We got to Middleton Place about 30 minutes early for our ride. You actually don't start from the stables, but from the visitor center, which is right in the parking lot. We checked in, and the girl told us we would start from near the gift shop, so we just wandered over. Much to our surprise, there were already four horses saddled up and waiting to go. One of the horses was beautiful and enormous! We all guessed that would be the horse our guide was riding. The other three were older and looked very gentle (good for us - we're no experts!).
After getting to know the horses a little, our guide arrived. Much to my delight, he put me on the big horse! His name was Chico, and he was the biggest non-draft horse I have ever seen. Our guide told me he was a retired polo pony, so I got to pretend I was an English aristocrat for a bit, which was fun.
The best thing about trail rides (except for the horses) is that you get to see parts of Middleton Place that other visitors don't. We got to go through deep, lush forests filled with unusual trees (and there were lots of mosquitoes - don't forget to douse yourself in bug spray). We also got to go along the banks of the Ashley River for a long time and went around a bunch of old rice fields. One of the rice fields was full of alligators. We must have seen at least 15 - it was crazy. One of the horses spooked a little, but it was the one our guide was riding, so there wasn't any trouble for us.
The back of a horse is a great place to see the nature of Middleton. For some reason, the birds and other animals don't seem to spook very much around horses. Maybe they can sense that they are other animals. Who knows? It worked out well for us, though. I got to see beautiful herons, ducks, egrets, and lots of other birds I couldn't identify.
Our tour was only supposed to last an hour, but we were riding for longer than that. Even if you are totally inexperienced, you could easily do this. The horses are very docile and calm. My dad's horse actually kept stopping to eat, which was hilarious. We kept an easy pace, and my horse only ran once, on the way up a steep hill. Anyone could do this.
They give you helmets and lessons if you need them. They only do rides for ages 10 and up, and kids have to be accompanied by an adult. I really, really enjoyed this. If you want to do something a little different and get a great view of the scenery and wildlife of Charleston, this is an activity I highly recommend. Call the visitor center for times and reservations.