Happiness on hooves: Hampstead farm provides trail rides, other events for horse lovers

Neighborhoods Correspondent
Happiness on hooves: Hampstead farm provides trail rides, other events for horse lovers

Caboose was headed for the slaughterhouse, no doubt about it. Old and very thin, he had come to the end of the trail — or so it seemed. Then Amanda Manown spotted him.

"A sale is really crazy," Manown said. "You're going to run 300 horses through this auction in a 3- to 4-hour period. That's a lot of activity. A lot of horses are not used to that environment. They get in an elevated frame of mind, prancing around and all."

But not Caboose.

"This horse just walked in flat-footed," Manown recalled. "It was like he had been to this sale a million times. Not caring what was going on. And I thought to myself, 'Anybody is going to be able to get up on this horse and ride him.'"

Drawn to his calm, gentle nature, Manown gave Caboose a second chance. These days he resides at Manown's Happy on Hooves horse farm in Hampstead, along with other rescue horses, providing trail rides. And he was there to welcome visitors as well when Happy on Hooves recently opened its gates for its Meet the Horses event.

"I wanted to make access to horses a little easier," Manown said of Meet the Horses, which she describes as a "fun social gathering for anyone interested in horses."

"This is such a cool and different experience," said Robyn Little, who attended the October event, traveling from Baltimore with her three children. "It's better than another visit to Chuck E. Cheese's. You're here with nature. What could be better?"

Meet the Horses is free and open to the public. The first one was held in September and the second in October.

"It has been a great success," Manown said, adding that about 150 people have shown up for each event.

A third one is planned for 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12.

The most recent event included a variety of activities, including a grooming station where individuals could brush the horses and learn about horsemanship; the tacking station where they could put the saddle on and take it off; a wacky photo station where both visitors and horse could dress up in sunglasses, boas and hats; and even a station that provided an opportunity to ride, for a fee of $5.

The grooming station always seems to be a particular favorite, Manown said. It certainly was for 2-year-old Savannah Reynolds, a redheaded, blue-eyed little girl who marched right up with her mother to brush the horse under the watchful eye of a Happy on Hooves employee.

"She's just horse crazy," said her mother, Amanda Reynolds, of Marriottsville. This was Savannah's second visit.

"She had such a good time the first time we came that I kept checking on Facebook for the next event," her mother said.

Delilah and Rose Duncan, of Westminster, excitedly anticipated the event as well, and dressed festively for the occasion. Delilah, 6, wore a red velvet party dress and Rose, 4, was decked out in a satin pink princess dress. However, both had boots on.

"Rose calls them her horse-riding boots," said their mother, Kristina Duncan. "She bought these a month ago for today."

The horses at Happy on Hooves include Marco, Fish, Sadie, Polo, Millie, Phoebe, Dos and, of course, Caboose. Each has his or her own unique characteristics and personalities. For example, Millie, who was previously a work horse, has a blue eye and a brown eye, and Sadie, who was a Western Pleasure show horse in her other life, enjoys giving riders kisses.

Then there is Caboose. Because of his advanced age, 30-plus years, he has lost his back teeth. He cannot eat the treats of apples and carrots given to the other horses. Then it was discovered by a volunteer at Happy on Hooves who was sharing her lunch with Caboose one day that he enjoyed eating bananas.

"They're nice and soft, and he can chew them," Manown said, adding of the horses, "You get to know them as individuals."

Asked if she has a favorite among the horses, Manown shakes her head and smiles.

"They all are," she said.

Happy on Hooves has been in operation for eight years. But Manown's history with horses goes back much further.

"My mother told me one of my first words was pony," said Manown, who is originally from Essex. She began riding at 4 years old and eventually developed an interest in trail riding.

"It stuck," she said — not that Manown didn't attempt other careers. "I was licensed to sell insurance," she said. "I was miserable."

She has always found her way back to her first love. She trained to do equine massage and then went into rehabbing and selling horses.

"One day I just thought to myself, I wonder if anybody would pay me to take them out on a trail ride?" she said. That was the beginning of Happy on Hooves.

With Meet the Horses she hopes to not only provide access to the horses but to inspire a love of them as well.

"Maybe someone down the road will want to own a horse or donate to a horse rescue or attend a horse event," she said. "There's a lot of unwanted horses out there. Horses in bad situations. The more people that are interested, the better for the horses. Just sparking that interest a little bit makes me feel good."

Five-year-old Bella Kesling, of Baltimore, needs no convincing. "She rides anytime she can," her mother, Desirea Kesling, explained as she watched her daughter feed the horses during the October Meet the Horses event. "She got on her first horse when she was 18 months old. We know it's coming. The lessons. We're saving up now."

"I want to ride them and take care of them," Bella said, jumping up and down excitedly. "I love them."

For more information on Happy on Hooves and Meet the Horses, contact Amanda Manown at 443-507-6558.

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