Trail Diva: How Wendy Preble Led the Way
I first met Wendy Preble when I came to the area last January on a reconnaissance mission from Vermont.
I always said that when the backdrop of mountains and pristine blue sky no longer caused my heart to sing I would be done with cold country living, and after 17 winters of slipping and sliding my way to the barn no matter how much de-icer I used, the time had come.
I called up some Southern Pines friends and accepted their long-standing invitation to “c’mon down,” and I hopped on a flight to Raleigh with high hopes of trading in a Northern address for a Southern one.
As I was treated to the deluxe guided tour, I immediately noticed how easy everything “horse” seemed to be. I visualized never again having to chip ice out of the electric water buckets because the power went off in the middle of the night, again. And I sighed with relief at the thought of no more frozen toes and fingers despite having amassed a small arsenal of arctic weather gear.
Oh, and not having to tackle the daily blanketing dilemma? I imagined all the time I would be saving; I could do something easy instead, like unravel the mystery of quantum physics.
But all that aside, it was the vast expanse and spectacular beauty of the Sandhills trail system that really had me dreaming. While I’m a dressage rider, my plans don’t include cantering up the center line anytime soon, so I could do my stuff and then wander on the trails.
How cool is that?
However, I quickly learned that while the community can enjoy endless hours on the Walthour-Moss Foundation’s acres, it’s getting to them that can be rather tricky, or a long trek at any rate, until Wendy Preble turned her twinkling blue-eyed gaze to the situation.
Preble had been the guiding light that fostered the now famous Tewksbury Trails Association in Hunterdon County, N.J.,where she lived before creating a 13-acre piece of horse heaven with husband, Steve, just off Lake Bay Road some 18 years ago. Here, she quickly saw an opportunity to do what she does best. With steely determination masked by an infectious smile, Preble went about “making friends.”
That she’d get property owners to see the benefits of opening their land to riders and drivers was practically a done deal from the start; that became clear to me when she opened the door with a “Hi” and a hug. I was instantly welcomed into the fold, and befiting her British heritage, settled down with one of her newly rescued dogs in my lap for “a nice cup of tea.”
Recounting the origins of her passion for all things horse and trail in New Jersey, she laughed as she said, “It began quite innocently. A group of hikers contacted me about creating walking trails.”
Preble obliged them by asking around, but was quickly greeted with a resounding “No,” although her neighbors would consent to putting in equestrian trails, as most were horse owners themselves.
“And so the seed was planted,” she recalls.
Inspired by the notion of ambling from farm to farm, she enlisted a group of like-minded riders who helped promote the idea, which focused on community spirit, a safe environment in which to ride, and the potential to increase land values.
“It all came together in such a lovely way; neighbors connected with neighbors, we developed a wonderful network of trails, and our home prices literally skyrocketed.”
In fact, the initiative proved to be so successful, the Tewksbury Planning Board and later the New Jersey Trails Commission invited her to take part as their official equestrian spokesperson, positions she held until moving south.
So, it was natural that Preble would take the show on the road. Thanks to her boundless energy and disarming manner, together with a razor-sharp ability to get the job done, she created a campaign that centered on gaining access to the Foundation.
Before long, she had the Horse Country community on board — new friends were made, culverts were donated, markers were posted, and trails, wide enough for carriages, were installed.
Now, not only is there the access to the Foundation Preble had envisioned, but you can ride for more than two hours on private trails without having to cross a main road.
And, having realized my goal of moving to “Equine Mecca,” I can attest that Preble not only knows each and every trail by heart, she knows where we should walk, trot and canter.
It’s not unusual for her to call out from four horses back, “Be careful, there are roots ahead, we better slow down.” And, she’s right, without fail.
I’m lucky to be riding with the Trail Diva, who’s patiently showing me the ropes. “Take a left. No dear, the other left!”
More like this story