Freeman Ranch in its entirety is a magnificent specimen of natural

Freeman Ranch- Horse Trail Proposal
By: Jennifer Minor- Internship Summer 2002
Freeman Ranch in its entirety is a magnificent illustration of natural rugged Texas
Hill County. Its charm lies not within its size but in its character and relaxed demeanor.
The potential of this
5,000-acre Ranch has
been expressed and
recognized, the trick is
to bring it forth and
allow it to shine.
The horse
industry in Texas is as
synonymous as it is with the cowboy and Wild West. Still, in the 21st Century, Texas has
by far, the largest horse population in the country. And what do the horse owners of the
country do with their horses? The majority of them are strictly used for pleasure,
entertainment and recreation. People use their horses from sports like polo, to
recreational cattle working, to fancy show ring extravaganzas. Another growing
equestrian sport is horse trail riding or endurance trail riding. People come together in
groups, large and small, to celebrate their mutual love of horses and pleasure riding to
enjoy the outdoors. As people in the old Wild West days did, they often camp out in
under the stars with their beloved pets and companions, munching on some fresh bar-bque around a campfire.
This internship had taught me that there is more than meets the eye when it comes
to dealing with people and their horses and their activities. This paper will explore the
potential of Freeman Ranch in San Marcos, Texas as a potential area for trail riders from
across the country.
Freeman Ranch has many things to offer trail riders of any age, occupation and
skill level that set it apart from other areas of the country. Not only do the potential
visitors have something to gain from their experiences at Freeman, but the Ranch also has
many things to gain as well. The visitors would be able to experience the beautiful Texas
Hill Country up close and
personal, including its
variety of wild life
ranging from birds to
deer to the illusive
armadillo to butterflies.
Their time at the ranch
would be time spent in
the company of friends
and family of the two legged and four legged variation and would also be spent learning
about a new place and its creatures of all shapes and sizes. Freeman Ranch is a working
ranch that is on the job 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This would allow the visitors
to experience ranch life at close proximity. The trails would be an addition to the
existing activities that the ranch already conducts. The visitors to the ranch for the trails
would also
access to
the ranch
serve as a
location as
opposed to the ranch office, which would allow more privacy for the guests and for the
operation of the ranch’s headquarters.
Because of the ranch’s ideal central location, it would be an easy trek for any Central
Texan to come and experience Freeman Ranch. The trails could be an additional bonus
to those who have multiple hobbies, such as horses and bird watchers. The secluded
serenity of the raw Hill Country is an ideal location for family reunions, business
community builders, and family vacations.
Freeman Ranch would benefit from this new generation of income in several
ways. The income from the trails could be used to improve the trails or create new trails,
or there could be an annual benefit trail ride that the ranch could sponsor for
organizations such as the Sunshine Kids. This new attraction at the ranch would draw in
a new audience that might have never before even considered to visit. The trail riding
community would have a new
outlet for their rides at Freeman
The potential issues that
will also have to be deal with
are liability and safety
concerns. As with any equine
activity there is inherent risk
for participants that cannot be
predicted. What is known is
that equine activities are risky
business, but waivers and such forms allow all equine businesses to be not liable for
injury. (See attached example waiver) There are also some suggested guidelines that
would be helpful for the ranch to follow. These guidelines could be used in a pamphlet
form for participants to use as helpful hints or as strict requirements that the ranch could
insist to be followed. (Also see attached brochure)
Suggested Guidelines
Horse Safety-Trail Riding
1. If you plan to ride alone, tell someone where you are going and about
when you expect to return.
2. Ride a well-mannered horse.
3. Do not play practical jokes and indulge in horseplay.
4. Watch where you ride-avoid dangerous ground. Note landmarks.
Study the country and view behind you so you will know how it looks.
5. Courtesy is the best safety on the trail.
6. Think of your horse first. Watch its condition, avoid injuries, and care
for it properly.
7. Carry a good pocketknife to cut ropes, etc., in case of entanglement.
8. Don't tie the reins together.
9. Ride balanced and erect to avoid tiring the horse or creating sore
backs, legs, etc.
10. Check the equipment:
Have a halter and rope.
Have clean saddle blankets or pads.
Be certain the equipment is in good repair and fits the horse.
11. Don't water your horse when it is hot. Cool it first.
12. Be extremely cautious of cigarettes, matches, and fires. Know they
are out before discarding them or leaving. We do not permit
smoking on Freeman Ranch.
13. Obtain current, accurate maps and information on the area.
14. Be certain the horse is in good physical condition and its hooves and
shoes are ready for the trail.
15. Speed on the trail is unsafe. Ride at safe gaits.
16. Avoid overhanging limbs. Warn the rider behind you if you encounter
Watch the rider ahead so a limb pushed aside doesn't snap
back and slap your horse in the face.
Extension Service, U.S.D.A.
Washington, D.C. 20250
Supplies for Riders:
1. Current health papers and Coggins test
2. Sunglasses
3. Sharp knife and/or all-in-one pocket tool
4. Lip balm
5. A form of identification
6. Sunscreen
7. First aid kits for horses and riders
8. Snacks
9. Hoof pick
10. Water
11. Insect Repellent
12. Hat
Suggestions for the Ride:
• Make sure horses have the opportunity to drink before starting up the trail
• Bring or wear hats and sunscreen to prevent heat exhaustion or sunstroke.
• Check all tack and equipment before leaving home and before starting on the trail.
• Safety helmet use is an individual and parental decision.
Don't Forget:
• Tie red ribbons in horses' tails that kick.
• Don't bring dogs.
• Maintain space between you and the next horse.
• Stay with the group - if you intend to leave, tell someone!
• Do not run past others. This has a tendency to scare some horses and could cause
problems for riders with less experience than you.
• Stay on the designated trail.
On The Trail
Items that are recommended to take along on the trail are as follows. Some items will
not be necessary for each group member, but you never know when you may be
separated...! Pommel bags are the most convenient, but usually smaller in size, thus
limiting what items can be carried. Cantle bags are larger and more out of the way, but
less convenient to access without dismounting. Though, our ever-munching kids have
proven that it can be done!
Helmets--kids especially should wear a noggin' cover. Most adults probably have
hard enough heads already AND should be "responsible" enough to decide if
they prefer to ride with or without a helmet. A hat with a stampede cord (you
know--that little string you can tighten up to keep your hat on your head) is a
good idea if a helmet isn't worn. There are a lot of branches that will scrape you
along the trail and getting on and off to pick up your hat quickly becomes old. We
have met a few inventive and resourceful souls, who have trained their horses to
pick their hats up for them! A head covering of some type is also valuable in
preventing heatstroke or heat exhaustion.
Water--pack at least 2 pints/rider, probably more since the weather will most
likely to be hot. This is one item where more is better. If the bag you store these
in does not fasten securely (many pommel bags) allowing the possibility for these
heavy items to wiggle out, we recommend tying a string around the bottleneck
and a saddle ring (make the string long enough that you can drink without
untying). Some riders prefer soda pop. We do not, it often makes you thirstier, it's
not going to remain cold, and you have to deal with the empty containers. (Don't
Leather shoe laces or light nylon cord--for emergency tack repairs.
Bug repellent--we douse the horses with a general spray repellent with roll-on
repellent around those sensitive areas (eyes, ears). We also carry people insect
repellent lotion for our sensitive areas and a spare roll-on for any spots we may
have missed on our horses. Some riders use bug masks (nets) for both horse
and rider.
Multi-purpose knife--we carry a sharp, Swiss Army type knife or multipurpose
tool (includes pliers and more blades than we've ever used) just in case. You
never know when you will have to pry a rock from a hoof, punch an extra hole in
that leather strap, or cut up an apple to share with your horse!
Food-- it is a good idea to carry some high calorie food--just in case you are on
the trail longer than expected--or your perpetually hungry children are with you!
We often carry granola bars, peanut butter or cheese crackers, apples, sunflower
seeds, pretzels, red licorice, Rice Krispie bars, cookies, hard candies or baggies
of sweetened breakfast cereals. Chocolate can become extremely messy and
bananas do not travel well! Other riders prefer sandwiches, or finger foods-carrots or celery sticks, sausage sticks, crackers, etc. Please remember not to
litter--if you packed it in, YOU pack it back out!
Sunscreen especially if you are fair skinned and burn easily. Sunscreen/bug
repellents are now available.
Facial tissues or soft paper towels in a plastic bag--for those unexpected
nature calls that just won't wait for "4 more miles!" Please, cover what you leave
behind, especially if of a solid nature. Others don't want to see or step in yours,
as you would not appreciate theirs! Many riders carry a small trowel for this
Red bandana--this multipurpose item can act as a bandage, sweatband,
washrag or when tied in a tail--as warning to others your horse may kick, etc.
Electrolytes--carry about a film container worth along as an emergency measure
for each horse, especially if it is really hot and your mount is working hard. A
horse that has ceased to sweat on hot days, may be headed toward heat
exhaustion or "tying-up" Allow your horse every chance possible to drink--they
usually will! We, generally, add a ration of electrolytes to our animal’s grain, with
a decreased ration on rest days.
Trail etiquette
We try to be as considerate of others on the trail, as we wish to be treated with the same
consideration. Consider the following:
Horses are social animals but don't appreciate a strange horse galloping up on
them. Please slow down when approaching another rider and ask to pass. Or, a
horse galloping away from them, the old "I'm being left behind instinct" may take
If you have a horse that even considers "shaking" hands (kicking) with other
horses approaching from behind, warn the unsuspecting rider by tying or braiding
a brightly colored (red) ribbon in their tail.
Stay on the correct trail and off of private property. Do not damage or move the
trail markers. You may be the one lost on the next ride because of it.
We are guests, do not leave trash behind or ride on or down areas that will erode
and damage the environment.
The best way to see wildlife is to ride quietly and pay attention. Don't spoil others
fun by loud behavior.
Most trails are single track (one horse at a time), be considerate when passing.
Either ask politely to pass--allow them time to find a spot appropriate to step off
the trail--or remain at a safe distance and continue to follow.
Do not travel along plucking at the passing flora. It damages the trees, plus,
branches whipping back into the next riders' (and horses') faces can be
extremely unpleasant. If you must push past an overhanging branch, call out and
warn the rider behind you.
Discourage your horse from snacking along the trail. Try not to allow him to
suddenly stop in the middle of the trail to eat, causing other riders to have to
abruptly attempt to stop or turn their mounts. This is a very dangerous habit,
especially if he decides to do it from a gait faster than a walk! If you wish to allow
snacking, then by all means, find a suitable grassy area--OFF THE TRAIL--and
allow him to graze awhile.
Another helpful analysis is a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat analysis
commonly called the SWOT analysis. This list helps identify specific areas that could be
helpful others that could be harmful, to the people involved and the environment. The
SWOT analysis for Freeman Ranch in regards to the proposed horse trails has been
developed as follows:
Existing animal trails
Beautiful Hill Country Scenery – aesthetics
Easy sloping hills
Rocks for trail definition
Central location- Freeman Ranch House
Wildlife variety- birds, deer, etc.
Diversity over large area
Raw land
Location- close to S.A. and Austin
Abundance of rocks
Low lying trees
Labor and schedule intensive
Existing animal trails
Public access
Conservation awareness
Large market for trail riders, nature walkers, bird watchers
1. Liability/ security
2. Activity must be managed correctly- sensitive
3. Amount of people at ranch deters from regular ranch activities
The strengths for Freeman are many and are what trail riders look for in potential
areas that they would wish to visit. The existing animal trails are typically the path of
least resistance, which would be beneficial because the trail is basically set out before
you; a little defining of the trail could make following this trail an ideal. The rocks for
the definition of the trail are plentiful in this rolling limestone landscape. The aesthetics
of the Texas Hill Country have long been infamous, but are also a growing hot
commodity. The location of the Ranch, so centrally located between Austin and San
Antonio make the ranch easily accessible. The diversity of the land and of the wild life is
in great variety from, a wide-open meadow to a cedar forest, from a white tailed deer to a
red tailed hawk. The abundance of the raw land, the area that has been preserved by
being left alone, is place that you can look as far as you can see and not see a car, even
though you know that you are so close to civilization, this fact is rare and in demand.
The weaknesses are more obvious things that come with the territory. The climate for
South Texas in the summer times is known to be exceedingly hot and dry, but the winters
are more temperate and mild. Because of the underlying limestone in the area the
abundance of rocks and some rough terrain is present, but not unavoidable and so rough
that it cannot be passed through. Some fences are already present; some are unnecessary
and impenetrable and would have to be removed for more easy access to the areas that
the trails are to be made. The major hardship for these trails is the labor and scheduling
that would have to be pretty intense until the program has worked all the kinks out of
itself and runs like a well-oiled machine. There will have to be those to coordinate the
programming, and those to maintain the trails and keep them in order and clean.
The opportunities for Freeman Ranch are endless, but those that are worthy of mentioning for
this proposal are suitable
circumstances that the ranch posses.
The existing animal trails, again, are
an opportunity because they could
be built upon and extended past
what the wild animals have created.
This Ranch’s main goal is education, and these trails are another opportunity to teach those who
come and visit to learn about the land, the area and its animals and plants. It could also teach
some conservation and preservation to those visitors. The fact that the land is owned by
Southwest Texas is also an opportunity to spread the word to those who are in the market for
outdoor excursions.
The threats to the creation of this project are as most things these days, liability and security.
Papers will have to be drawn up to release the Ranch from any legal responsibility if someone
gets hurt. The areas that will be used are sensitive areas and must be managed correctly for low
impact on the environment. If the trails become a popular spot for the trail riders, there will be
large numbers of people tromping around on the ranch land, which might deter regular ranch
All of these items must be considered
carefully and thoughtfully, but in the end
the possibility for the ranch to create and
maintain the proposed trails seems
probable and conceivable to be a
wonderful addition to Freeman Ranch.
The possibilities for Freeman
Ranch are endless. Hopefully this
proposal has set forth the ideas that would
encourage the creation of trails on the ranch. These trails will need to be further explored to
express the full beauty of the ranch, but over time the development of these trails could be a vital
and large part of the ranch’s educational and monetary output. Further preparatory work for these
trails will have to be done such as, GPS coverage of the area to map the terrain that is suitable for
horse and foot trails, and clearing and
maintenance work of the proposed areas.