The local horse riding community received a gift of sorts with the opening of Croatan Trail Adventures, a guided trail ride business located on Lewis Farm Road just west of Havelock near Carolina Pines.

The trail ride winds through the 300-acre Magnolia Plantation Trail Preserve, located across the street from Caballo Stables, which owners Edward and Sandra Lloyd have run for the past 15 years.

“Yeah, we know a little something about horses,” Edward Lloyd said, climbing down from one of the nine trail horses he and his wife spent the better part of a year searching for before opening their new business.

With his handlebar moustache and lanky frame, Edward certainly looks the part of a movie cowboy.

“One of the reasons we started this was our love of horses,” he explained. “Sandra and I have been trail riding for years and years. And this is a big tourist area. You’ve got New Bern, and you’ve got Morehead and Beaufort. So the tourists are looking for something to do. The only other trail ride we knew of was in Cedar Island and one place in Jacksonville. Other than that I don’t know of any place doing what we’re doing.”

The Lloyds decided last August to start Croatan Trail Adventures “after thinking about it hard for two years,” said Edward.

“So then we started on the hunt to try and find horses. We have looked, rode, scratched them off the list. We went through I don’t know how many horses before we came up with the ones we have. We came across a lot of horses that were just too high strung.”

Edward said his team has been riding their current crop of horses on the trail for about three months.

“They’re nice, laid back horses,” said Sandra. “We want to make it pleasurable for the inexperienced people and the experienced people.”

Edward said he and his staff, which includes four full-time wranglers, lead six riders out a time.

“They’ll be a total of nine horses on the trail ride,” he commented. “ We’ll have a lead wrangler, which will be me, a wrangler in the middle, and then one at the end, just in case anyone has a problem or starts to feel uncomfortable.”

Croatan Trail Adventures is open Saturdays and Sundays. They offer three rides a day, at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m., at $50 per person. Riders must be at least 10 years old.

Riders should allow a total of two hours for the complete trail ride experience, which covers checking in, basic riding instruction, and about one hour on the trail.

“When we get a new rider, they kind of give us an idea about their skill level, if they’ve ever been on a horse before or if they’re skilled riders, so it kind of gives us an idea of how to match their abilities up with our string of horses we’ve got here,” said Sandra.

According to Edward, the trail carries riders through a variety of terrain. “It’s not just flatland. We try to give everybody a western experience, to see what it’s like to see the country on horseback. We get out on some really nice trails that border Anderson Creek, which eventually runs into Slocum Creek and then into the Neuse River.”

Croatan Trail Adventures also offers hiking trails and what the Lloyds describe as “primitive camping.”

“You’re not going to drive out there. You bring your supplies, and we will pack them on a horse and we’ll take you and all your stuff to the campground by horseback. We provide the tents, we provide a porta-john, non-drinkable water supply, and wood for the fire pit. “

Camping is $90 per person per night. Hiking is $10 per day.

“We offer a connection back to nature. And just a chance to ride a horse. You see it on TV, you see it on Facebook … here we give everybody the chance to come up and know Billy and Rocky and Sonny and Skip and Scout and Chase and Dusty,” Edward said, pointing to the horses lined up outside the riding arena.

“One of the things we do is tell everyone to turn their cell phones off. We don’t want that distraction when we’re out on the trail. This is about getting out in nature.”

Croatan Trail Adventure is located at 200 Lewis Farm Road, New Bern

Contact them at 241-3456 or through their website at www.croatantrailadventures.com.