Western Horseback Riding -Uxbridge, ON

We arrived mid-day as a light snow was falling over the ranch. I hopped out of the car and swung open the big gate so we could drive in.

“Is this Bilby Ranch?” I shouted to someone riding a horse inside.

“You got it.”

Inside the confines of the ranch, I opened the truck door to get my things when we were suddenly greeted by one of the sprightliest dogs I’ve ever met. (I have a strong childhood bias towards huskies). This energetic pooch launched himself into the truck and had a solo-dog party inside. While clearly a conformed country pooch, he couldn’t hide his raver roots.

The only riding I had done in the last 15 years was when, just prior to starting this Gymineer site, we headed up and did some English riding a ways north of Toronto. I’ll talk more about the merits of that when I re-visit the sport in the future, but I’ll say that my groin hurt a lot more after English riding, and a lot less after this Western gig. Plus one for Western.

Western saddles give you a big seat with a nice comfy handle. This is a wonderful idea invented by a person who wanted to stay on top of their horse.

Horses are a liberal group, but they’re decades behind us humans in race relations: they’re all named based on the colour of their skin. Ours for the day were Oreo and Casper, and we were shown how to prep them, dig the poop and dirt out of their hoofs, and saddle ‘em up. Then we hit the paddock to learn the basic controls and get some trotting under our belts before roaming wild onto the trails.

Oreo was my horse, and similar to my former self, he was an eager runner. Just like his namesake cookies, if you put him out in the open, he went fast. As a heads up to any future riders out there, if you find yourself atop your horse and go to make that friendly, mushy “click-click” noise because it seems like the thing to do around animals, your horse will speed up.

The trails we hit fit the bill for a typical southern Ontario woodland experience. It was picturesque, and I left with fantasies of throwing a backpack on and heading off into the wilderness steeped aboard a trusty stead, perhaps set to last a week our own. I also had the sudden desire to chase down two game show contestants as they raced through the woods.

Interesting things happen on the ranch. And our day closed with what felt like it could have been an episode on the discovery channel.

Horses are peculiar animals, and there’s an interesting dynamic between the calmness of the ride and the knowledge of being aboard such a large and powerful animal. This hit me as we were walking the three horses back to their field. To get there we had to walk through a smaller pen where two horses were being kept; one was new to the ranch and was still being acclimatized to the other horses. As we went through the gate behind us failed to close, allowing the new horse to run out into the field of about 15 or so other horses which, moments ago, had seemed very docile.

When the new horse broke out, the “old gang” took serious issue with the new horse in town. A massive chase began, and you could hear the weight of these animals as they stormed around, crashing their hooves into the ground. Suddenly the new horse was cornered, so he reared up into the fence, ready to kick anybody who got to close.

There were some bites, but I think all the horses were just fine, this time anyways. We at least took comfort in our kind teacher Diane who didn’t seem overly worried. “Maybe they’ll end up being friends” she shrugged, as we heard a loud horse noise – which I can’t onomatopoeically spell – emanate from behind us in the field…