July 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Western in the East: Horseback Riding at Top View Ranch

Not since the days of Camp Regesh have I gone horseback riding in the tri-state area. But then I discovered Top View Riding Ranch, located in Blairstown, New Jersey, roughly an hour-and-a-half away from Teaneck. My wife, Ahuva, and I visited the horse ranch a few weeks ago and enjoyed a tranquil ride that will leave an even stronger imprint on me than those of my earlier equestrian pastimes.

A few weeks prior, my mom had sent me a screenshot from a Facebook group “Fun Things To Do in NJ,” describing a horseback riding site. I connected with the owner of the ranch, Janette, and booked an opening for a Sunday morning. The drive to the ranch started out along the same route that I take to my office at Mercer in Morristown via I-80, but instead of turning off to I-287, the drive continued straight for a while until we reached Allamuchy Township. From there, the scenery shifted dramatically. Houses and buildings turned into farmland and stables. The properties were ginormous, and it was fun to see a variety of different crops and farm animals such as cows, chickens and horses.

Eventually, we reached a windy road through a forest. The route was tricky with a lot of sharp turns, forcing me to drive slowly. A final steep hill led us to our destination—the Top View Riding Ranch. Parking our car was a whole other challenge as the street was extremely narrow, not even having enough room for two cars to pass each other at the same time. (I assume for cars to pass, one would have to veer off the path into the dirt to allow the other through.) We parked in front of a truck right before a steep incline. But then a lady warned us that at one point, a car had rolled down the hill into a river due to the dramatic incline. Immediately, we moved our car and parallel parked in a flatter spot.

It was a beautiful day out, around 70 degrees and sunny, with a slight breeze in the air. We walked towards the ranch, which had a main house, a tent to register and sign waivers, and a stable with over a dozen stalls. Green grass and trees surrounded the area, enhancing the ranch’s allure. Janette greeted us by the tent and told us that her daughter Lilly would be our guide.

Once we filled out the proper paperwork, Lilly brought out our two horses and helped us get on. My horse’s name was General and Ahuva’s was Blake. Lilly taught us how to pull the reins on the horse in whichever direction we wanted to go. To get the horse to start moving, we had to give it a slight kick, and to have it stop, we needed to pull the reins back. Ahuva asked what to do in an emergency, and Lilly told us that the best thing to do was to stay calm because if you kick and scream, that would be the horse’s cue to go faster.

After saddling onto her own horse, Lilly led us to the trail. Since our horses were beginning-level horses, they knew how to follow her lead, alleviating us from doing much steering. The trail we trotted through was called Paulinskill Trail, and it is also used for bikers and walkers! The trail was in the woods, so the trees’ shade protected us from the sun. There was a long stream parallel to the trail. Much to Ahuva’s relief, the horses were well behaved and did not veer off course at all. On the ride, my horse, General, kept on stopping to eat grass. Lilly told me that in order to prod her along, I should tug hard on either the rein or on General’s mane, which has fewer nerves.

Throughout the ride, Lilly related to us a lot of interesting facts about herself and the ranch. She shared that the ranch has been owned by their family since 1909. Today, Top View Riding Ranch has 36 horses, mostly imported from Texas, and owns the whole street leading to the trail. Lilly said that she had been riding horses since she was 18 months old. Over the years, she has crafted her horseback riding style and is a multiple-time female championship rodeo rider. She has traveled the country competing in barrel racing and roping competitions. She said there was prize money for first-place winners, but the losers usually didn’t make anything.

To calm nervous guests, Lily likes to share a lot of information about herself and ask questions, thereby getting her guests’ minds off their anxieties and boosting their trust. She also strategically picks out horses for riders based on the riders’ personalities.

We rode in a big circle, and the ride lasted slightly longer than an hour. Once we got back, a different guide by the name of Bulldog helped us off and took our picture. On our way out, we met a frequent guest at the ranch who said that the middle of fall, when the leaves are changing colors, is the most resplendent time of year to visit.

Overall, we found the entire experience to be both informative and relaxing. Lilly was an awesome guide full of incredible stories and facts. The ride’s scenery was lush, bucolic and serene. Embracing mother nature without any distractions was a welcome diversion.

If you enjoy horseback riding or ever wanted to try it, Top View Riding Ranch is a closeby destination to do so. The Ranch is open throughout the year, even in the winter, assuming you don’t mind riding in the cold

My wife, Ahuva, is from Silver Spring, Maryland, and each time on our way back from her parents’ home, we pass a horse farm, giving me a reason to tease her for being such an “out-of-towner.” Silver Spring happens to have a large Jewish community with multiple Orthodox schools and kosher restaurants, so it’s not actually that “hick.” Visiting a horseback riding place so close to Teaneck made me realize that outside of New York’s suburbs, New Jersey can be pretty “out-of-town,” too.

Admission: $50 per person plus 20% tip. Cash or check ONLY

Hours: 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed on Tuesdays.

Address: 36 Hess Rd, Blairstown, NJ 07825

Phone: (908) 362-1440.Call at least a few days in advance to make reservations.

Unique feature: Peaceful ride through pastoral New Jersey woods.

Zachary Greenberg is a health and benefits consultant analyst at Mercer and the TABC Track coach. In 2019, Zachary coached the TABC Track team to a first-place victory at the Yeshiva League championships. Additionally, he recently watched the indie film “Simchas and Sorrows.” If you have any recommendations of fun places for Zachary to cover, please email him at [email protected].

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