Omaha was once a city of horses. Early settlers heeded Horace Greely’s advice to “Go west,” traveling across Nebraska and the plains states on horseback. “Buffalo Bill” Cody started his infamous Wild West Show in Omaha in the 1880s, when horse parades filled the streets and showboating cowboys drew crowds.
Hitching posts are rare in modern Omaha, though you’ll still find the occasional downtown rider and dozens of equestrian trails scattered throughout the Ponca Hills. Venture away from the concrete jungle and you’ll find a strong community of jumpers, ranchers and stable owners. Here are just a few of the equestrian opportunities you can find within easy driving distance of Magnolia Omaha.
Ride ‘em, Cowboy!
The state’s largest city is home to numerous equestrian trails and riding stables. Located in the Council Bluffs area just 20 minutes northeast of Magnolia Omaha, Shady Lane Ranch offers 360 acres filled with woodsy trails. The ranch is open May through November, and appointments to “rent” a horse can be made the same day. Country Trails Stables in Omaha boasts 400 miles of trails available for private scheduled rides only, while Miracle Hills Ranch caters their short trip and Lake Cunningham 3-4 hr. experience for intermediate riders.
Right on Track
Founded in the 1990s with the goal of preserving live horse racing in Nebraska, Horsemen’s Park mainly caters to the OTB crowd. Most days, the action is only on the big screen. Luckily, the park boasts 700 televisions to ensure you won’t miss a second of daily races and major annual events like the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes and the Breeder’s Cup in November. Pop by for turkey sandwiches or 50-cent wing specials (Wednesday only), and place your bets at the window. If you’re lucky enough to book a July stay in Omaha, Horsemen’s Park hosts a couple of live summer races on the track.
Off the Beaten Bridle Path
In 2010, Omaha cable network RFD-TV made headlines when it ponied up $266,500 to purchase the stuffed and mounted taxidermy remains of Roy Rogers’ famous horse, Trigger. Standing at 15.3 hands high – plus the additional feet gained in his rearing position – the once-living statue now stands as a throwback to the days of serial Westerns. If you’re looking for something a little more romantic (and less creepy!), hoof it to Historic Old Market for a horse-drawn carriage ride. Two types of carriages are available for short and long rides: a standard lighted version and a pumpkin-shaped Cinderella coach that’ll cement your fairytale ending.
Equine experiences can make your stay in Omaha memorable, whether you’re looking to ride off into the sunset or just admire the agility and speed of Thoroughbreds on the track. It’s a great place for horse lovers to visit. Stables may have given way to skyscrapers, but the spirit of the Old West is still alive and bucking in Nebraska.