By Robin Foster
Bridle Trails State Park is an equestrian oasis in the heart of Seattle’s populous East Side, bordering the cities of Kirkland, Redmond, and Bellevue. This 482-acre park is one of the largest equestrian recreational areas west of the Mississippi. It’s a perfect destination for enjoying a pleasure ride with friends on 28 miles of trails or at one of the four outdoor sand arenas. The park also features a trail obstacle course known as the Acheson property.
Riding on trails that wind through a mature conifer forest is one of the park’s eminent equestrian attractions. Close-up wildlife encounters with coyotes, barred owls, pileated woodpeckers, and even bobcats, are common. Red cedar and Pacific yew provide evergreen beauty to the park, and some of the flora is even edible. A snack of seasonal salmon berries and huckleberries are within reach from the saddle. The shaded, damp park ecosystem is ideal for the growth of fungi, and equestrian-mycologists might come across elusive edible morels. The horses also enjoy nibbling on tender fern fronds and huckleberry leaves, and the open grassy areas along the powerline trail are perfect for grazing rest stops.
The summer park calendar is packed with scheduled horse shows and events, most of which are sponsored by the Lake Washington Saddle Club. Non-equestrian park activities, including forest nature walks and music in the park, are sponsored by the Bridle Trails Park Foundation. Biking on trails and camping are not allowed in the park.
The annual Party in the Park is a favorite event for riders and non-riders. A variety of equestrian demonstrations are on display, including a terrific drill team, vaulters, or the much-loved King County Posse with their golden palomino horses and silver saddles. Popular scheduled trail riding events include the Scavenger Hunts (Easter and Halloween) and Prize Rides. As suggested by their names, the “Horse & Hops” and “Equine & Vines” Prize Rides include an opportunity for micro brew and wine tasting; root beer floats and grape juice are available for under-21 riders. A Trail Obstacle Challenge is scheduled on the day following each Prize Ride for anyone wanting to enjoy a full weekend of trail riding.
Hunter-jumper and dressage shows are featured equestrian attractions during the summer. These events draw talented horses and riders from all around the region. Horse lovers are invited to watch from the main arena grandstands for fantastic outdoor weekend entertainment. Riders of all ages and skill levels—from novice to advanced—are welcome to enter the shows. Dressage features schooling shows judged by top-level local judges, and welcomes any USEF/USDF approved dressage test. The hunter-jumpers show series creates a low stress environment for young horses and new riders, with well-designed courses and fun jumps. Stabling for horses and parking for vehicles and trailers is available.
A vibrant local community supports equestrian events at Bridle Trails State Park, and is eager to share this treasure with horse enthusiasts from all over Washington state. A calendar of events can be found on the Lake Washington Saddle Club website, http://www.lakewashingtonsaddleclub.org.
Bridle Trails Parks Events Calendar 2017
* Designates Equestrian Event
26-30* Horsemanship from the Heart/Clinic-Julie Carpenter
5* Liberty & Trick Training Demo/Clinic-Donna Kelleher
10 Bluegrass in the Park
12 Botany Nature Walk
13 * Dressage Schooling Show
19-20* Hunter/Jumper Schooling Show
23 Music for Kids
9* Equines & Vines Prize Ride
10* Trail Obstacle Event
10 Forest Nature Walk
17* Dressage Schooling Show
23-24* Hunter/Jumper Schooling Show
7 Adventure Run
21 *Halloween Scavenger Hunt