Riding High

Equestrians at Keowee Vineyards take to the trails

Mimi Delaney clicks her tongue and leans forward in the saddle. On cue, Rhett Butler swishes his tail and starts cantering through the canopied forest. At 16 hands, the powerful black Friesian and his rider make a striking duo, leading a group of members from The Cliffs down Bobcat Branch Trail.

“I’m one of the adventurers,” admits Delaney. “I’m always up for a ride. We have more than 200 miles of trails in the Jocassee Gorges area. We even spent the night out here once.”

The Cliffs Equestrian Center Manager, Karyn Owen, is riding side-by-side with Delaney on this particular journey. Since taking over management of the Keowee Vineyards-based-program in 2017, Owen makes herself available for trail rides with members and residents every day.

“It’s so incredible and so rewarding,” the lifelong cowgirl says. “To have something to offer that I have such a deep love for, the horses and riding, and to witness other people experiencing that joy … is just wonderful.”

Sandy Krug reigns in Rayna atop a ridge, to absorb the vista that surrounds them. Lake Keowee peeks through the tree line below, while a Redtail Hawk soars above.  

“The stress of the day is totally gone when I’m in the saddle,” shares Krug, who lives in Keowee Vineyards. “I forget everything when I’m out on horseback. We moved here for the Equestrian Center. I wanted to make sure when I retired that I could ride as much as I wanted to. My favorite trail is Buck Hollow. To ride along that often fast-flowing creek, surrounded by all that forest, is wonderful.”

The ladies never tire of exploring, as no trail is ever the same. “We have mountain laurels and rhododendrons that stay green year-round,” Owen says. “In the fall, the leaves are always changing. In winter, we get more views because the leaves are gone. And then in summer and spring, all the great flowers are coming up.”

Sometimes, the riders spy bears, hogs, and coyotes, especially on longer outings into the nearby Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area at Jocassee Gorges.

Jocassee may mean “Place of the Lost One” in Cherokee, but it’s where riders from age 8 to 80 find pure joy in the saddle on excursions from The Cliffs Equestrian Center to the Gorges.

“There are so many trails, and so many things to look at,” Owen says, inviting all to come. “It is wonderful out here. We are so blessed to have the opportunity to ride.”

The trail boss has spoken; it’s time to saddle up and head out.


No experience? No horse? No problem! The Cliffs Equestrian Center at Keowee Vineyards can provide a mount for riders of all ability levels. In addition to leading trail rides by reservation for all members and children, Karyn Owen, teaches lessons in both English and Western horseback riding. For more information, visit Saddlecreekvistas.com.

This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.

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