by Mark Casasanto
Fall… undoubtedly my favorite time of year. Aside from all things pumpkin flavored, what is not to like about autumn? In a year like no other, with many vacations and best laid plans either shelved or drastically altered, reimagining your getaway is almost as important as getting away itself. No different than you, I considered many options before finally deciding that I was not going to be handcuffed to my couch… as interesting as that may sound.
Two-thirds of the way through the summer, I had basically had it with day trips to the shore. (For more on that, read my column in the upcoming Fall issue of Philadelphia RowHome Magazine.) But, back to the point… I’m all about the day trip. For many reasons though, the beach just wasn’t working for me this year. I needed something different. So I pulled the trigger on a late summer rental in the Pocono Mountains.
Talk about refreshing!
While challenging myself to do more of those “maybe next time” activities that I may have missed somewhere along the highway of life, my girlfriend persuaded me to try horseback riding. Honestly, there may have never been a bigger pansy on a pony. Yet, after I managed to quell my fears of being bucked into oblivion, I took the reins and cowboy’d up. It was a game changer. Although the good time passed rather quickly, this time, I made sure, there was a next time.
While researching some potential fun activities for an upcoming winter weekend with my inner circle of loved ones, I happened upon a horse farm in the shadows of Blue Mountain. Intrigued, I exchanged a few emails on ideas for that trip with the owner of Apollo Farms LTD. who ultimately suggested a visit to get up close and personal with a few of her equine friends.
Delia A. Apollo is an accomplished equestrian. Champion rider, trainer and innovator of programs that for the lack of better terms, bridge the gap between human and horse. The South Jersey native prides herself in providing a total experience for everyone, young and old, from the timid, to the most experienced of buckaroos. The property is situated on fifty acres of picturesque rolling hills in Palmerton, Pennsylvania. In a word, especially as the fall foliage was in the beginning stages of its annual color splash… stunning!
After entering through the private, gated entrance, we were quickly welcomed by a couple of inquisitive Pekin ducks who hurried their way across the white footbridge that transverses a fountained pond as if to say, “right this way…”. A short distance up the gravel drive, two equestrian rings are immediately noticeable on either side as you circle up to the modern day barn.
Delia and her aide, Brenna met us just outside the barn. Frankly, I almost feel bad about referring to the meticulously appointed structure as a barn. It was clearly a point of pride… organized, spotless and comforting. Friendly faces, with names like Sparkles, Soulman, Goldy and Beetlejuice greeted us through the large Dutch windows in their stalls as we acclimated ourselves with the facility.
After a review of policies and procedures, we got right down to the business of tending to our horses. Even with a previous trail ride under our belts, we learned more about pre-ride readiness and equine appreciation in twenty minutes than we could have ever of hoped or imagined.
As we prepared, we were able to brush, tack and walk our horses out to mount while Delia shared her vast knowledge on everything equine from health, maintenance and anatomy to their noticeably different personalities. Yes… in case you’re wondering, some horses don’t like each other!
Obviously, I’m far from qualified to offer expert opinion, but I need to at least tender this thought: There may be nothing as liberating and powerful, while still being somewhat scary as hell, like riding high on these masterful, majestic creatures. But I guess that’s all part of the experience. Benefitting from the knowledge that horses can sense trepidation, I allowed myself to get lost in the sense of oneness with my new friend as we strutted through the splendor of the scenic trail. Steady as she went, the more I relaxed… the more I enjoyed. Pearl responded with the precision of a Porsche.
Back at the barn, in the tack rooms, we were again afforded the chance to bond with our mounts with a post ride brush down and of course, some peppermint treats for good measure. Simply stated, it was a wonderful way to welcome the change of seasons and further familiarize ourselves with a world that’s often foreign to a city slicker like me.
Delia offers many opportunities to enjoy an experience on the farm, with and without horses. With a variety of programs geared towards day trippers, including a Halloween Pony adventure, extra consideration is given to the socially distant climate of the times. With the very early stages of fall foliage upon us, the next six weeks or so should be an absolutely spectacular time to saddle up and plan a visit. There are also ride and stay packages with lodging partners if you prefer to stay in the Jim Thorpe / Lehighton. Visit online: apollofarmsltd.com for details.
Be sure to mention Philadelphia RowHome Magazine! Happy trails!
If you’d like more information on other activities, attractions and lodging options associated with this article, or have questions, comments or story suggestions… I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org