by Trish Adams
for the PoughkeepsieJournal.com
posted August 29, 2010
Dutchess County boasts some of the most scenic land and trail systems around.
While hikers are generally welcomed, it can be a different story for those who ride horses. There are various concerns on the part of landowners regarding safety and culpability, and for newcomers especially, it can simply be a privacy issue until the parties are known. Permissions must be obtained from every landowner, however small a plot is, if it is connected to the overall route. And that is only the beginning. Those painstakingly obtained permissions must be followed by the arduous task of clearing and maintaining those miles of trails.
“Riders are always on the lookout for new and beautiful — and safe — places they can ride away from the dangers of vehicular traffic,” said Paula Vincitore, president of the Landsman Kill Trail Association based in Northern Dutchess County.
Vincitore said, “The LKTA, as it is known, started over 40 years ago when a small group of like-minded people met to discuss the possibilities for creating a trail system for riders in and around Rhinebeck. Twenty-four people showed up for the first meeting in 1968 and the LKTA became a reality.”
Landsman Kill now boasts more than 75 miles of trails, from Staatsburg to Tivoli and east to the Town of Clinton. Approximately 120 landowners have given permission for trails to cross their properties. Of the original 24 charter members, several are still active and LKTA count 80 to100 as members, some active for more than 20 years. Vincitore has been a member for eight years, and said “my friendships have expanded along with the trails, and we have added camping trips and other social events to our riding agenda. I feel very fortunate.”
A much younger club, the Stone Valley Trailriding Association, based in Clinton Corners, began in 2003. It had much deeper roots as it was an offshoot of the former Stone Valley Hounds fox hunt, which was born of a disagreement among the 70-year-old Rombout Hunt leadership. After a few years, Stone Valley Hounds added a trail-riding component for those who wanted to ride the trails but not get involved in fox hunting.
Within two years, it became obvious the trail riding component was the more popular, and the group reincorporated as Stone Valley Trailriding Association, or SVTA. Now in its eighth year of operation, SVTA boasts a membership of 75-80, with many guest riders swelling the ranks at the various trail rides.
SVTA’s territory ranges throughout Clinton Corners, Salt Point, Pleasant Valley and the eastern areas of Hyde Park.
The association has the benefit of miles of former hunt trails, but there is still the never-ending task of keeping them cleared, especially after the severe winter storms from last season. SVTA stays ahead of the work with a combination of volunteers and paid help. Several of its members are New York City-based and not available for the clearing but are willing to assist in paying for the necessary help through generous contributions.
Betty Davis of Clinton Corners, former senior master of both Rombout and Stone Valley hunts and current president of SVTA, said, “Without a doubt, the backbone of our club is the many, gracious landowners who allow us to ride across their land. We appreciate this privilege beyond measure and stress respect for the properties we cross.”
Unlike LKTA, which has opened trails that are permanently marked and can be ridden by members most days of the year, SVTA takes its rides out monthly, May through November, marks trails for each one, then removes the markers. Trails are not open to the public. Thirty to 60 riders are broken into small groups by ability, and then led out by someone who knows the trails on slow, flat rides to hunt pace, jumping rides.
Doug Nieters, an investment banker from New York City and a member of the SVTA board, said, “SVTA is a wonderful opportunity to experience first hand the splendor of the Hudson Valley on horseback. By maintaining relations with landowners and keeping trails open, SVTA preserves the bond between man and horse, and the land, which was vital to the development of Dutchess County. Riding through the country is a peaceful reminder of the past and how horses can still be a part of our lives. It is just great therapy for me after a hectic work week.”
Other organizations are Willowbrook Trail Association and the Southern Dutchess Horse and Pony association. In all cases, the associations do not provide the horses; you must have your own.