Exploring Gettysburg on Horseback

The Battle of Gettysburg

The town of Gettysburg Pennsylvania was home to one of the most infamous battles during the civil war. The Battle of Gettysburg was fought from July 1 to July 3rd, 1863. During these 3 days, some 51,000 people lost their lives. To read more about the Battle of Gettysburg, visit the History Channel website.

Today, Gettysburg and the Gettysburg battlefield are very popular tourist destinations for people from all around the United States and the world.

Gettysburg is one of the most well preserved historic towns I’ve been to and there are many activities and tourist attractions to visit while in town. Most of the well-known activities include a tour of the Gettysburg Battlefield, narrated car tours around the town and battlefield, visits to Historical Museums, fine dining, and of course, the all famous Ghost Tours. My sister and I can recommend the Gettysburg Ghost Tours company. We have enjoyed a couple of their tours with their tour guides “Spooky” and Phil.

Visit Destination Gettysburg for more information about visiting the area.

But…Did you know?

Those of us fortunate enough to live near Gettysburg also know about a favorite equestrian past time…Horseback Riding through the Gettysburg Battlefield.

Thousands of trail riding enthusiasts make Gettysburg a go-to destination with their horses each year.

The Experience

What can I say…horseback riding through such a famous battlefield is like nothing else you may ever experience. Sitting on top of your horse takes you back hundreds of years and puts you in an unparalleled perspective as you ride past the original preserved homes (some with cannon holes sill in them), civil war era fencing, cannons, open fields, and maybe a reenactment camp with men and women dressed in civil war era dress. You may even hear cannon fire off in the distance if you’re there during a reenactment weekend.

The Trails

The trails are very beginner friendly. Some flat wooded areas with easy footing, lots of open fields, and easily marked paths. So a ride through the battlefield can be very relaxing and you definitely have a lot of opportunity to just look around and enjoy the place.

Some Challenges

Some horse owners may find this ride to be a bit overwhelming for young, inexperienced, or green horses. Along much of your ride, you will encounter a lot of tourists on foot and in their cars, bicycles, motorcycles, cannon fire in the distance, and many other small and large groups of horseback riders. This last obstacle seems to be the most difficult for my horse. Being low man in the herd, he’s very insecure around other horses, so passing the other groups of riders is a challenge for us. It makes him very nervous, and I’ve had to deal with some reactions. Nothing too terrible or threatening, but enough to put us both a little on edge. So just be aware and prepared.

Also, the park rules do not allow cantering, so if you’re looking for a thrill on your horse, this is not the place to ride. The trail restrictions are also strongly enforced. You must ride on the horse designated trail and you are not allowed to go off of the trail for any reason.

Summer rides are hot! There is little shade through the ride because most of the trail is in open field across the battlefield. So if you do come in July or August, be prepared to ride early or late. I hear evening rides can be quite beautiful and are a completely different experience, although I personally haven’t been brave enough to go out near dusk.

Ghosts?

Well maybe! Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, you have to admit that 51,000 deaths all in one concentrated area, in a 3-day time span, definitely provides the right atmosphere for such things. And given that animals are very in tuned to things that we humans don’t always perceive or understand, you may find your horse reacting to “nothing” in certain areas of the trail. My horse Rio always gets very worked up and forward moving going past one of the houses on the trail. Once we’re past, he settles right back down. My sister has also reported her horse reacts every time we pass another area on the trail. I’m sure there are many other stories from trail riders. If you have any personal experiences from riding in Gettysburg, drop your experiences in the comments section below.

 

Accommodations

If you’re coming in from out of town, there is a great campground where you can stay with your horse. Artillery Ridge campground has camping spots to accommodate your horse trailer, RV, travel trailer, or tent. They also rent cabins. They have stalls available to rent for your horse(s) and a couple of different types of corals where you can keep a single or multiple horses. They also have a riding ring available if you want to make use of it. From the campground, you can ride your horse just across the main road and you’re right there in the battlefield. They also allow day-parking for a small fee.

If you’re just going for the day, there are other parking areas within the Battlefield where you can park your trailer for the day and ride out from there.

Don’t Own A Horse?

That’s OK. You can still experience Gettysburg on Horseback by signing up for one of the guided Horseback Tours in the area.  The tours are professionally led by experienced riders and Licensed Battlefield tour guides. The horses in these programs are well cared for, well-trained, gentle, and very trail savvy. So even if you’ve never ridden a horse before, you can feel comfortable taking one of these tours and know you’ll come back safe. These are family friendly rides, so even children can join (check with the tour company for age restrictions).

One such tour group is run by the National Riding Stables and operates out of Artillery Ridge campground. 

Another tour group is run by Confederate Trails of Gettysburg. This group runs their tours from the McMillan Woods Youth Campground within the Gettysburg Battlefield Park. Confederate Trails also offers carriage rides for those with younger children or less desire to go on horseback.   

These are but 2 of the tour groups in the area. I encourage you to "Google" the area to see all available options and visit the websites for details and to check availability.

Conclusion

Even if you don’t live near Gettysburg Pennsylvania, I highly encourage you to plan a trip with your horse or plan a guided horse tour from one of the local tour groups. It will be one trip you will not soon forget!

If you have any personal stories from riding in Gettysburg, drop them down in the COMMENTS section below.

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