One doesn’t have to drive far in the Hills of Headwaters to come upon horses grazing on lush pastures, for horse farms and all things equine are abundant in this region.
For years, equestrians and equestrian-related businesses have slowly been making this region their home. What better place, after all, to raise horses, be involved with horses – than the serene hills and valleys, clean and plentiful rivers, and picturesque views as far as the eye can see? In Ontario, there is no finer place.
From the lush green pastures in the spring and summer, to the crimson and yellow paintbrush that sweeps over the valleys in the Fall, to the snow-covered fields and hills, Headwaters and its clean, crisp air is the draw for this equine community. Fall fairs in Caledon, Orangeville, Shelburne, Erin and Grand Valley attract visitors from far and wide to see and touch the rich harvests from the fields and the animals that graze on the lush pastures. Trails sculpted by Mother Nature herself and others man-made, in the form of the Mono Cliffs Provincial Park, the Caledon Trail Way and the Elora-Cataract Trail Way offer riders and hikers, a safe, secluded and scenic passage for recreation time.
The hills of Mono, in particular, have been blessed with a rich natural heritage that has garnered international recognition, a very strong sense of community and an active and engaged population. Known for its strong agricultural production, it is no wonder that the Town of Mono is currently engaged in discussions of a development strategy for the equine sector.
Just as the towns and townships of the region are diverse, so is the makeup of all things equine. Guests to the area can visit world-class breeding farms, horse shows, tack shops, training centres, riding establishments and equestrian-related clothing stores all within an hour of each other. The finest practitioners in equine health, veterinarians, farriers (blacksmiths) and health facilities with the finest in diagnostic and lab equipment, have made the Hills of Headwaters their base. Visitors to the area enjoying leisurely drives through the scenic countryside are sure to come across riders exercising their horses or taking a leisurely stroll down the road. Be sure to slow down and wave!
Hill-Billy Hack of Mono and Rawhide Adventures tucked away in the hills of Mulmur are riding establishments where horseback riding and adventure is the order of the day. Rawhide Adventures caters to private and corporate groups and offers customized packages such as life as a Ranch Wrangler, including everything from fence checks to rotational grazing – even calf sorting depending on when you stay. Teen Ranch, which is located in Caledon, is a year-round sports camp for kids 8-20 years old, a centre for outdoor education for schools and a retreat centre for school and church groups. A recognized international training centre for hockey, Teen Ranch is also known for its educational programs in equestrian sport, rodeos and Western and English discipline schooling shows throughout the summer season.
Deb Shortill of Hannah’s Closet in Erin, a horsewoman herself, offers country casual clothing to her clientele and outfits many equestrians with their formal wear requirements for attending the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
As more and more horse owners make their way to the region, clusters of farms appear along the landscape, complementing and sharing each other’s facilities, indoor arenas and paddocks. Equine communities, groups of “equine-friendly” properties, trails and farms are already evident in some small towns including the Grange Side Road in Caledon, that announce to visitors on entrance signs “Welcome to Horse Country”.
Those looking for the thrill of equestrian competition won’t be disappointed with a visit to Palgrave! The annual Tournament of Champions featuring the Canada Cup of Show Jumping is held at the Caledon Equestrian Park. This venue, under the management of Equestrian Management Group is also host to over 30 “A”-rated shows over the course of the summer for the dressage, and hunter/jumper disciplines. Excitement is the order of the day at these events: well turned out horses and riders, artisan booths and the thrill of competition wins the hearts of many.
The Orangeville Agricultural Society in Mono opens its doors to host a multitude of breed shows including the Canadian Sport Horse, and Icelandic breeds, rodeo, dressage competitions and a multitude of other equestrian shows throughout the summer. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Musical Ride has also displayed their talents in the vast outdoor ring. International-calibre cross-country courses are easily found in the area. Olympic coaches and competitors for eventing, dressage, and show jumping have made the Hills of Headwaters their home. Competitions are held throughout the summer months and spectators are most welcome and encouraged to attend these exciting venues.
Enthusiasts can visit, by appointment, a great number of horse farms in the area that breed, nurture, train and show Canada’s competition and Olympic hopefuls. Breeding farms making their mark on the North American equestrian scene, dot the side roads of Erin, Caledon, Orangeville, Shelburne and Mono. Fieldstone Farm, breeders of Canadian Sport Horses in Mono have been breeding and competing horses for five years and have the distinct honor of owning and breeding the 2004 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair Governor General Cup winner. In fact, that honor has gone to breeders in Mono Township for the past two years.
In the winter months, visitors and residents alike thrill in the excitement of a winter sleigh ride through snow covered trails – pulled by a team of gentle giants – the grand Belgian and Clydesdale horses. City dwellers flock to the region during the festive season to find their perfect Christmas tree at one of the many tree farms and enjoy a sleigh ride, reminiscent of days gone by, with cup of hot cider before their short journey home.
Anytime of the year equestrians can experience the best nature has to offer and all things equine, in the Hills of Headwaters.
Shannon Smith is a resident of Mono Township and sits as VP on the Board of Directors for the Canadian Sport Horse Association, Ontario Chapter. Shannon and her husband Chris own and operate Fieldstone Farm in Mono.