Gulfside Trail Rides is Fun and Easy SoWal Adventure

November 8, 2011 by Gwen Break

After Karen Arnett retired from showing her Tennessee Walker horses, she and husband Tom Arnett decided to show them in a more practical way and share the joy they brought  by making them trail horses at the family farm. Now, SoWal visitors and residents alike can ride some of the most expensive trail horses found anywhere at Gulfside Trail Rides on south Scenic 393 in Santa Rosa Beach.

“Thousands of hours of training have gone into these horses,” said Chris Finley, ranch manager at Gulfside Trail Rides. No doubt about it, the breeding and training make for a blue ribbon riding horse.

Many families who have visited other stables have stories of at least one horse “acting up,” said Finley, but Gulfside Trail Rides is consistently complimented on the exemplary behavior of its horses. “It’s what allows children six or seven years old to ride after a short lesson in the arena.”

"From the calm walking horses to the galloping spirited animals, Gulfside has a horse to match any rider’s experience and riding pleasure," said Ann Parker, Finley’s partner in the day-to-day operations.

Trail rides are about an hour long and wind through more than 15,000 acres of the Point Washington State Forest adjacent to the horse farm. Cost is $50 per hour and a 10% locals' discount. Riders are encouraged to bring a camera for pictures after the ride. There is also a picnic pavilion riders can use. Families can make a day out of it.

While riding on the beach is prohibited by law, there is a water feature along most of the trails, said Parker. Additionally, riders can expect to see all manner of wildlife and fauna.

Plans are being finalized for a 16-site camping area with water and electricity to accommodate trailers, which they hope to open by early fall.

October feature’s the Pumpkin Festival, a family event featuring hayrides, pony rides and a bounce house. There will also be face painting, pumpkin painting, sand sculpting and petting of mini horses and a mini-mule named "Frank.” Cameras are encouraged. Last year’s festival featured approximately 1,200 pumpkins around the corral and stables. There will also be holiday events in December including the opportunity to purchase Christmas trees and a visit with Santa.

Such events are another aspect owners hope to cultivate. “Maybe somebody has a wedding on the beach, then meet over here for a reception. We just want people to be able to enjoy the natural setting we have here,” said Parker. “Birthday parties, corporate functions ... .”

Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday – Saturday. Reservations are encouraged as rides are limited in number. Reach them at (850) 208-3114 or


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Gwen Break loves to write and she loves to keep up with almost everyone and almost everything going on in South Walton.

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