The night Little Dipper was born, his namesake constellation shone brightest in the sky. Or that’s the story my guide tells me as I ride the peppy eleven-year-old Arabian known as Little Dipper, or Dip to his friends.
Really, his mother was named Star, and the stable wanted to keep the constellation theme. His lineage is no mystery because he was born here at Fallbrook Trail Ranch, in Georgetown, Ontario about 45 minutes west of Toronto (although it wasn’t called Fallbrook then). Dip has known no other life than as an occasional Western school horse and a trail rider on this 100-acre property along the Canadian Niagara Escarpment.
Many of the 36 horses at this ranch were born here because for 40 years the stable was owned and run by the same person until she retired in early 2015. That’s when new owners took over the property, horses, family home and most of the staff – including my guide who’s been working here for three years while finishing high school.
I’ve signed up for the two-hour ride on this unseasonably warm December weekend and as it happens so often for me, it’s a solo adventure; only me and the guide through the primarily wooded trails and along the edge of two turn-out fields. Plus, the barn’s a buzz today with more teenage volunteers than usual because later this afternoon is the staff Christmas party and trail ride, so Dipper, along with current Pinto and lead horse Sienna, might go out again if they’re staff favourites.
First, though, it’s my turn to ride, and the route takes us through the well-cleared wooden trails on the property. Because the weather is still crisp but above freezing, there’s no snow yet and the area looks as dead, clear and as monochromatic as any over-extended fall day. No leaves on the trees means there’s a wide-open view of where we’re headed.
I’m on the longer ride (Why saddle up for less than an hour?), so we encircle the neighbouring fields, a route travelled less frequently, and pass two turn-out fields dotted with evidence of a herd’s nightly presence. Most of the horses are herded here each night, my guide says, except for a few who don’t get along well with others and remain in the small barn near the trailer used as the Fallbrook office.
Because it’s just us, we trot along edges of fields and even lope through the centre of clearings. Dip is a bouncy trot but has a long stride and comfortable canter that reminds me of another special Arabian I once knew.
Parts of the trail between the turnout pasture and woods have been widened by hand and lined with wood chips for a smooth and dry route for the horses. My gelding strode over this trail and caught up to the smaller stride lead horse easily, over taking her if allowed.
Fallbrook horses ride, like most places, only twice a day and some are lesson or camp horses in the summer for local riders. Only two are borders belonging to staff and many, like Dip, were born here.Summer camps and trail riding is the bread and butter of this place, and it will likely remain that way considering the new owners aren’t born and bred horse people.
That’s right. In an industry often run by generations of family and that’s essentially a labour of obsession, the owners of Fallbrook are escaped city folk who, according to my guide, don’t ride but their kids are learning. The family went from owning no horses to owning 36 almost overnight and now have taken over the reins of a four-decade-old trail riding business that is likely a lifestyle choice, along with running a landscaping business.
No doubt, the grass will be greener here at Fallbrook and the learning curve regarding horses surmountable, with the help of loyal staff.
Rides go out daily all year, and advance booking is recommended to ensure staff members are available. A two-hour ride is $90 and day rides with picnic lunches are possible. Riders as young as three are welcome.
TRAVEL GUIDE – Fallbrook Trail Ranch is near Georgetown, Ontario (Halton HillsHalton Hills) located between Guelph and Toronto along the Credit River is a sleepy suburban town that’s woken up a bit since a new mall – The Toronto Outlet Mall – designed after successful counter parts in the Southern U.S., which means it’s outdoors. So if you’re visiting in the winter, you can still ride and shop at The Hudson Bay Outlet, Coach, Kate Spade, and Bench among others. Bundle up for both and wear appropriate foot ware.
Otherwise, Georgetown has a one-street downtown line with boutique stores and independently owned cafes and restaurants. Check out Uncorked on Main Street, a local favourite.