Rockne Roll/News-Register##Client Dharam Friedberg and Aztec Max get reacquainted Tuesday as Justin Leahy of Foothills Farms adjusts the horse’s bridle. Willamette Coast Ride, Justin
and Lindley Leahy’s luxury horseback tour company, caters to experienced English-style riders.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Client Dharam Friedberg and Aztec Max get reacquainted Tuesday as Justin Leahy of Foothills Farms adjusts the horse’s bridle. Willamette Coast Ride, Justin and Lindley Leahy’s luxury horseback tour company, caters to experienced English-style riders.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Justin Leahy prepares a horse for a group trail ride at Foothills Farm on Tuesday.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Justin Leahy prepares a horse for a group trail ride at Foothills Farm on Tuesday.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Justin and
Lindley Leahy purchased the farm in 2013. It serves as home base for Willamette Coast Ride.
Rockne Roll/News-Register##Justin and Lindley Leahy purchased the farm in 2013. It serves as home base for Willamette Coast Ride.
By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

Haute on the trail

Imagine the hard, dusty ride to El Dorado. The Duke stops halfway, and some nice people provide a cozy stable for his horse. Meanwhile, the Duke takes an air-conditioned bus ride to the four-star El Dorado Comfort Inn.

After downing a continental breakfast, he is driven back to the stable, where he retrieves his horse and continues on.

It never happens that way in the movies, of course. That’s because Wayne always did things the hard way. He should have gone on the trail with Willamette Coast Ride.

Owners Justin and Lindley Leahy make sure the trail between Carlton and the coast isn’t all that long or dusty. Plus, there’s wine and gourmet food en route that never graced the Duke’s chuckwagon.

Lindley said coast rides generally take six days. At the end of each day, riders stop at a prearranged stable, where the horses can rest and get a little pampering.

The riders are taken to a hotel at the coast. They return to the stable the next day and continue riding.

The riding is all quite properly English. Think fox hunts rather than trail drives.

Nonetheless, Lindley said, don’t be fooled. The rides are not for the weak of heart or soft of fanny.

“These are all very experienced riders,” she said.

Justin Leahy is an Irish expatriate who grew up on the family farm, Aille Cross, riding Connemara ponies and Irish sporthorses on Ireland’s Connemara Trail. He boasts an extensive background in show jumping, fox hunting and cross-country jumping as well.

He met Lindley after her mother bought a horse from him. She invited him to bring the horse to the U.S. for a competition, and while there, they struck up a relationship.

Having grown up with horses in the Southwest, Lindley was already competing successfully in dressage and attending events throughout the country.

The couple moved to Oregon from Illinois. This will be their second summer in Carlton.

They love the climate here, Lindley said, and just as importantly, so do their horses. Environment is very important for horses, she noted.

“In the Midwest, you often find yourself sweating in your jeans,” she said. “I wanted to find a farm where we could keep horses in the natural way.

“We don’t want to stable them. We want to keep our horses outside where they have room to roam.”

Oregon is perfect for horses, Lindley said. “It has a wonderful climate — low humidity, so relatively comfortable for both horse and rider,” she said.

The difference between American and English riding is a subtle one, Lindley said. But it is noticeable to experienced equestrians, who can tell the difference between Mr. Rochester in “Jane Eyre” and Mr. Andersen in “The Cowboys.”

“English riding is the style of riding for all of the competitions that involve fox hunting or jumping ,” she said. “It’s not necessarily an advantage. It’s just what we do.

“This is not a dude ranch. We don’t go on cattle drives and we don’t camp out. We stay in nice accommodations and enjoy fine food.”

But while the riders are pampered on this journey, the trip is not for the regularly pampered, Justin said. “You have to be a hard ass,” he said.

“It’s a lot of time in the saddle. The people who like that enjoy it. They want to feel like they accomplished something,”

Lindley said the experience is generally classified as intermediate. “It’s definitely not for beginners,” she said.

It typically takes six days to cover the 50 miles between Carlton and the end of the Nestucca River on the coast, Lindley said. If that sounds like too much time in the saddle, riders can always opt for a three-day ride, where they trot about the immediate area and enjoy the sights and tastes of wine country.

“We get to see a little bit of everything during the three-day rides,” Lindley said. “Riders get to see the wine country and farmland, and do some tasting as well. That goes well with all of the fabulous scenery.”

The couple lives on a 104-acre property just outside of Carlton, where they grow their own hay.

“We really liked Carlton because there are so many tourist amenities there,” Lindley said.

Justin noted, “When it’s 80 degrees here, you have a great day. You can ride a horse, have some wine and take a nap. I can’t think of a more perfect day.”

Rooster Cogburn would probably think he got into the wrong business.

More information about Willamette Coast Ride is available at the Leahys’ website at willamettecoastride.com.

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