WEST FAIRLEE, Vt. — This state’s hundreds of miles of dirt roads and grassy tracks were designed for horses. But these days exploring them on horseback isn’t easy. Open Acre Ranch guides riders up into the hills and through its 400-acre spread of woods and meadow.
Owner Rebecca Guillette has been riding since she was 6, winning ribbons initially in English-style riding competitions, eventually switching to Western saddles and rodeos because, “it’s less stuffy, more fun, and more kid-friendly.”
Guillette loves kids. She has three of her own and caters to nearby summer camps on Fairlee and Morey lakes. With a total of 40 horses — Paints, Appaloosas, and Quarter Horses — and no shortage of guides, there are usually enough rides available to satisfy differing demands. Open Acre welcomes beginners and experts alike but never, Guillette says, does she knowingly mix riders of varying abilities in the same group.
Rain was forecast on the chilly morning I found my way the few miles from Interstate 91 to Lake Fairlee, then up a farm road to the small “Open Acre Ranch” sign. The place is unpretentious and homey, and the horses in surrounding paddocks looked promising. I found Guillette in her small office, which is crammed with ribbons and trophies. The open-sided stable is up a path beyond an open riding ring.
In short order we trotted out down the road, by barns and fields, then off onto a trail leading up into woods. Metro, my sturdy mount, broke smoothly into a canter, first up a forest path and then into a high meadow. I kept one hand gratefully on the saddle horn as he speeded up. Finally we stopped on a knoll with views across the low Vermont hills to the foothills of the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
Guillette leases her 400 acres, a former cattle farm that abuts the town forest, all part of uplands just west of the Connecticut River. A popular ride brings you to Small Top Mountain with 360-degree views. Inquire about overnight rides, multiday treks in foliage season, and overnight lodging in the apartment above the barn.
OPEN ACRE RANCH Trail rides are $40 per person for one hour, $60 for two hours, $100 for a four-hour ride that includes a picnic. Private lessons $45, group lessons $35. 1478Blood Brook Road, Fairlee, Vt. 802-333-9196, www.openacreranch.com