Travel: Georgetown, Ontario. Winter Trails and (Not So) Little Dipper

Arabian trail horse www.horsetrotting.net

Little Dipper

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.

trail horse www.horsetrotting.net

Lead horse Serena

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.

Arabian trail horse www.horsetrotting.net

Me and Little Dipper

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.fall haze at fallbrook stablesSummer 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 GUIDEFallbrook 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.

Want to know more about stuff to do and see in Ontario? Check out Moon Ontario travel guide by Carolyn B. Heller on Amazon.

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26 comments

  1. Liz Barron · · Reply

    Interesting that non-horse people bought the business. And I didn’t know there was an outlet mall in the area. Fortuitous for the new owners perhaps…

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    1. The mall is about 20 minutes drive away. It went up fast. I think it’s been there maybe a year or two. I can’t really keep track. What I do know is one month I was driving by and there was minimal construction. Then a few months later… bang a new mall. This was my first visit there.

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  2. Your writing style is beautiful. I felt like I was literally along for the ride! That IS amazing that non-horse people bought a business including 36 horses! Sounds like a great life for their kids.

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    1. Thank you for the encouraging words. This is the first place I discovered that was bought by non-horse people. Horses are usually a passion business rather than a lucrative one….

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  3. One thing I forgot to add was Dip was also bit-less – he was that easy going. Made for a good ride actually – you should always ride off the leg anyway.

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  4. Gorgeous horses and photos. So nice that there is a place like this for riding. Sounds like a beautiful place to spend the day!

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    1. Thanks. I’m trying to work on the photos and essentially make them a feature of the blog.

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  5. Such a beautiful place to ride! Little Dipper is a gorgeous horse too. How he got his name is so cute. I haven’t ridden a horse in a long time despite the fact that there is a horse farm right around the block from my home. I miss riding!

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    1. One of the reasons I got back into riding was that there are so many horses around me. I have a theory that it’s the new golf – once exclusive but now more accessible.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. ANOTHER place for me to add to my list. I will have to make it a solo day too; my husband is terribly allergic to horses. I’m glad it was one of our (many) lovely winter weekends. How often do we get to say that in Ontario?

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    1. I’ve never known anyone to be allergic to horses… Hay maybe. But clearly it’s possible. (I’m allergic to not being near horses.)

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  7. That sounds like a terrific way to spend a December afternoon! I hope the new owners have a lot of success, it sounds like an exciting life change for them!

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    1. Thanks. I’ll likely go back in Spring.

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  8. I used to love horseback riding. I haven’t ridden in over 30 years.

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  9. I went horseback riding once when I was a kid but got thrown off the horse. I vowed I would try it again someday. This horsey is gorgeous.

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    1. What is it they say about getting back on? That’s too bad. I was bucked off once in my friend’s field in my forties and the recover time was much longer than when it happened in my 20s. I’ve fallen many times, but bucked (or thrown) is different. I still have one hip that doesn’t rotate as well as the other but that was my fault for not getting physio. Both of these were at private barns on English saddles. Most trail riding places have pretty quiet horses. If you want to try it again in Arizona … I’m going. Likely the day before Blogpaws.

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    2. What is it they say about getting back on? That’s too bad. I was bucked off once in my friend’s field in my forties and the recover time was much longer than when it happened in my 20s. I’ve fallen many times, but bucked (or thrown) is different. I still have one hip that doesn’t rotate as well as the other but that was my fault for not getting physio. Both of these were at private barns on English saddles. Most trail riding places have pretty quiet horses. If you want to try it again in Arizona … I’m going. Likely the day before Blogpaws.

      Like

  10. denisegruzensky · · Reply

    Stunning photos & story!!

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    1. Thanks! I’m trying to produce as many ‘pinnable’ horse pics as possible. Horses make such magnificent subjects.

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  11. I would love to try horseback riding. It looks so much fun

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    1. Trail riding is a good place to start, especially at a reputable faculty and especially if you’re interested in riding in a western saddle.

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  12. I love horseback riding! I wish there were more trails near me. I want to take actual lessons one day and add a horse to my own family. I have a lot more to learn before doing so.

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  13. I love horseback riding! I wish we had more trails near me! I want to add a horse to my family one day but need a lot more space and I have a lot to learn about caring for one.

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    1. I wish I could add a horse to my family too but it’s like taking on a second mortgage. In the meantime, I ride other people’s and try to ride everywhere I travel. There’s nothing like experiencing the landscape via horseback.

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