Horseback riding in Memphis, Tennessee

Are you wondering where to go horseback riding in Memphis, Tennessee? The family-owned Shelby Farms Stables in Cordova, Tennessee has my blue ribbon stamp of approval. Horseback riding in Shelby Farms Park, one of the largest urban parks in the United States, is a fun way to enjoy nature and retreat from urban life.

Four horses and riders on horseback, walk beside a pond in Shelby Farms Park in Memphis, Tennessee. The cowboy is riding a chestnut horse, the woman rides a white horse, the next young lady rides a buckskin and the gentleman rides an Appaloosa horse on the trail.

Trail riding in Shelby Farms Park

Trail riding in Shelby Farms Park, one of the largest urban parks in the world, is a great way to connect with yourself and your horse. Exploring this part of Shelby County, east of Memphis, and only 20 minutes from downtown, was the highlight of my trip to Tennessee. While there are plenty of outdoor activities at Shelby Farms Park, such as walking, mountain biking, boating and fishing, my favorite activity was horseback riding in the park.

What to expect horseback riding in Memphis, Tennessee? The Palomino horse is stopped in front of Beaver Lake in Shelby Farms Park. Her ears are pointed forward, looking at the pond and the wildlife beyond in Tennessee.

What to expect horseback riding in Shelby Farms Park?

When you arrive at Shelby Farms Stables you’ll enter the building, sign a liability waiver and pick up a riding helmet. Children are required to wear protective headgear, while adults have the option to ride without a helmet. While this is a walking trail ride, or walk and trot ride for experienced equestrians, I always recommend riding with a helmet for safety reasons.

Before arriving at Shelby Farms Stables you’ll be asked your height and weight. The reason for these questions are to insure the horse is properly matched to the rider. There is a weight limit for the safety of the horses.

Winter, spring, summer or fall, you’ll want to wear long pants and boots, preferably with a heel, to keep you safe in the saddle. Keep your purse and backpacks at home, as you’ll want to enjoy your ride and not worry about dropping your cell phone in the forest. More than likely, your wrangler will snap a few pictures during your ride and share them with you back at the stables.

Horse riding in the largest urban park in the United States

Still wondering where to go horseback riding in Memphis, Tennessee? At 4,500 acres, Shelby Farms Park is more than 5 times the area of New York’s Central Park. On our trail ride we encountered Canada geese with their baby goslings, blue herons and plenty of deer. I was amazed how many does and fawns we saw on our trail ride.

While the animals in the urban park were wild, they appeared to have an air of acceptance around the horses. They did bound away, into the protective cover of the forest, at the last moment. Owner Eric Beeme leases property from Shelby Farms Park and is able to graze his herd of horses on property. It’s a sweet set up to be able to ride, surrounded in nature, yet so close to downtown Memphis, Tennessee.

Equestrian travel expert Nancy D. Brown riding Dixie, a Palomino Tennessee Walking Horse in Shelby Farms Park, Memphis, Tennessee. Nancy is wearing a straw cowboy hat, sunglasses, a blue shirt, blue jeans and boots. She's smiling at the camera, while her horse, Dixie, looks on with her ears pricked forward.

Will we trot or canter on the trails in Memphis, Tennessee?

Trail rides at Shelby Farm Stables are geared to riders with no prior riding experience. The rides are walking only, from 30 minutes, to 60 minute rides and 2 hour trail rides. If you are an experienced rider, I highly recommend booking a private horseback ride. This is not a fast-paced ride. Slow down and take in the scenery.

On my travels, I always try to go horseback riding if at all possible. Horseback riding at Shelby Farms Stables was delightful. The weather was perfect for horseback riding; not too hot and the spring rains made the entire forest come to life in many shades of green. White flowers would soon yield to wild blackberries and a canopy of pink flowers dotted the edge of the forest.

My wrangler, Joan, was an accomplished equestrian, having competed in endurance rides and trained her own trail horse from the ground up. Joan took me on flat trails, pointing out animals and flowering plants along our trail. She was delighting in this nature experience, in an urban setting, as much as I was. Horse people are typically thankful to be out, riding a trusty steed, rather than be seated behind a desk.

Horseback riding in Shelby Farms Park, an urban park in Memphis, Tennessee. Horse and rider enjoy the wide open spaces of the urban park, with green grass and 40 miles of trails.

What are the horses like at Shelby Farms Stables?

There are approximately 50 horses at Shelby Farms Stables. From retired horses, to foals, fillies and donkeys, there are plenty of four-legged friends in Memphis. There are even formerly wild mustang horses at the stables. Ask your wrangler about a few of the horses participating in the Extreme Mustang Makeover program.

While Shelby Farms Stables has numerous Quarter Horses in its string, I had the pleasure of riding a Tennessee Walking Horse on my visit. Dixie, a beautiful Palomino horse, was a delightful riding companion for my private trail ride. She listened to my commands, stopping when I asked with my reins.

From my limited time with Shelby Farms Stables, it appears that the owner and wranglers are able to successfully match horses with riders abilities, or lack thereof.

A blue heron bird is spotted, out of the corner of the horse's eye, at Beaver Lake in Shelby Farms Park, Memphis, Tennessee.

What makes Shelby Farms trail rides unique?

I liked the fact that Shelby Farms Stables offered small group and private rides. They also offer sunset rides and hay rides for non-riders.

It was recommended that my husband and I have an early dinner at Coastal Fish Company after my horseback ride. Not only did this upscale restaurant offer fresh seafood, it was situated on the edge of Hyde Lake within Shelby Farms Park.

On my next visit to Memphis, I’ll be sure to make time for a horseback ride in Shelby Farms Park, followed by a sunset dinner on the patio at Coastal Fish Company.

Three cartoon horses show their teeth in a smile on the sign at Shelby Farms Stables in Memphis, Tennessee

Shelby Farms Stables (901) 647-5793

500 N Pine Lake Drive

Cordova, Tennessee 38134

Where to go horseback riding in Memphis, Tennessee, You Tube video and photography by travel writer Nancy D. Brown. I was a guest of Memphis Travel while researching articles for other publications. All opinions are my own.