For me, the best way to meet other riders has been to 1. join a local trail riding club (for which you do need either a horse or a friend with an extra one), and 2. taking lessons at a barn where the focus is on general riding skills, not just competition in a sport.
I always make friends quite slowly and one at a time, I've learned to be patient.
Yeah, the club route is one I've looked at - though not trail riding specifically, but in other equestrian areas. The challenge I've found is that most seem to have a reasonable minimum individual competence bar I am not yet ready to pass. There are a lot of activities I believe will open up once I am at a skill level to be a solid independent solo rider.
There's a local polo club (no clue if I'll like polo, but seems worth trying out). There's a fairly serious hunt club which looks fascinating but probably has the highest bar-for-entry skill-wise of anything I've looked at thus far - I suspect I am years away. The place I'm training at has a team and does group schooling made up of both teens and adults. There are also just a tremendous number of shows of all sorts.
Ironically, I haven't found much in the way of trail riding groups. There's one organization that does multi-day camping trip rides but that seems quite specialized and not a direction that calls to me. Everything else I've found is for the under-18 set.
While I might have more opportunity to meet people at a more social stable that's not a trade off I'm willing to make. Despite the bit of controversy on here the more time I have spent thinking on things the more I realize I feel my trainer is a good fit for me at this point in time to reach my goals - and that takes priority.
And perhaps 'friends' is too restrictive a term - perhaps more activity partners who I can share and enjoy this particular aspect of my life with. I adore the idea of developing more deep bonds of course - but I absolutely agree with you that such things take a great deal more time. Also, there's absolutely no indication that a shared interest in horses implies that someone would get along with my other hundred or so other quirks.
Well, I am a few hours from St. Louis, but only and hour and a half from Louisville, and an hour from Nashville. Seriously, PM me if you get close!
Absolutely will do! *Sneaks off to check her company's active client/project list... no reason*