Buytopia sent me to check out one of their awesome deals – an introductory package to Horseback Riding at Forest Hill Farm in Caledon. I was super emotional as soon as the email came in to confirm that I could go. See, I used to ride and have my own horse. Summer Breeze was her name and she was an amazing Pony of the Americas. We rode all over the countryside, competed in fairs, Prince Philip Games, taught kids how to ride and honestly, had the time of our lives. She passed away a few years ago and I haven’t been on a horse since.
So you can imagine the excitement and nostalgia I was feeling. I pulled up the beautiful tree lined drive to the barn and went in. The smell of horses (one of my favourites) hit me right away and funny how a smell makes you feel at home. My instructor for the day was Steven Santia and he was so nice and personable and really made me feel welcome.
He was finishing up one of the intro package lessons, so I got to see him in action. The rider was pretty young, definitely a beginner and it gave me some time to relax and get back into horse mode.
They were going to put me on “Leroy” who is a pretty famous horse and won some pretty big shows in his career.
But, due to timing he put me on Toni, who has quite a bag of tricks herself. As I’m not a beginner rider and he didn’t need to asses my skills, Stephan asked what I’d like to do for the lesson. I told him I hadn’t been on a horse in about 8 years, but was confident in my abilities, so put me through my paces.
We started by warming up with a walk around the ring, then changed direction. Next was trotting and then a bit of sitting trot into a canter. After we’d been around the ring a couple times Stephan asked me if I was ready to jump.
He set up 3 trotting poles and a small “X” at first. Told me to trot in and if when we landed I was comfortable to go around to the straight pole jump. We did the first “X” perfectly, landed and picked up the right lead and headed over to the second jump. I was a little sloppy the first time and Toni saved my butt by adding in a short stride to clear the pole. We did it again and I got into my groove so Stephan added an oxer on the diagonal. We cleared all three a few times and then it was time to cool down.
Throughout the lesson, Stephan told me about his background – he used to compete, then went away to work with racehorses, and came back to teach at Forest Hill. We chatted about the history of the stable, the owners, trainers, riders, everything.
“Scott and Dee started Forest Hill Farm in 1992 in the beautiful Niagara Region. 1992 -2002 was an incredible run of 10 years that saw thousands of show miles travelled, hundreds of shows, and dozens of Royal, National and Zone Champions. In 2002 after the birth of their son Sam, they made a family decision to move north. They have recently completed the construction of their brand new training facility on the border of King and Caledon, only 8 minutes from EMG in Palgrave, the site of the 2015 Pan American Games.”
The arena is 14,500 square foot with a 3,200 square that overlooks the area and outdoor riding areas. It’s a beautiful event space that features a vast great room with bar, pool table, darts, and ping pong. There is also office space, a kitchenette and restroom. It has spectacular indoor and outdoor views.
He was such an awesome coach and made me feel comfortable right away. It was like one of my friends was giving me a good workout and I highly recommend checking out lessons with him.
After a few rounds of jumping it was time to cool down and take photos. Of course, my camera died immediately after Stephan took a photo of me on Tori so I didn’t get a chance to take a photo with him. BUT it does mean that I’ll have to go back to take another lesson with him. And I will be taking one in the very near future.
We went back into the barn, untacked and took Tony over to the shower station. Hosed her down and it was time for me to drive back to the city.