Giddyup! Fast Brown County Horseback Riding

This article is part of the Rediscover Brown County package in the October 2016 Indianapolis Monthly issue. For more on our favorite fall destination, click here.

Unless you bring your own steed, the standard Brown County horseback experience is a slow, nose-to-tail trail ride. Lame! Schooner Valley Stables is the only barn in the area that offers a “running ride.” The spread covers 130 acres—where kids chase chickens and vice versa—and borders Yellowwood State Forest.

Owner Luke Robertson takes matching guests with the right horse seriously. “Everyone thinks they know how to ride a horse, if they’ve seen a John Wayne movie,” he says. But being honest about one’s own skill level is key to good pony pairing. With more than 30 horses, Robertson says they have an animal for anyone. (Belle is a great-great-granddaughter of racing icon Secretariat!)

A guide leads groups across a creek and into the hills and vales of Yellowwood, rich with oak, maple, and sassafras. Riders may try three speeds: slow, medium, or eye-watering. If the thought of pounding hooves and wind-whipped manes doesn’t get your heart racing, maybe you should hang with the chickens. 2282 State Rd. 46 W (west of Nashville), 812-988-2859, schoonervalleystables.com



Some beginner’s pointers for getting your gallop on, technically termed “cantering.”

1. Collect slack in the reins. Don’t pull on the horse’s mouth (it means “stop”), but don’t hold the reins loosely or you’ll drop them (bad news bears!). You simply want gentle contact with his mouth so he knows you’re driving, and not the other way around.

2. Roll hips and sit deep in the saddle. Butt cheeks should lean against the “cantle” (back of saddle). Keep the small of your back supple.

3. Heels down, toes up in the stirrups. Weight should be on the balls of your feet. Squeeze horse with your legs; give him a little kick if he’s lazy.

4. Don’t lean too far forward or back. Hold the reins at belly level, legs firmly at horse’s sides. (Only actual cowboys use the saddle horn.)

5. Cantering should have a smooth rocking-horse motion, hips gliding front to back. Take a deep breath of fresh air, and smile!


Photo courtesy Brown County Convention & Visitors Bureau


Since first joining Indianapolis Monthly in 2000, West has written about a wide range of subjects including crime, history, arts and entertainment, pop culture, politics, and food. His feature stories have twice been noted in the Best American Sports Writing anthology and have received top honors from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. “The Collapse,” West’s account of the 2011 Indiana State Fair tragedy, was a 2013 National City and Regional Magazine Awards finalist in the category of Best Reporting. He lives on the near-east side.