ELIZABETHTOWN - Wendy Daugherty came to Southern Illinois to be near her family, and once she was here, a love for horses put her in business as the owner of Honeybee Stables.
Through the scenic trails of Shawnee National Forest, Daugherty offers clients a unique opportunity to view Hardin County in a way often underappreciated by those reluctant to saddle up.
"Why would I do anything else?" she said. "I just sit on a horse all day and enjoy it."
The scenery of Shawnee National Forest's Rock Creek Canyon trails are arguably unrivaled in beauty and opportunity for new and exciting experiences for most new riders or riders new to the area.
The trails offer something for everyone, including horses just looking for a cool drink from the stream and grass for afternoon snack.
"They work so hard," she said about her trail horses. "They just want to please you."
Daugherty offers a number of services, including whole- or half-day trips and shorter trips if desired. A picnic lunch is provided to combat the hunger brought on by several hours of relaxing horseback riding.
While on the trails, riders and their horses zigzag through the rocky formations in the forest, cross flowing streams where horses stop for a sip and get an easy life up steep hills that overlook the treeline of the canyon.
"You get a different view from a horse," she said. "You're up higher, and you can see things and take it all in. It's a fun and unique way to see the forest."
But, horseback riding isn't the only nature-oriented excursions offered at Honeybee, which was named after the idea of someone's honey, or significant other.
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"We cater mostly to couples," she said. "But we get families, and we do get some kids in the summertime and on spring break."
A large teepee sits on the grounds of the stables and can be rented for camping for families or couples. Complete with an inside fire pit, outdoor grill and much more, Daugherty said the unique lodging is the perfect end to a long day of horseback riding, rock climbing or motorcycle riding tours, which are available at Honeybee.
"I love it here," Daugherty said as she rode down one of the many trails, which, several hours in, never presented another person. "It's quiet, and you don't have a bunch of other people. I've always loved them (horses), and we enjoy it."
Starting to ride at age 5, Daugherty said her previous residency in California isn't a match for the wholesome lifestyle she now enjoys in Hardin County.
"When you are a little kid you get horse crazy, and some people say it's like an illness," she laughed. "I just never got over it."
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Honeybee Stables is in rural Hardin County between Elizabethtown and Cave-In-Rock. Contact owner Wendy Daugherty at 866-0194 or 618-636-8059 for more detailed directions.
Honeybee Stables can be found online at www.honeybeestables.com.
Honeybee offers patrons the opportunity to experience nature in the saddle, rock climb or see beautiful views on guided motorcycle routes.