View NY Times Article on Airport Rangers by Genie Stewart-Spears

Unique is an understatement when describing Cypress Trails, a private facility in Humble (pronounced “Umble”), a suburb of Houston, Texas.  From pony rides to birthday parties and pleasure rides to challenging all-day ‘Adventure Rides’ with meals included, your wish is just a phone call away.  You can even lease the facility all day for private parties or corporate outings.

Located six miles by vehicle and one mile by trail from George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Cypress Trails offers mild, sandy trails (great for gaiting or training horses!) as well as more challenging trails for the adventuresome riders.  The surrounding Harris County parkland and nearby airport property offer close to 85 miles of trail.  Fifty of those miles are on Houston airport property and you must have security clearance to access these trails.

“If you want to ride the airport property, you may apply for a one-day liability release pass.  Otherwise, apply several weeks in advance for an Airport Ranger badge that is good for three years,” she added.

The Houston Airport System (HAS), in cooperation with Cypress Trails and other surrounding horse people, established Airport Rangers in 2003.  The mounted patrol has access to the trails in the undeveloped and secluded acreage surrounding the 11,000-acre airport property.  Riders cleared for using these trails must carry a cell phone and have the required phone numbers to alert law enforcement of any suspicious activities.

“Surprisingly, the horses aren’t as frightened of the big planes landing and taking off as one would think,” says Cypress Trail’s owner Darolyn Butler.  “Of course, living near the airport, the planes are part of our horses’ everyday life.”

Even if you don’t ride on the airport property, the many trails along Cypress and Spring Creek are worth your time. It is like being in two worlds at once – riding secluded trails under the canopy of pine trees, surrounded by thick scrub undergrowth active with wildlife and birds while in the middle of suburbia. And wildlife such as bobcats, armadillos, water birds, barred owls, bald eagles and even a cougar have been spotted in the piney woods.

Cypress Trails has easy access for large rigs, but there is limited parking/camping on an acre of land at the front of the 10-acre Cypress Trails Ranch.  However, expansion for incoming rigs and overnighters is being considered.

It is not necessary, but you might find it more rewarding to hire one of the wranglers to guide you on the trails the first time.  Of course, if you are renting a horse, a wrangler always goes along.

Whether you want to take the airport excursion or just ride the winding trails along Cypress and Spring Creek, you can bring your own horse or rent one of the many stable horses.  And these aren’t ordinary stable horses.  While owner Darolyn Butler offers paints, appaloosas, Spanish mustangs and draft type on her string, she also offers the use of her personal endurance horses that are Arabians and part-Arabians.

“When people ask why I call it ‘Adventure Trail Rides,’ I always smile and tell them that is because we use Arabians,” Darolyn said with a grin.  “Actually, it is almost a necessity.  Our heat and humidity are so great from May through October that most other breeds just fold if asked to go all day long, especially if trotting or cantering.  The Arabians are amazing in their ability to carry light to heavy riders and work all day.

It is the Arabian horses that have carried Butler to National and International acclaim and that provide the base for Cypress Trails’ rental/lease string.   Everything in Darolyn’s life revolves around endurance riding under the American Endurance Ride Conference (AERC) (www.aerc.org).

“Renting my competition horses out helps keep them in condition,” Darolyn said,  “and it thrills people to be able to say they have ridden a champion endurance horse!

“I could never, even with the help of two extra riders, keep the quality of condition and the number of horses going without our riding customers helping me maintains their exercise.  This business also allows the horses to be trained under the ‘long, slow distance’ method that we all promote in our sport,” she stated.

Along with Adventure Trail Rides of one hour to all day, lessons are also offered to children and adults.  Unlike lessons in most facilities that are given in a riding arena, at Cypress Trails the lessons are given on the nearby forest trails.  Real obstacles like ravine crossings and logs on the trail quickly let the rider understand why balance, good hands and seat are so important.  Young and old find it fun as their lesson hour quickly passes with all the changes in scenery and footing.  Most lessons are made up of three or less riders, and they are grouped according to skill level.  That way, no one is slowed down or frustrated by others of unequal skill being in the class.

“And,” says Darolyn, “you don’t have to come on a regular schedule for lessons.  You can buy a 12-hour block and take two lessons one week, skip a week or month, and come back as your schedule allows.  This is more freedom than most stables offer.”

People come from all over the United States and foreign countries to learn about endurance riding at Cypress Trails where endurance clinics are held.  Riders may bring their own horses or lease a Cypress Trail’s horse for a one-day mini clinic or five-day, in-depth clinics.  You will learn, first hand, how to care for and pace your horse and all the ‘inside’ secrets in addition to the correct horsemanship necessary to compete. For those wanting to try competition, on their own horse or the leased horse, they can even compete under the mentorship of Darolyn and her daughter CeCi Butler- Stasiuk.

You can’t help but enjoy Darolyn’s company and riding at Cypress Trails.   Just wait until you see her galloping down the trail, reins in her teeth, cell phone at her ear and long-handled pruning shears lopping off overgrown vines and pine branches!  One of her regular trail riders aptly described her, “Darolyn is a female counterpart of John Wayne!”

At Cypress Trails the veteran as well as beginners can find enjoyment.  Young riders may apply for internships or a day camp and older, novice riders can participate the FFF Clinics:  Female (although some men participate); Free (children are grown and gone); and Forty (but younger and older than 40 attend).   These FFF Clinics are designed for people who always wanted to ride but never took the time or that now have the economic ability to ride when years before they didn’t.

Whether you are an experienced or novice rider, whether you bring your own horse or rent a horse, Cypress Trails should be on your list of places to visit and ride.  There’s no place like it, and you will want to return again and again!

SIDEBAR: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH DAROLYN BUTLER

Cypress Trails’ owner Darolyn Butler has turned her love for horses and people into a business that has riders and wannabe riders flocking to her stable.  Born and reared in Oklahoma, Darolyn was a true cowgirl, competing in horse shows and barrel racing and in 1971 crowned Miss Rodeo Oklahoma.  Her beauty and pose led her to a job as Miss Ford Country, an advertising campaign for Ford Motor Company, after which she represented Tony Lama Boot Company.  The job with Tony Lama required a move to Houston, Texas area, where she has built her Cypress Trails business.

With over 26,000 endurance miles and several National Championships to her credit, Darolyn easily holds the record for bringing new members into AERC.  A number of riders who started at Cypress Trails have risen to top standings in endurance after a visit and consequently mentoring by Darolyn Butler at Cypress Trails.  Darolyn’s positive can-do attitude helped a young woman get through the medical treatment for breast cancer and consequently the purchase of her beloved horse that carried her to heights in endurance she never dreamed of reaching.

A few years ago, 11-year-old Elizabeth Russell started riding casually but soon bought a horse from Darolyn and went on to win the 2005 AERC Junior National Championship.

Laura Stoicescu started training at Cypress Trails when she was 14 years old and has since represented Romania in several international competitions, including the World Championship in 1998.

It wasn’t until 1995 that the country of Chili became involved in the sport of endurance riding.  Darolyn Butler was instrumental in putting a team together, training them on her horses, and coaching them to a fourth-place finish in the team competition at the 1996 World Championships.

This experience led Chilean Pedro Pablo Gomez to spend several months training at Cypress Trails before returning to compete and train other riders for national and international competitions.

Darolyn’s youngest daughter, CeCi Butler-Stasiuk, competing since she was 4 years old, has been four-time National Champion and represented the U.S. in the 2003 Junior World Championship in Italy.  CeCi’s horsemanship knowledge serves her well as she works in partnership with her mother in the everyday operation of Cypress Trails.

Darolyn’s expertise in endurance riding has taken her around the world in competition and on the lecture stand.  She has instructed and coached riders in Brazil, United Arab Emirates and riders from Japan, Romania, Spain and Portugal.  Darolyn even rode with HRH Sheik Khalid Bin Sultan Al Nahyan through his first two 100-mile competitions, the Biltmore Challenge and the Canadian Championship in 2004, on Cypress Trail’s horses.

In 1996, Darolyn Butler won the Gold Medal in the World Nature Games in Parana, Brazil. Native Mangalarga horses were provided to the riders and chosen by lottery.  Each rider had two horses to alternate on the six-day ride through the scenic Foz do Iguassu area.  Darolyn not only won the Gold Medal and $10,000.00, but also her horses won first and second place in the Best Condition Awards!

The first to produce a horse magazine on video, Horseman Video Magazine, and John Lyons’ first training videos, Darolyn has also produced 40 30-minute television shows and her own “Long Distance Riding” video.  She has worked with such famed people as Patrick Swayze, Linda Tellington-Jones, Martha Josey, ropers Roy Cooper and Walt Woodard and trainers John Lyons, Joe Heim and Craig Johnson.

Although she has traveled around the world and socialized with celebrities, Butler is a very down to earth person and one of those people you enjoy listening to and learning from.  “My most favorite trail in the world is in my own back yard,” stated Darolyn.  “There’s nothing better than riding my local trails and splashing through Spring Creek, with its white, sandy beaches and towering pines.”

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