The quiet hanging over 20 acres of white kentucky fence-lined prairie is broken with the opening chords of a power ballad. Lori Ragland is in a light-rock kind of mood today, and has chosen the soundtrack for the afternoon’s riding lessons accordingly. Finding this balance between the serenity of nature and ebullience of horseback riding is key to Lori’s approach to providing a controlled yet supportive learning environment for all of her pupils. A seasoned equestrienne who started her riding career at the tender age of 5, she strongly believes that a rider should possess a solid knowledge of riding safety and horse anatomy before stepping into the stirrups, which is why much time is spent with beginners reviewing these basics. Lori and her equally passionate crew of instructors pride themselves on their almost preternatural ability to pair up riders with their perfect steeds. They carefully analyze each rider’s disposition, comfort level, and fluency in colloquial neighing before matching them with a well-tempered mount from their fleet of 32 predominantly arabian horses.
Arrowhead Bicycles is stationed only a few pedals away from the Southern Tier bicycle route that stretches from Florida to California, issuing customers a tantalizing challenge on their way out the door. The store itself is a hub that local and visiting cyclists swing into for new accessories, an impromptu tune-up, or simply an air-conditioned oasis where they can rest their feet, refill their water bottles, and hop online to check weather alerts and their favorite cycling blogs. Customers in the market for a new steed choose from models by industry mainstays such as Fuji and Scott, which were made for mountain, road, ramp, and spacious-condo travel. Meanwhile, the store’s stable of skilled technicians breathes new life into serviceable bikes with tune-ups, repairs, installations, and washes.
Bel Canto Farms owner Suzanne Warmack has been enamored of equestrian sports since she took her first horseback ride at 18 months of age, more than 40 years ago. Now, in a facility where two dressage arenas, a derby field, and a 90-foot round pen segment the grounds, she leads a team of three regular instructors whose combined experience in teaching and showing surpasses 60 years. Since the facility is also outfitted for full boarding and pasture boarding, horse owners who lack stables or whose stables have been overrun by iguana flash mobs can house their steeds there, selecting one of three stall sizes equipped with a constant supply of hay and water and fans in summer.
"It's like throwing a party every day," Byron Severance, who co-owns The Jumpy Place along with his wife, Cathy, told the Hays Free Press. "It's the most fun I've ever had in a job." Byron and Cathy's indoor playground—kept immaculate with a strict socks-only policy, daily disinfectant washes, and an unbudging ban on trashcan-dwelling Grouches—relieves the endemic of excess energy common to youths aged 10 and younger. As children bounce in and slide down air-filled fortresses, adults entertain themselves with complimentary coffee, WiFi, and cartoon-free television. Both locations are open every day except Tuesday, and each admission grants all-day access that allows families to come and go as they please.
Texas hills unfurl before Wimberley Valley Winery, gently guiding guests to the winery’s stock of wines. Since 1983, the winery’s resident winemaker has created a range of classic varietal wines in addition to offering wines from around the world. While the winemakers weave their magic in the cellar, the remainder of the winery’s staff entertains customers in the elegant tasting room. Here, an expansive stone fireplace steals the attention from sunny yellow walls, and granite counters hide bottle after bottle of wines waiting to be sampled. While tasters sink into cushy leather couches, the staff explains the flavor profiles of wine types and divulge tips for pairing wine with the right food or crazy straws.
Bodies vault, twist, and somersault at Olympia Hills Gymnastics, defying gravity with solid technique and strength of will. The Gymnastics team provides training for kids of all ages and fitness goals ranging from fun tumbling classes to programs that prepare students for competition. Classes include cheer clinics, parent and me classes for kids ages 10 months to three years, and power tumbling classes for ages eight and up. In these classes, students learn how to throw their bodies in the air and maintain control and balance, with a focus on safety. After learning the basics, students can progress to advanced levels by invitation or whenever they show up with newly-sprouted wings.