I don’t know how it happened, but one day Grace and I started chatting about going horseback riding. I hadn’t been on a horse since I was about 10 years old, and I was thrown off that horse (a story for another day), but I was willing to give it another try.
Grace and I tried to don our best horseback riding attire—boots, jeans and some warm layers. After a quick call to make sure the ranch was open, we drove together to Coolville, Ohio, to the Double C Ranch.
Pulling up the gravel drive, our eyes were drawn to the open fields of grass and roaming horses. Double C Ranch boards about 20 horses and offers lessons and trail rides to the public. In the field, horses grazed and played with one another. Some even wore coats since the beginning of this spring has been unseasonably cold.
Double C sits on a beautiful hillside, right next to an alpaca farm. The horses graze the expansive property calmly and quietly, enjoying the clear weather on the Saturday we chose to visit on.
When we pulled up to the barn, we were greeted by some regulars who smiled warmly and welcomed us to the property. After going inside the office to sign some papers and pay for the trail ride, the ranch manager, Brian Hopkins, got two horses ready for us.
Upon first impression, meeting Hopkins was so welcoming, making sure both of us had some basic experience, he gave us a crash course review and got us on our horses. The trail ride was just the two of us, Hopkins and a woman who boards her horses at the ranch. Riding with such a small group was wonderful because we could talk with one another while enjoying the scenery and ride.
For Grace, Hopkins chose a beautiful white appaloosa named Blaze. To me, Blaze looked like an average-sized horse. She was hanging around other similarly-sized horses (as one would expect).
When Hopkins went to go get the horse I would be riding, he chuckled a bit.
“You’re not afraid of heights, are you?”
I laughed hesitantly, but said no. How tall can a horse be?
To answer the question, really tall. Tucker, the horse I was to ride, was close to 18 hands tall. I had to climb a ladder to mount the saddle.
“He rides like a Cadillac,” Hopkins assured. Honestly, he did. I didn’t have any issues, and Tucker followed the horses in front of us without hesitation.
The trail was rather muddy due to some heavy rain a couple of days prior, but the horses handled the landscape without any issues.
We began our trail ride up a large hill, making sure to lean forward on our horses in order to not fall off. On any decline, I made sure to lean far back. Tucker was so tall that I often found myself dodging tree limbs and branches.
Hopkins told us about his horse riding career as we rode through the forest. He was a jumper and often spent time traveling around the tri-state to compete.
Overall, Grace and I couldn’t have had a better experience at the Double C Ranch. Hopkins and everyone else at the ranch were kind and easy to talk to. If you’re looking for a relaxing and fun weekend activity, check out the Double C Ranch.
Double C Ranch is open 6 days a week (closed Tuesday). Hours for rides vary. Call 740-667-6311 to make a trail ride reservation.
On an unusually warm day last fall, Frank Casto fired paintballs at a target latched onto a tall tree near his shop. The dye-filled capsules zoomed through the humid air. As they ricocheted off the target, the paintballs splattered and burst into a cloud of colors.
Casto owns and operates J&J Sporting Goods Paintball Park in Washington County. Located on 100 acres of land, which also includes his and his parents’ home, the paintball park is the largest of its kind in Southeast Ohio. He has seen many changes in the sport throughout his nearly 30 years in the paintball industry.
One is that paintball guns are now called markers. A bigger change is that the sport is enjoyed by a wider variety of people. When Casto opened J&J Sporting Goods Paintball Park in 1995, he says the sport’s participants were primarily wealthy individuals. But, as paintball hit the mainstream in the mid-2000s, costs went down and participation in the sport went up. According to the Outdoor Foundation, 5.5 million participants played paintball in 2007. Since that peak, participation has dropped some.
Casto has a few ideas on why numbers are down. Some news stories, he believes, put paintball in a negative light, highlighting them as an alternative to gun violence by showing people using paintball guns to terrorize neighborhoods and communities. But the sport is “not about violence or hatred,” Casto says. “[Paintball] is not like Call of Duty.”
There is, however, an inherent risk involved, as with any time projectiles are hurled through the air. Casto argues that paintball is safe for all intents and purposes.
According to the American Sports Data, the paintball industry reports the fewest injuries with 0.2 injuries per 1,000 participants. That makes it safer than baseball, cheerleading, racquetball and tennis.
Some paintball statistics are on the upswing. Sales of paintball equipment have increased from $132 million in 2014 to $169 million in 2017, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. One research study reports that professional paintball players, those who travel and play in leagues, can spend up to $50,000 a year.
J&J Sporting Goods Paintball Park has a solid pack of regulars who enjoy the sport. For instance, 16-year-old AJ spends his weekends immersed in paintball, and he has been doing so since he was 12. He enjoys going outside and doing something that he cannot do on a video game screen.
In Marietta, paintball continues to fire interest.