Until now, fall has been my preferred time of year to trail ride. Well that, and spring in another country.
Winter wasn’t high on the list until last weekend when I took my first (yes, first) winter trail ride in the still negative two degree temperature (balmy compared to the previous days’ negative 15 plus wind chill).
It was a beautiful slow ride weaving through the treed land owned by Fox Lair Stables, a trail riding, boarding and lesson facility in Canfield, Ontario. In 1995 Steff and Kevin Fox (hence the name) bought the property to follow their horsey passion.
The Fox Lair Stables is a truly family run operation where spitfire barn boss Steff works alongside her daughter putting people on horses for trail riding, lessons (both Western and English, though primarily Western), and kids camp. They even trailer ponies to your home for kids’ parties and rent horses for photo shoots.
But it’s the snow-covered trails and crunch of hooves breaking through the thin crispy top layer that made this morning magic. This is the only way to enjoy a long harsh winter. No hint of wind, a bit of sun and appropriate clothing was the key to a comfortable winter ride this March 1st day that vortexed my mind away from all the work/life issues that preoccupy me too much.
The charm of this stable is the genuine down-to-earth enthusiasm the Foxes have for their extended furry family that includes canine Sunny, the customer greeter who leads cars to parking spots along the outdoor arena; three barn cats cuddled like house kittens; and fifteen equine, many Quarter Horses that have been with the family for decades.
Tex, for instance, the copper-hued strong silent type I rode has been in their care a year longer than their oldest daughter. He’s a former rodeo roping champion and has graced the covers of three Harlequin Romance novels: one with his bridle, one fully saddled, and one ‘naked’ as they like to say, without either.
Canfield is part of Haldimand County, about a half hour drive from Hamilton, in the heart of rural concession roads, hobby farms and acres of crops. Trails meander through private property, conservation land and even as far as the Grand River.
What’s attractive about this down-to-earth facility, besides obvious quality horse care, is the indoor arena warm-up lesson that gives uninitiated riders the confidence to head out to the trails for their first hour experience in the saddle.
I plan to come back with a few of those or at least one in particular … hopefully, before the romance of the winter wanes.