Back in the saddle at Snowshoe
Equestrians in Pocahontas County finally have a place to ride, Cheat Mountain Stables opened its doors at Snowshoe in June. The county has lacked a stable that offers trail riding ever since the stable at Watoga shut down around 2006.
Sylvia Mattingly, owner and operator of Cheat Mountain Stables, said she's been coming to Pocahontas County on vacation for a couple years now and she fell in love with the area.
Mattingly grew up around horses and she said she's been riding since she was three-years-old. She owns a stable in Hatteras, North Carolina, where she offers horseback riding on the beach. Mattingly said horses have had a positive impact on her life.
"They kept me out of trouble - if you're too busy at the barn, you can't get into trouble," laughed Mattingly.
Cheat Mountain Stables employs a small crew of local girls, all horse lovers.
Whitney Beckwith, trail guide at the stables, said she and the other girls that work there were all raised around horses and have their own horses at home. She said she really enjoys working at the stables and talked about some of the things she does.
"We take care of the horses, feed 'em, let 'em in, let 'em out. We take the guests out on the trails. It's been really nice, everyone has been really friendly," said Beckwith.
Emily Gibson, of Onoto, shared her co-worker's enthusiasm. She said she loves meeting new people and taking them out for rides.
"I love the atmosphere," Gibson said, indicating the quiet, peaceful surroundings. "It's laid back and I love horses. I've been riding since before I could walk."
The stable offers one-hour rides and a two-hour sunset ride. Trail guide Ashley Peacock said the one-hour ride is perfect for beginners.
"It takes you through some rocky parts, some pine trees," she said. "It's enough that you feel like you're doing something, but not enough to scare a guest."
Mattingly said it's an easy ride and an hour in the saddle is usually enough for novice riders.
"We also offer a two-hour sunset ride," explained Mattingly. "It's a little bit longer in the saddle, a little more challenging of a trail. You come out of the woods and bam, you're looking out over the mountain ranges into Virginia. It's pretty incredible."
Mattingly said the rides are family-friendly.
"We've taken out a lot of kids since we opened up," she said. "These horses are great with kids."
Erika Pont and Thomas Tynan were visiting Pocahontas County from Washington, D.C. They said they've been to Snowshoe before, but only in the wintertime. Neither of them had ever been horseback riding.
"It was awesome," said Pont. "Emily was really knowledgable, really sociable. This was a great way to get out of the big city and just relax."
"Great trail, great horses," agreed Tynan.
"It was actually pretty easy, I thought," said Pont. "You kind of go up a steep hill, then kind of through the woods and down this beautiful, peaceful trail. Perfect. It couldn't have been a better riding day.
We had a great time. We were saying we want to come back in the fall when the leaves are changing."
Mattingly said it's been a lot of work getting started, but she's having a good time.
"The girls we have working here have been great," said Mattingly. "The people we work with on the mountain are great. It's been challenging, but it's been fun."
Cheat Mountain Stables offers one-hour rides for $49, and the two-hour sunset ride will run you $75.
"I think anybody would come back and say 'wow, that was worth every penny,'" said Mattingly.