This season I’ve done a major shakeup to my schedule. One of the things I wanted to get back to was going on regular adventures with Justin. We love exploring and sharing new experiences together and this past weekend we did just that by going horseback riding with Toronto Adventures. We left the house in the dark, watched the sunrise as we rode the all-night bus to our pick-up spot and boarded the Adventure Bus at 7:30 AM.
The bus took us up to Claireville Ranch in the Claireville Conservation Area in Brampton, just north of Toronto. It is so close and yet, for a city girl like me, it feels like a getaway. Of course, the realities of the environment quickly become clear.
When you step off the bus, you are greeted with the smell of horses. Want a quick pee break before you start your ride? There’s the outhouse. While you’re standing in line to get your helmets, don’t be surprised if the horses are peeing too! Lol, Justin and I looked at each other with smiles and said, “Nature.”
For the ride you could choose to rent a helmet or go without. We tend to be a “better safe than sorry” couple and so we put down our $6 each. As Justin said, “If the leaders are wearing helmets, I’m wearing a helmet.” Good thinking! I tried on all the pink ones and the ones with horses too but none of them fit so I went with classic black.
Once we signed our waivers and made our helmet choices, we stood together as a group and were assigned our horses. “You, Georgia.” “You, Ditto.” “You, Sierra.” Justin was matched to the biggest horse in the group, Chip. A bit intimidating, yes, but Chip turned out to be a lovely horse. I was so glad. On Justin’s one and only previous experience with horseback riding, he was thrown so it was a big deal that he had said yes to this adventure and I really wanted him to have a lovely experience.
Of course, I was thrilled when the leader looked at me and said, “You, Karma.” Now that’s got to be a good sign! Karma is a beautiful horse, as you can see from the photo. It didn’t take me long to figure out that she was companionable but didn’t suffer fools lightly. For the first hour of the trip, we were negotiating.
Before the ride, we received brief instruction, including being told not to let our horses eat the grass. We were also informed that every one of the horses would definitely try to do so! With Karma, if we were all stopped for a bit and she wanted to eat a little grass, she’d totally ignore my correction. However, if we were moving along and she tried to grab a nibble, I’d correct and she’d respond right away. Perfectly reasonable, Karma. I get you.
After an hour, we made a stop for a “cowboy breakfast” that had been prepared for us in a clearing. Coffee was an immediate yes and really good too! Then there were eggs, beans, bacon, sausage and hash browns – plenty to fill you up after your gentle morning ride. It was interesting to hear the guides talk about the horses and their time at the ranch. Our leader had been volunteering there since she was 8 years old! As she said, “Once it’s in you, it doesn’t leave.”
After breakfast, we had another hour ride ahead. In the first hour, I had been struck by how familiar the terrain was. These were trees I recognized, plants I recognized, but something about the ride reminded me to look closer, to be present. Yes, I have seen goldenrod before but I have never seen a whole field of yellow alive with monarch butterflies from the back of a horse. Priceless. And then there was the oddly quintessential Toronto moment of being able to ride a horse under a highway bridge and look at graffiti. All of this while in connection with the strong presence of Karma. This was a day I won’t soon forget.
After our ride, we had some time to hang out at the ranch. What a treat to spend more time around the horses. It’s interesting. During our lunch break, one of the participants was saying that she found the horses expressionless. She said, “There’s no smile in their eyes.” The guide said, “You have to learn to read their energy. I can tell how happy he is to be out and on this walk today. I can feel it. You just haven’t come to know them yet.” I wondered what it was like to learn the language of horses, to understand their signals and I was delighted to be taught a little lesson by the horse you see in the photo above.
As we stood nearby, he came right over and it was clear to me that he wanted to say hi. I walked over gently and he moved his head closer. I put my lightly closed fist up and he pushed his nose into it. My heart soared. I thought that was it but then he gave that little nudge, that nudge that I recognize from all the cats I’ve known, that nudge that says, “I want you to pet me here.” So I followed his lead and rubbed that velvety soft spot right above his nose and reveled in this moment of connection and communication. Thank you, you beauty.
And, of course, no journey would be complete without having an encounter with a “cat in the ‘hood”! As we waited to board the adventure bus for the journey home, we discovered this sweet kitten who was quite happy to play, to pose and to get some cuddles. The perfect ending to a wonderful day.