The Natural Gait - Northeast Iowa Log Cabin Lodging

Guest Testimonials

The following are some unsolicited comments from our guests.

10 years ago today, I was picked up from the Bus station in Madison, Wisconsin - jet lagged and excited out of my mind to be spending 3 months with you guys learning and working with your gorgeous horses and the other interns. It's an experience I'll never forget, and will be forever grateful for. I honestly can't believe it's been so long - so much is still so clear in my memory! Please pass on my regards to everyone - I still miss you guys!"                              Jill  via Facebook  

"Thank you so very much for all your hard work and care given to take care of the cabins and making them so nice for us to stay in. You do a fabulous job cleaning the cabins and take care of everything."
 Sue, Anne, Clare & Marie      

Natural Gait Poem by Carlie Starry

The Natural Gait is calling our names
Tonight I will dream of the roaring flames,

I dream of bald eagles soaring above
Outside with my buddies, brotherly love

I dream of steaks and morels
And horses in their corrals

I dream of deer breaking the morning fog
And Josie jumping through dead leaves and logs

I dream of the yellow river we sail through
We paddle along in a yellow canoe

Here we come, to the gait
Wisconsin friends, do not be late.

To Linda and staff at The Natural Gait and Ion Exchange:

We truly enjoyed our 5 nights gift in the Lofty Haven.  The area is beautiful and we explored the state parks in the area and had wonderful meals at restaurants with outdoor patios overlooking the river.  We really enjoyed the cabin porch time.

We were amazed at the Ion exchange tour (thank you, Julie), and plan to report to the Muscatine Master Gardeners at the next meeting about this wonderful business which promotes native seeds and plants.

With our appreciation,

Jan and Bill,
West Liberty, Iowa

Happy Participants at Doc Hammill Clinic

I would like to express my apparition for the warm loving welcome we received. We attend Doc. Hammill clinic this past week ( June 23-26). Natural Gait created a great learning envirment. Howard and Donna, hats off to you. your facility and staff are just wonderful. This allowed us the opportunity to tap into the great mind of Doc. Hammill. How great to be able to attend this year’s clinic. Because Doc. has a great knowledge of the animal and great way sharing it to us. I am sure that the environment that you all created helps him. Thank you for hosting a great clinic, can’t say it enough. I’ve been expressing the joy that I felt to everyone.
Sending you Love from Kansas,
Matthew Romero

Hi guys,
Learning horsemanship from Doc Hammill is an honor. The techniques I have learned from his clinics have not only helped me with horse driving and riding, but dealing with stressful situations in life as well. Doc’s wisdom, when shared with my daughter over the phone even helped her deal w/a hard to milk dairy goat that stood for milking without hobbles for the first time this year! Thanks Doc and God bless!
Thanks to the Gait for bringing Doc to us & our animals.
Mindy Zinthefer
Plymouth, WI

To Linda and staff at The Natural Gait and Ion Exchange:

We truly enjoyed our 5 nights gift in the Lofty Haven.  The area is beautiful and we explored the state parks in the area and had wonderful meals at restaurants with outdoor patios overlooking the river.  We really enjoyed the cabin porch time.

We were amazed at the Ion exchange tour (thank you, Julie), and plan to report to the Muscatine Master Gardeners at the next meeting about this wonderful business which promotes native seeds and plants.

With our appreciation,

Jan and Bill,
West Liberty, Iowa

customer comments

A Special Story

Last year I won a bid for a stay at the Natural Gait for 2 people at the Harpers Ferry Fire Dept Game Feed Auction. It turned out to be the best purchase I have ever made at one of these auctions.

My friend Debbie was very ill and fighting Pancreatic Cancer. She would never talk to any of us about her illness, she was a very private person. So know one knew how short of time we really had left with her. After her sons graduation in may of 07, I asked her to join me to stay at the Ion Inn to relax after all the work she had done getting ready for the graduation. I believe it was the 1st part of June that we stayed. We both loved it.

Watching the birds, chipmunks and the doe with 2 small fawns, I don't think either one of us could wipe the smiles off our faces the whole time staying there. Debbie was one who loved gardening and enjoyed your natural prairie habitat immensely. We took short walks to enjoy everything the Natural Gait had to offer. Debbie was very weak but made it clear she was not going to miss a thing to see. Sitting by the fire that evening and watching the smile that never left her face is something that will never leave my mind. She was up very early the next morning writing in her diary, listening to the birds, watching the animals. She said it was so peaceful and really hated to have to leave that morning. Right before we left she wrote in the visitors book that lays on the table by the sofa.

 I did not get to read what she had written, but just looking at her face and smile said it all. Debbie Govier passed away August 10, 2007. I was with her that evening for a couple of hours before she passed away. We were able to talk some when she could that evening. One of the last things she said to me was "I'll never forget our stay at the Ion Inn and hope to go back there some day." I believe she was able to return and enjoy it one more time. Thank you for something I will be able to hold in my heart the rest of my days.

I'm hoping to make it back to the Natural Gait again to enjoy it and remember Debbie as she was then.

Yours Truly, Elaine Mahr

Gaited Gang at the Gait - By Patt Hagge

For friends who love to ride horses, explore, and have fun, but don’t have the time, or campers to travel to distant places, the Natural Gait is our place of choice. The first time we drove up there (and I do mean UP there) we were just amazed. Since it is in our home state of Iowa, going up hill for 20 minutes is not something we experience often. Pulling up to the entrance and looking down into the hollow has the feeling of coming home. The setting brings you to the top of a horseshoe hill looking over a farm, pond, and arenas nestled into the valley below. If you stay on the hilltop, the road takes you to 3 log cabins on the ridge. Close by are 30 outdoor 12 x 12 covered pole stalls, and electric hook ups for campers. Everything you need for your horse including a bale of shavings, muck buckets, pitch forks, and water is provided. When you board your horse, it is a real pleasure to go outside anytime and check on your best friend and mount. Seeing what our horses stayed in was a pleasure, but seeing where we got to stay was heaven.

Now I have to give you some background. From personal experience, I am very suspicious and skeptical when rental units are mentioned. My friends and I have stayed in some real dumps that give a whole new meaning to "roughing it" indoors. For some reason, many horse campgrounds that have a few rental cabins think horse people only need the basics. You know, a roof and a bed. Period. Some don’t even think you need sheets or pillows. I’m not asking for the Ritz, just clean and decent, something the owners would feel comfortable sleeping in. When I’m outside and life requires hard things, I can do that. I expect that. But, when I’m staying indoors, I would prefer sheets instead ants in the bed, and rugs not cockroaches on the floor. Sometimes it has felt cleaner outside than in, and certainly smelled that way. Log cabins, in my mind, have always been the epitome of rustic and casual. These don’t disappoint. They are fully furnished with great style in a western motif without being kitsch. There is a nice bathroom, fully equipped kitchen, and very decent beds. Everything you could need is provided, including linens and plenty of towels. All the furniture and beds are log framed. We spend lots of time laughing about coming down the ladder to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. It must be the domino effect. Those sleeping downstairs laugh at all the legs and arms coming out of the ceiling. There is space for all 7 of us to gather in the main room together. I believe all the cabins will sleep 8 in beds, with a sofa sleeper also available. None of those futons with a 2" foam piece as an excuse for a bed. The middle cabin has a bedroom with a double and a bunk in it. You get something special with each cabin. They all have their own picnic table and fire pit that we use nightly, sometimes to cook by, and other times to sit by. TNG also has the Ion Inn down in the valley close to the river. This sleeps 12, but only has stalls for 4 horses. Non-horse people use this for groups that come up to canoe the river, or whatever non-horse people do to entertain themselves. What could be more entertaining than horses? No matter what, the atmosphere is wonderful, and their managers helpful. Each of the cabins has a porch. One of the favorite parts of the Grand View cabin is the porch that overlooks the Yellow River below. It is the only cabin with this view because the trees have been trimmed out for power lines. The view is breathtaking, and has been the background for many pictures. The other porches look into the treetops. When the weather is bad or the horses need a rest (wink, wink), we spend our time on the porch solving the world’s problems and eating, playing games, eating, dipping into the coolers, did I mention eating or occasionally chasing off the local raccoon that wants to eat the fruit from our coolers. Since this is northern Iowa, not the middle of a state forest, there is not unlimited riding. But, there are miles and miles of riding on their property and adjoining private acres. Each year they seem to add more. They work hard keeping the trails up. The hills are steep and challenging, the water crossing wide and fun, and the terrain varied. Each fall the Natural Gait hosts a major trail ride for some group such as the American Quarter Horse Association. We have never gotten tired of the trails but have trailered to the Yellow River State Forest 20 minutes away with 25 miles of trails. Also, a half hour away across the Mississippi in Prairie du Chien , WI there is La Riviere, and the Children's Home where many trail and endurance rides are run. Both offer some very fun riding. Everything in this part of the country is hilly because of the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. Our hometown is 150 miles south right on the Mississippi, so we forget how wide this river it is until we come to some little creek that the locals call a river. That’s when we know we have taken for granted out heritage. Mostly we know that is it muddy brown, with a fast moving current, not to be taken lightly. Each morning after we and our horses have eaten, we saddle up and head down the long, rocky hill to the river crossing. There are 2 ways down, each leading to very different trails and crossings. It is common to flush up deer and turkey. They aren’t afraid of us. In the recesses of my mind are the memories of watching the TV show Rawhide (I know, that dates me) with some cowboy running through a river splashing up a storm. One of the crossings takes you in, then has you ride upstream a ways before getting out. It is a good place to cool down the horses and riders on a hot summer day, and a great place to move some water onto your neighbor. Canoe or float trips are another good way to pass the time when the water is high and weather is hot. One time as we began crossing the river an eagle flew directly over us on down the river. Eagles are common around the Mississippi but never boring to watch. A bald eagle (you know they don’t get their white head until they mature around age 4) is always a grand and humbling bird to watch swoop down and pick a fish out of the water. As you see them glide so effortlessly through the air it is understandable why Native American Indians wanted eagle feathers as adornment. Of course the area is full of wildlife, but usually we are making so much noise that we scare it off before we see much! I can say we have never seen scary wildlife of the human kind. We create quite a ruckus but no one has ever complained. With an average age of 51 I guess we’re not much of a threat. It always amazes me that not everyone who stays there rides horses. Some bring their bikes or canoes, or in the winter their cross country skis, and snowshoes. One of our riding destinations is a small private log cabin in the woods on a hill overlooking a valley opposite the Natural Gait. This was built as a hunting/sleeping cabin, remember the primitive kind that I don’t want to stay in! One year it had a dead deer inside it. The view is wonderful and is one of those Kodak moments. These hills were a chore for our horses to climb and we needed to stop and let them catch their breath frequently. A few in our group had geriatric horses that we needed to accommodate. Some of the riding is alongside fields. The owners also have a company called the Ion Exchange which sells native prairie flower seed. It is awesome to ride down the valley and see field after field of different wildflowers in bloom when you hit the season right. There is lots of local history here too with the remains of a monastery to be seen along one path. Since most of us have gaited horses we use the long open spaces for gaiting. When traveling faster we sometimes miss that local scenery and have to come back to check it out. After traveling to more distant places, I realize that there are not as many destination points you find in more other areas but, for Iowa and the Midwest it is wonderful.

When you think about it, most of your time while trail riding is meandering through the woods. There is plenty of that to satisfy because these are truly beautiful woods. Lets face it, some woods are pathetic. Trees in this area are big and full. The amount of different species is awesome. To go in the fall is a breathtaking blend of yellow, gold, red and orange from the maples and oaks. Mixed in with all this are the pines. There are places so golden you have to stop, soak it up, and look heavenward as you sit in awe of what nature has allowed you to witness. Those moments are the ones you remember your whole life, the "aha moment" as Oprah would say. One year, there was a cowboy/farm manager who would take you on guided rides. We did this to find new trails. He reminded us of John Wayne when he took us out that first morning saying, "Lets’ move out, we’re burning daylight." Dennis owned Percherons that he trained to drive. He hitched them up and took us all out in a big wagon one evening for a ride. It was a great way to end the day, and he let us take turns driving. In thanks we invited him to a huge pot luck with all that 2 cabins of women had brought to eat for the week.

 Another year, their cook/botanist was up on our hillside in the evening looking through a huge telescope at the moons around Mars. He let us look while explaining what we were seeing. As a botanist, he talked to us about how he was writing up the catalogue for their flowers and putting it on their web site. As the cook, anytime you don’t want to fix your own meals, he would make entire meals for as many as needed accommodating special diets. There is a wide choice of dinners to choice from. What an interesting evening. The massage therapist is a new offering. We seriously thought about taking them up on the massage after our ride one day but everyone chickened out. We felt it would take too long for all of us to get one. Inclement weather is always something trail riders must consider. Being on top of a hill there are spectacular views of the weather coming in. We have watched and ridden under rainbows, ahead of storm clouds, and in the middle of showers. When you live in town, or work inside there is a tendency to forget the incredible power of a summer storm or the beauty of a double rainbow. Looking at it is one thing, riding below it is another.

Of course, as groups go since many of us are teachers we give appropriate names to our talents. We had two in our group that were always predicting the weather and we affectionately called them Dippy and Ditsy Dopplar. Neither one read the clouds well. Since we noticeably don’t listen to any radio we were left with our primitive knowledge of weather forecasting. This included: if we saw the sun it was going to be good riding, or if we were under dark clouds it might mean rain –later. Ride while you can, and bring your rain gear. Ride really fast towards home if you see lightning. Remember to put your saddle and blanket out of the rain. The indoor arena is a fabric covered area with a viewing stand and eating area. Clinics, shows, dances, and even weddings have been held in there. Nearby, is the store with books, souvenirs, and the paraphernalia needed for horses. They don’t want you to leave empty handed. We have practiced in the outdoor arena just for a change of routine. And occasionally, run the barrels for fun, having our own show. With the pond down there, kids can ride the paddle boat of even fish for minnows. There is also a playground. As another friend who has traveled extensively said, "why spend the money trailering great distances when we have such nice facilities so close to home." Each year we get together to see if there is somewhere else we would like to go, someplace new. After careful consideration, we laugh and say why bother. We love it at the "Gait."

By Patt Hagge

Just wanted to thank you and the owners, Howard and his wife for a fun-filled weekend. Such a beautiful place! Thanks for all the hard work that goes into such a big ride. Even down to the last detail it was well planned out.

Anita Dubuque

We will see you on our return visit--probably next year. Thanks for EVERYTHING! Always a good time.  We compare all horse camps to yours as it the best ever.


As with many families, hundreds of miles separate us from our children and grandchildren. The Ion Inn was the perfect location to bring everyone together for a long weekend. Not only is the cabin homey and comfortable, and the setting beautifully quiet, but it is also in close proximity to Spook Cave, Effigy Mounds, Yellow River State Forrest, the Mississippi & Yellow Rivers.

We don't ride but the children really got a treat from seeing the horses, and seeing a fawn deer only a day or two old drinking from the Yellow River was a treat for me. We would highly recommend the Ion Inn for your next family get-together.

Roger & Wendy, Pocatello , Idaho

Thank you for hosting such a wonderful clinic. I gained many tips and tricks that I have already put to use. There's no need to go to the big names in the biz when there is such fantastic talent so close to my own back yard. Dawn and Sylvia produced and presented an absolutely outstanding clinic. You both know your way around a horse quite well and were very patient - but persistent and consistent at the same time. You also had insight to our individual needs. I like the fact that you asked us what we wanted to get out of the clinic vs. just throwing an agenda in our faces.

Process Improvement: On Day 2 - I wish I would have known that I needed to be checked out of the bunk house by 11:00 A.M. I felt a bit rushed Friday morning trying to get my room cleared out and yet be ready on time. And if there was a water bubbler set up for participants off to the side - that would be nice. It gets really hot working with the horses - and easier access to drinks is important. If I think of anything else - I'll drop you a line.

Thank you also for providing volunteer contact info for the participants. This is a great way to network and hook up with new trail riding buddies.

Sincerely, Sherry

"I never thought I could retain so much information as a did at a Natural Gait Clinic. The atmosphere is perfect for learning, reflecting and meeting wonderful people. the crew at The Natural Gait are fantastic."

Sue -WI

"Where else can you go to a horse clinic and get such a serene atmosphere?" The log cabin I stayed in was better than most hotels and the price was great!"

Kay-West Virginia

Hey, Dawn,

I bet you know how sometimes a small, simple gesture -- an insightful comment, a thoughtful compliment, an act of kindness, or whatever -- can have an unusually large effect on the person who receives it?

Well, your gentle but firm challenge for me to get back on and ride followed by your patient, capable coaching on the trail afterward was just that sort of thing for me. I am grateful to you for this gift.

I still get a silly grin on my face and feel a shiver of delightful amazement when I think about the distinct improvement in my confidence and riding ability in response to that incident.

I know Sissel sincerely appreciated my becoming her gentle leader again. She quickly relaxed back into her normal mellow self when I started to actively ride and guide her rather than stay perched in the saddle all stiffened up and jumpy.

Thank you for helping me work through my fear so I can be more of the confident horseman I know I can be.


"My name is Emily W. This is my third time staying here at the Natural Gait, it's my second time here at one of the cabins.

I have loved my stays here so much, I will remember them for the rest of my life. My family and I just got back from flying kites out in the pasture. The view onto the Yellow River is so breathtaking, it almost appears as it would in a storybook. Everything here is so natural, so fresh, very different form life in the city. Here is my chance to get away from it all; away from the city, away from loud noises, away from the bright lights, away from everything. I even got to see the stars at night, imagine that.

Sitting around the campfire at night, singing songs, I really felt like I bonded with my family. the people here are so friendly, especially Howard & Donna. My family chose me to write in this book, since I'm the "author" in the family. At first it was so hard, I couldn't think of anything to write, I couldn't put it ion words everything here is so gorgeous. then it dawned on me: I decided to put myself in someone else's shoes, arriving here for the first time. I thought about what they see, what they feel. That is what I have written. How you probably felt when you first arrived here.

I thought I should share my experiences here at the Natural Gait with others, maybe inspiring you too, to add a little something in this book, like I did.

Thank you, Emily W Age 12"

The ride was wonderful. We parked in the first campsite as you instructed. Then we rode down and put the money in the box. What a pretty path that is mowed across the dam by the windmill!!! Then we rode along the tree line to the west. Found the bird house, and went down the trail through the timber to the valley. We felt like we were Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz in the Poppy fields.

We tried to follow the bird houses and the mowed area, but must have gotten turned around so we discovered we were going in a circle. We probably had more fun water crossings than the average trail riders. So since we couldn't find the way out of the valley, we ended up riding around it, came back and went back to our trailer the same way we came down.

We'd like to come again, and take the trail to the east through the gate by the wood pile... But Ruth has to be out of town, and I am going on vacation to see my family, and won't be home until Sunday evening the 19th.

Thank you, it was a great ride, and the scenery was beautiful.