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4 Reasons Fall is the Best Time to Ride (& Drive)

It’s still summer as far as the calendar is concerned, but in some parts of Horse Nation the leaves are already turning and there’s a crispness in the air. Here are 4 reasons that fall is the best time to saddle up!

From where I sit in my particular corner of Horse Nation, I can see leaves changing: we’re not in that fiery brilliance of October yet, when people actually make a pilgrimage to this county to drive our winding roads and gaze upon the majesty of our foliage, but those early, delicate stages, where autumn makes its first, tentative, graceful entrance.

This is the time of year I love the best for riding (and driving), and here are the reasons why:

1. The temperature is much more comfortable.

I understand that this qualifier is 100% totally subjective, as the hottest it got here in the summer was the mid-80s and there are many parts of the country who would be begging for that relatively cool temperature. For us, that’s really, really hot. (We can chat again in the winter when our daytime highs are in the single digits and we’re still running around outside — again, it’s all relative.)

Anyway, the temperature range of 50s-60s, for me, is ideal riding weather. I don’t have to be too concerned about overheating myself or my horse, nor am I worried yet about my toes or fingers freezing off. The horses might be a little more spicy, yes, with temperatures dipping lower, but it’s refreshing to have to work through some freshness after a long, dozy summer!

As opposed to the spring, when we get these lovely temperatures but also have to contend with the spring thaw and therefore slick footing and shoe-sucking mud, autumn cool temperatures are just right for a long canter across the meadow or trotting along a sun-dappled dry trail as the first leaves start to fall. Call me a cliche but you can’t beat that.

Just starting to change in mid-September. Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

2. Despite the shorter days and inevitable slide into winter, riding time feels less rushed.

This might the opposite of what some riders experience, but for me, with no indoor arena and a riding horse that gets the snowy, icy winter off, these lovely cool fall days are a time to slow down and enjoy every moment in the saddle before his winter vacation.

All the goals I set in the spring, whether they were met or not, feel kind of arbitrary now as we just wander the hills and the cow pastures together. Knowing that these days are limited, I don’t feel pressured to cram in the training rides. When we bring the cattle down off the hills into their winter dry lot, it’s both an achievement and a bookend to another year spent in the saddle on my horse, and I cherish every moment as a memory to keep me motivated and looking forward to spring.

Following the annual rhythm of the seasons on the farm. Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

3. New #ROOTD.

Okay, call me shallow, call me vain, but riding in the fall means adding layers, which for me, a casual western rider, means choosing the perfect color combination of long sleeve and vest — rather than slinking around the farm in a manky old T-shirt with holes and stains, which is my summer uniform. (It’s also a good time to add chaps to my Riding Outfit of the Day, since fall is when all the thorns and burdocks come into their own peak season.)

And you will never convince me that the vest is not the perfect equestrian garment: it keeps your core warm without adding bulk to your arms, which means you can still function. Plus, pockets. I love me some pockets.

4. It’s just plain pretty.

Reflexive to every scene being improved by looking at it between the ears of your horse, I firmly believe that every landscape you look at from horseback is improved by the addition of a little fall color. The sun seems less intense, more golden and hazy; the goldenrod is blooming in hedgerows between the fields — and of course, we can’t forget the leaves. The bright, lush, summery green changes slowly at first, with just a dot of gold or red here and there, but as days turn into weeks suddenly the hills are all aflame with a full range of color.

Whether you’re riding your horse along a brilliant tree line or driving your team on a winding country road as leaves fall around you, there’s no denying that this is a lovely time of year.

This view never gets old. Photo by Kristen Kovatch.

Embrace the fall, Horse Nation! And go riding.

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