Get to know the North Salem Bridle Trails Association
If you live in North Salem, whether or not you ride horses, you’ve likely heard of the North Salem Bridle Trails Association. Within a town that occupies a geographic area of just under 33 square miles, the NSBTA maintains a system of horse trails that extends over one hundred miles (some of which lie within neighboring Ridgefield, Connecticut). It’s a system that the Association claims is the best and most diverse in the northeast.
“Our goal is to make the trails as nice as possible and as safe as possible,” said Charlotte Harris, who has served as NSBTA president for the past 10 years and as a board member since 1999. In 2019, North Salem resident and current town council member Katherine Daniels joined Harris as co-president of the organization. Daniels held prior roles as an NSBTA board member and president over the previous two decades.
Every mile of trail under the care of the NSBTA is maintained by volunteer trail wardens who are committed to maintaining this area as a premiere destination for trail riding. The NSBTA works closely with sister organization the North Salem Open Land Foundation to maintain and operate the trails, many of which are within North Salem’s public lands. On these trails, horses and riders share space with walkers, joggers, cross country skiiers and any other member of the public who wants to take advantage of North Salem’s expansive open spaces.
A significant portion of NSBTA’s trails also cross through private property. On these trails, the landowners have granted NSBTA members access to ride on specific areas within the boundaries of their property. Only NSBTA members on horseback are permitted to access those trails.
“People who don’t ride might get upset that they can’t walk on some of the NSBTA trails,” Harris said. “But, it’s private property and it’s the private landowner’s prerogative. As much as some people don’t like that they can’t walk on some of the trails, there are enough trails in town that we maintain that people can walk on.”
Dr. Jeffrey Hubsher, a veterinarian at South Salem Animal Hospital, joined the NSBTA in 1987 and has seen a noticeable improvement in the trail system over the past 35 years. “It was great then,” he said. “Now, it’s even better. I boast about the trails to anybody who listens.”
In recent years, the NSBTA has put an increasing focus on minimizing its environmental impact. “We are very careful about avoiding wetlands, and are careful about how we manage the trails on environmentally sensitive spots,” Harris said. Environmental considerations are close to Daniels’ heart. She led the charge to form North Salem’s Climate Smart Community Leadership Committee last year. In October, the group hosted a presentation at Old Salem Farm about the benefits of solar power for horse farms.
For members, the NSBTA provides a lot of benefits. Many use the trail system for conditioning, to keep their horses in shape for upcoming competitions. Harris noted that an increasing percentage of NSBTA members are riders who come to North Salem to compete in hunter jumper competitions. Others are content to enjoy leisurely peaceful trail rides. Regardless of how they interact with the NSBTA, all members benefit from the sense of community that NSBTA fosters.
Sandy Holden has been an NSBTA member for the past 12 years and currently serves as a trail warden. She is responsible for monitoring the trails under her purview for any downed trees or other issues, and she alerts NSBTA leadership when there are problems to be addressed. For Holden, who competes in equestrian triathlons (dressage, cross-country and show jumping), NSBTA trails provide her with good places and opportunities to condition her event horses.
Yolanda Knowlton, a 25-year NSBTA member, has served on the Board of Directors for the past 15 years. In this role, she has been in charge of organizing social events for the Association, including barn dances, trail rides and the annual Jingle Bell Jog, which she and her husband Richard hosted at their Windward Mark Farm last December.
“I love the enthusiasm of the NSBTA membership,” Knowlton said. “Not only do we have a passion for horses and riding but also the dedication and stewardship to open land preservation that makes North Salem and our community so unique.”
As COVID-19 restrictions have eased, the NSBTA is beginning to resume hosting events that bring its membership together, such as the Jingle Bell Jog. Next Saturday, the Goldens Bridge Hounds will host its spring Hunter Pace at Baxter preserve.In September, the NSBTA plans to return its popular barn dance. The event will take place September 24 at Stony Creek Horse Farm, and will raise money for the North Salem Volunteer Ambulance Corp, which has struggled to raise much-needed funds during the pandemic.
“Our goal is for people in town to get together and have a good time, while raising money for the NSVAC,” Harris said.
Rhys Moore, an NSBTA trail warden, added, “the NSBTA is a terrific group of like-minded people. The work we do together and the events we organize and the riding makes it all enjoyable. Even the annual meeting [held in June] is fun.”
Knowlton noted that residents don’t have to own a horse in order to join the Association. “For those who love the beauty of ‘country life’ and the preservation and maintenance of open space and our unrivaled trail system, you can’t beat the NSBTA.”
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