Trail riding at Keystone Lake

My neighbor, one of the boarders at the barn, and I headed out to Keystone Lake for a trail ride yesterday. I opted to take Candy,  who seemed moderately more enthused to get in the trailer and go somewhere than she’s been previously. Progress!

Keystone Lake isn’t very far from the barn; it’s only about an hour to get to an equestrian trail area. Like many of the lakes in Oklahoma, Keystone is maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, though there are a couple of state parks on the lake. (I went riding at one of them- Walnut Creek State Park– last summer.) It’s is a popular destination for fishing and boating, and much of the land surrounding the lake is open for hunting.

It’s also an eerie place. Keystone Lake is a reservoir that was formed as a result of the construction of the Keystone Dam in the 1960s. Several small towns were flooded by the lake, including the one for which it was named. Some of the towns, like Mannford and Prue, relocated to higher ground, while others were only partially abandoned. As we rode through trails edging the lake, we could see the remains of root cellars and house foundations. The most unsettling part of the trail was Old Oklahoma Highway 51. At one time, it was the main drag through Mannford. Now, the road abruptly plunges into the lake. Concrete guardrails stick up out of the water, and old bridges built in the 1920s are visible under the water’s surface. We rode on the old highway for a bit, and it was very like a post-apocalyptic scene from a movie: the road surface cracked and crazed, weeds poking through the pavement, the roadbed crumbling away from erosion.

You can see in this Google Maps image where Old Highway 51 dips under the water.
Riding along the old highway.
Guard rails in the water.
The end of the road.

I was shocked by the amount of garbage in and around the lake. I saw all sorts of things, from empty beer cans to a disintegrating lawn chair to a rusted jack. There were tires, life jackets, and other trash floating in the lake itself. None of the other places I’ve ridden have had this level of detritus- I mean, I’ll see an empty bottle or two, maybe a plastic cup or bag, but nothing on this level. I was especially surprised because this is one of the most popular lakes in the area; you’d think some government entity would be maintaining the area (or, you know, that the average person using the lake would clean up after themselves).

Candy was generally well-behaved. She continues to improve every time we go out. She was a little anxious at the beginning of this ride, but settled down quickly and was content to walk on a loose rein for most of the ride. She didn’t kick any horses who came up behind her (yay) and during a brief group trotting session, she didn’t canter or bolt, and came back to a walk without a problem. Candy is still very unbalanced and quick trotting in a group on a trail, but I don’t get the feeling she’s going to snatch the bit and run away- she’s just a green horse who’s still figuring out where all her legs go on these uneven surfaces. That’s okay! The only real trouble we had was at a small stream crossing about midway through the ride. The other horses were completely freaked out by the water and refused to cross it at first. Candy, who is reasonably brave, sniffed it and thought about going across, but ultimately refused to go when the other horses began backing up the trail into her. One horse finally took the plunge and crossed, and Candy quickly splashed over the join him. She crossed it a few more times without incident. I think once she’s more confident herself (or with a more confident group), she won’t have any trouble.

More riding on the old highway.

Candy got kind of fidgety and cranky after about an hour and a half on the trail; fortunately, we were heading back and she didn’t do more than jig a little and shake her head a lot. My guess is that she was tired and perhaps had insects bothering her. It was a blazing 88 degrees yesterday, so I was hot and itchy after our ride, too!

I’m so glad to have friends who are interested in trail riding and glad that there are so many places to do so here in Oklahoma; it’s great for getting green horses out and about!

Author: Stephanie

Equestrian, amateur cook, people person.

8 thoughts on “Trail riding at Keystone Lake”

  1. what a bizarre trail riding venue – in an intriguing kind of way. charlie and i want to go trail riding with you and Candy!!!

  2. You’re doing such a great job with Candy! She’s going to be so brave in no time at all!
    What a strange place. Sounds like it might be fun to go exploring on foot and see what else is hiding around there. Very sad about all the litter. People are disgusting.

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