virtually over the years, researching, writing and filming for Equitrekking. I also learned a lot attending educational seminars related to backcountry riding, leave no trace exploration and even whole communities that are conserving and connecting trails for outdoor activities... so called Trail Towns.

As someone who is passionate about horses, travel and nature, as well as living life to the fullest, I had a great time as the plenary speaker during Saturday's lunch. I talked about my adventurous travels around the world and Equitrekking's mission to inspire people to get out there and ride and enjoy their land. 

SETC Darley Newman

Me speaking at SETC. Photo taken my Emily Dennis of Big Red Stables.

I also enjoyed hearing from other experts, like Alan Hill of the Back Country Horsemen of America (BCHA), who spoke about the history of his organization, which is soon celebrating its 40th anniversary! Quite a feat. Over 12,000 members of BCHA work to ensure that public lands remain open to recreational stock use. They also educate the public on the leave no trace wilderness practices and how to minimize impact on working trails in the backcountry.

Stephanie McCommon, AQHA Manager of Affiliate Partnerships & Recreational Activities and who also does a lot of trail riding across the nation, spoke about the AQHA STEP Grant Program, Stewards for Trails, Education and Partnerships. This program gives grants to trail conservation projects.

Friday Night Barn Party

Friday night was a highlight of my quick Lexington trip. There was an SETC party at the historic Round Barn located at The Red Mile. Listed on the National Trust of Historic Places, this beautiful, old barn was buzzing with a Bluegrass band and yummy BBQ. 

The Round Barn, Lexington

Lexington's Round Barn is a historic architectural landmark.

The octagonal, wooden structure was constructed in the late 19th century and partially financed by a $25,000 grant from the U.S. Congress for damages caused to the old fairgrounds in Lexington during the Civil War. 

Round Barn, Lexington

The Round Barn stabled many champion horses.

Originally, the building was used to house floral arrangements. At the turn of the century, horses were stabled in stalls on the first and second floors. The grooms' quarters were on the third. 

This was the perfect place for a party for horse people, and I had a great time.

Round Barn Lexington

 Lexington's Round Barn's history is kept alive by it's current caretakers, the non-profit called the Stable of Memories, Inc.

More Great Educational Speakers and Panels

There were other great speakers and panelists at SETC, including Jamie Cook, a conservation educator from the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife Resources. Cook spoke about the proper way to view wildlife on the trials, why wildlife viewing on horseback is increasingly popular and how great it can be for communities. I know I've enjoyed lots of great wildlife viewing on horseback in the United States, especially in Alaska, and around the world. It's a great, unobtrusive way to get a closer look at animals in nature and something many trail riders can enjoy.

Elaine Wilson, Executive Director of Kentucky Adventure Tourism (an Equitrekking sponsor), along with Jenny Sewell, the Mayor of Dawson Springs in Kentucky, Steve Barbour of the Sheltowee Trace Association and Lynn Tatum of the Livingston Trail Town talked about the "Trail Town" concept. The Trail Town program in Kentucky is being modeled after successful trail towns along the Appalachian Trail, including Damascus, Virginia and Hot Springs, North Carolina. Towns in Kentucky can get a special designation as a Trail Town if they meet certain criteria, including working to make trails accessible hikers, bikers and horseback riders, which helps bring in area tourists who can get out and enjoy nature and the environment. These tourists and the locals help boost local economies. As someone who hikes, bikes and horse rides, I'm excited to hear that Kentucky is working to increase outdoor trail accessilibity for various towns, so more communities and travelers can more easily enjoy nature and being active outdoors.

It was so great to meet so many wonderful Equitrekking fans and new horse friends at SETC2012 and to continue to learn more about the wonderful world of horse trails and nature. Thanks to Deb Balliet at ELCR (Equine Land Conservation Resource), who invited me to the event!


Connect with Equitrekking on Facebook and Twitter @darleynewman @equitrekking. Get the Equitrekking monthly newsletter. Let your local PBS station know that you want to see the new season of Equitrekking, which features really exciting adventures in Botswana, Africa and more! Watch a promo and behind the scenes from our filming in Botswana.

Some questions that the audience asked me included where to find the great places we're discovering to horse ride. You can search the Equitrekking Vacation Guide to find great dude ranches, guest ranches and international riding vacations. features exceptional equestrian vacations. Read many of the first hand travel articles, equestrian travel tipsdude ranch blogs and my travel blog to find out where to travel and horse ride and get tips I've discovered on the road.

Please send us your suggestions of where to ride and film–– contact us. DVDs of Equitrekking are available in our shop, and you can learn about the wonderful world of horses in Equitrekking's Horse Breed Guide.

Safe Trails and Happy Travels!