Phebe Callaway Wahl was appointed the first-ever executive director of the Bedford Riding Lanes Association in June. An avid rider since the age of seven, she grew up riding with the famous Middleburg Hunt in Virginia. As a member of the Callaway family, she has conservation and a passion for nature in her blood. She brings to the BRLA a wealth of horse and trail riding knowledge alongside two decades managing communications, budgets, events, and community outreach in the publishing world.
How are you prepared for this role?
My husband and I hike the trails every weekend. Our three children enjoy the trails with us. The BRLA and the equestrian community in Bedford are the main reasons we moved to Bedford. Our home overlooks Courtyard Farm and has access to the Broad Brook and Guard Hill trails. I grew up riding and competing on the Florida circuit, and then at school I would ride with the Middleburg Hunt. That was really good for me, because I am naturally quite shy and probably more of a timid rider. My best life skills, career-wise, have come from riding. I was thrown at nearly every jump at shows, and it took resilience to get back on every time.
What are the BRLA’s goals for the future?
Our first challenge is a membership drive. We hope to re-engage the community and grow our membership back to the BRLA’s glory days. Currently we are at around 150 members, and we hope to amp that up to more like 500 members by the end of 2020. We are working really hard to reinvigorate the equestrian community and help reverse the decline in backyard barn and horse ownership.
How will you expand the non-riding membership?
We plan to offer guided hikes with experts to explore all the flora and fauna of the trails. We have added a walk/run to our annual, fall Hunter Pace September 8, so that we will have activities for both riders and non-riders. All of our events are family-friendly.
Something you think we might not know about the BRLA?
The trails were originally cleared a century ago to make accommodation for the Fairfield-Westchester Hunt. A group of private horsemen and landowners formed the Private Lanes Association so that riders could avoid the paved roads and increasing car traffic of the 1920s. The trail system grew, and this group eventually became the BRLA.
Any tips for first-time lane visitors?
For our hiking members, I recommend starting with the Glebe trails behind St. Matthew’s Church. You cross a beautiful wooden bridge and then there is an easy loop to take with nice inclines to get that heart pumping. For a special ride or hike, the Beaver Dam trails are magical with all the water crossings. Also, we hike the trails all four seasons. We do it in the deep snow, which is just breathtaking.
What was your reaction the first time you visited the trails?
The BRLA is this whole other world that you don’t even realize is there. My husband likes to joke that we “died and went to Bedford.” The lanes are heaven on Earth for me. There is a reason why scientific research shows how healing nature can be. It calms you. It’s an instant reset. And who doesn’t need that reset?