Category Archives: What’s New At Thomas Divide

Latest news from The Settlement at Thomas Divide, an Equine Community in the beautiful Smoky Mountains of Western North Carolina.

Oh the good old days

stream under Listing cozyI wonder how many of you have the pleasure of having an old outhouse in your back yard. Perched over the creek, you could have sat side by side with your partner, discussing your plans for the day. Come visit us in the mountains, we are closer to nature than you think!


TREC Clinic, enjoy a great weekend at Thomas Divide….

About a year ago I first heard of a relatively new equine discipline to the USA called TREC.   In the past I have fox hunted, but when I moved to North Carolina this was no longer practical, so I took up Endurance Riding.   I will always be sorry that I did not start this when I was younger, I never got beyond the Limited Distance ride of about 25 miles, oh to have done a 100 miler!   These days neither Andre, my horse, nor I, are up to that!   It is a wonderful sport, with truly dedicated riders.   So, when I learned about TREC it seemed just the ticket, fun, challenging in different ways, but still offered a goal which I love to have in my riding.    Mary Harcourt who lives in Aberdeen NC, formed what I believe is the largest club in America TREC-USA.   She and several of her club members will be coming to Thomas Divide the first weekend in October, to share their expertise with us.    Mary and her team are currently in Portugal competing against the top European teams, at the 2012 TREC World Championships.

S, what is TREC?    It is an international equestrian sport that tests the skills, confidence and abilities of horses and riders, or driving teams, over various terrains and obstacles.   The three phases of TREC competition include Trail Orienteering, control of Paces, and a Cross-Country Obstacle Course.

The first phase, Orienteering requires the horse and rider to follow the official course using a map and compass.   You are given a blank map and an allotted amount of time in which to copy the route before you start.   This is a timed event, so knowing how fast your horse travels at any given gait is important.   You will be helped with this calculation.  Unknown checkpoints are placed on the trail and riders must pass through them in the correct order and from the correct direction.   Traveling too fast or too slow loses points, as does missing a checkpoint.

Phase two is designed to demonstrate that the rider can exercise a degree of influence over the horse first in a canter, then in a walk following a straight line course of 150 meters long and 2-4 meters wide. The concept is that the slower the horse travels at the canter, and the faster at the walk, the greater the marks awarded. A shortened course of less than 150 meters is sometimes used and if the terrain prohibits a straight line track, then a curved track can be adopted.

The third phase is the Obstacle Course.  This phase, which is generally 1km to 5kms long, is the cross-country obstacle course, and is seen as the most exciting and popular phase for spectators. While this phase does include some cross-country jumping, the size of the obstacles is set according to the level of competition and each obstacle is optional and does not incur elimination if bypassed.

The course also includes some tasks which must be undertaken while dismounted, as well as tests of obedience and calmness. It is designed to give an indication of the horse/rider’s suitability to cope with the kind of obstacles and difficulties that might be encountered while riding in the countryside, and demonstrate the partnership working calmly and efficiently together.

There are four levels of competition, with Level 1 being the simplest and Level 4 the most challenging.   At our clinic we will be offering Level 1.

The clinic will be run on Saturday October 6, starting at 10.0 am, at a cost, including breakfast of $12.00.   We are offering a three night special for accommodation at the property for this event, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, at for example, $35.00 for a hook up, or $15.00 for a primitive camp site.   Please call Carol at 828 788 3648 for information, or check our events calendar on the web for all details,                             

Do the Smoky Mountains really Smoke?

It certainly seems that way on many an early morning.   As the sun rises, so does the mist.  There are times when the mist shrouds all the mountain tops, and then magically the peaks appear through the mist which hovers in the valley. On an early ride or hike up through the property, one often breaks through the mist into a lovely sunny morning, and as one climbs higher, it almost feels like one is looking out of an airplane window at the clouds below.

The Park is a total of 494,200 acres, home to more than 3,500 plant species, 130 species of trees, plus many endangered animals. including 31 different species of salamander!   The elevations in the Park vary from 876 feet to 6,643 feet.   This great variety of natural changes in terrain is comparable to the changes one would find traveling from Tennessee to Canada.   One finds plants and animals common to the country’s northeast in the higher elevations, with southern species in the balmier lower reaches.

Before the arrival of the European settlers to this region, it was the homeland of the Cherokee Indians.   The Frontiers people began to settle the land in the 18th and early 19th century, many of Scottish decent.   It was President Jackson who signed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, eventually resulting in the removal of most Cherokee people to Oklahoma.   A few Cherokee remained in hiding in the Smoky Mountains, their leader a warrior named Tsali, a tale to be told another day.   Descendents of these original warriors now live in the Qualla Boundary, adjoining the south side of the Park

With the arrival of the white settlers logging grew into a major industry.   Unfortunately these loggers with their “cut and run style” of logging, were fast destroying the natural beauty of the mountains.   This practices was also creating huge run offs of silt, blocking the rivers all the way to the coast.   The US National Park Service wanted to create an Eastern park, but were lacking in funds to do so.   Congress dedicated the idea of a National Park On May 22, 1926, but it took a $5 million donation from John D Rockefeller Jr. with an additional $2 million from the government to start the ball rolling.      Many private citizens, including writer Horace Kephart, a resident of Bryson City, also contributed funds, great energy and dedication to make it happen.    The Park then became a recipient of many of the programs during the Great Depression.  The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works  Progress Administration,  and other federal programs were responsible for the building of the trails, fire watchtowers, and other infrastructure improvements, which we still enjoy.

And so today, we have the joy of living here in Bryson City, on the south (quiet) side of the park, enjoying this incredible diversity of nature.   Each season brings a whole new world of things to see and enjoy, views expand or contract, another bloom is spotted on the trail.   Come visit one of the most beautiful places on earth.

Mingo Falls: One of the Tallest Waterfalls in Western North Carolina

The trail to Mingo Falls is only 1/4 mile, but heads up about 160 stairs, levels off, and ends at a small wooden bridge that crosses Mingo Creek in front of the falls.Mingo Falls

Mingo Falls Bridge

This bridge serves as a great viewing area.

At 120 feet tall, the waterfall is one of the tallest and most spectacular in the southern Appalachians. To get there, follow Big Cove Road out of Cherokee approximately 4.5 miles where you’ll see a small sign to make a right turn into a campground where the trailhead is.

Yoga on horseback……are you nuts!

Does a picture come to mind of upside down dog on the back of a horse? One might wonder if one would survive that one!   But come to the “Yoga of Horsemanship” clinic at Thomas Divide on Saturday September 8 and find out. Cathy Woods will be leading us through a fun and interactive workshop, come “grow, live, love, learn….about yourself, your horse, your awareness…about your balance (inner and outer!)….about nature and life force energy that flows through all things.”

For more information on the clinic please contact Cathy at 828 479 9373, or   To spend the weekend at Thomas Divide, we are offering two nights for the price of one for this great clinic, call Carol at 828 788 3648 or  Look forward to seeing you all upside down!

Western North Carolina A Favorite Destination for Floridians

Western North Carolina’s mountain country is a favorite summer and fall destination for  Floridians. Several factors fuel this desire, including cooler milder weather, less traffic, lower real estate prices, and significantly lower property tax and insurance for home owners. They like it because it’s not flat, its elevation keeps temperatures cooler than at home, and there are things to do there they’ll never experience in their home state.

Mountain vistas here are breathtaking, at any time of year. Mountain crafters and artisans create unique items you won’t find anywhere else. A multitude of outdoor adventures await, including waterfalls, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, scenic tours, hiking, and boating. And a mountain-induced laid-back attitude is pervasive.

Equestrian Leave No Trace Training

Friends of the Smokies recently sponsored an equestrian Leave No Trace training clinic in conjunction with the Back Country Horsemen of Big Creek. The clinic was designed for backcountry horse packing was held in the Big Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, in Haywood County, NC.

Equestrian Leave No Trace

Photo courtesy of Friends of the Smokies

The Leave No Trace program lays out guidelines for protecting the wilderness while still enjoying it and taking in its natural beauty. Students are taught how to pack mules and horses in the safest, mot efficient manner possible. The course includes an overnight trip, during which students can practice their newly acquired packing skills.

“Leave No Trace is about preserving our privilege to use stock on public lands by learning to minimize our impacts as much as possible,” said Bob Hoverson, a professional horse packer for more than 40 years who taught the clinic.

For more informational about horse-oriented Leave No Trace presentations, call Christine Hoyer at 828.497.1949 or Melissa Cobern at 865.436.1264.