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Queens Court Riding Academy

Caught in the floodplain of the East Holland River as it crosses the Oak Ridges Moraine from Musselman’s Lake on route to Lake Simcoe is a beautiful 20-acre rolling property along Vandorf Road, home to Queens Court Riding Academy. Vandorf Road has a good vibe – it feels remote and natural, yet cities are not far off. People of all ages migrate to Queens Court for riding lessons, and kids have a great time in riding camp each summer.

Teresa Clune learned to love horses at a young age. She found horses for the first time in a place that is most likely devoid of horses now – Etobicoke. “There used to be a trail riding place in Rexdale,” she said, “The rule was muck six stalls, ride for free.  I would leave the house in the morning shortly after my mother left for work and instead of going to school I would race to the barn, muck six stalls and hope to get on “pumpkin” and out on the trails before my mom was informed by the school that I did not arrive.  She knew exactly where I was.  If I was lucky, I got a bit of a ride in before she arrived at the barn and demanded that I get in the car and head to school”.

Teresa left the world of horses for 25 years, instead to focus on raising three children. “We lived in Newmarket, my husband John taught school for the Catholic Board and I worked in administration at Pickering College,” she said. Teresa’s youngest daughter reignited the horse-passion at the age of 4, when she too, developed an equestrian love.

When it became clear that Teresa’s youngest daughter, Avery, was developing lofty goals as an equestrian, she decided to obtain certification through Equine Canada as a certified Riding Instructor and in 2014 opened Queens Court Riding Academy.  She had been given a couple of horses, borrowed land from a friend in Schomberg, and launched in 2014 with four clients. She drove back and forth from Newmarket to Schomberg for 5 years, involved in two occupations. In spring 2019 after living in Newmarket for 30 years Teresa and John decided to sell their family home and possibly move closer to Schomberg.  It was at that time that the property on Vandorf became available.  “It was the universe telling me something”, Teresa said.  Deerfield Farms as this property was known for many years had been owned and operated by long-standing Stouffville resident and equestrian Grant Field.

After a 30-year teaching career, John was ‘reluctant’ to launch a full-blown horse-related venture post-occupation. “I dragged him into it, but I was confident,” she said. In 2019, Queens Court Riding Academy (QCRA) was re-launched. Teresa lost many clients in the move from Schomberg to Stouffville, but a few stuck with her. She now has 80 students and teaches 110 lessons a week. The effort “would not be possible” says Teresa if it were not for John (her right-hand man), her 17-year-old daughter Avery (her partner), a couple of part-time staff members, and many volunteers.

QCRA now boasts 18 indoor stalls, a 12,600 square foot indoor arena (with heated viewing lounge), a 40,000 square foot grass riding ring, and 5 acres of trails. Recently, they installed a 16,200 square foot outdoor sand riding ring. “We also grow our own hay and have a local farmer harvest and put in our barn for winter use,” adds Teresa.

QCRA is a recreational learn-to-ride facility along with several novice, intermediate and adult riders. “We are not a show barn, but do take a few students out to shows each summer as an introduction to horse,” Teresa points out for clarity. “We are a recreational level equestrian facility with a focus on fostering good horsemanship, riding, and lifelong equestrian skills in youth and adults. There are riders, horse owners and people who love horses. Everyone rides for different reasons. At QCRA we provide an environment for those that are truly passionate about horses,” says Teresa.

“We seem to be booked up for lessons at the moment,” reports Teresa, “we do have a few spots left in our four sessions of summer riding camps during the summer. Our Riding Camp is a full summer experience – we have many fun camp activities, and it is a full family commitment.  My mother (nana rita as the campers call her) teaches knitting, my sister-in-law (auntie Brenda) teaches how to make home-made horse treats, and my husband, known as “Farmer John”, takes great pride in his 100’ slip and slide track; he plans to outdo himself in 2022.” Additionally, Teresa is planning an overnight camping option on Thursdays for those 10 years and up.

While I was visiting, a student was in training. The student’s mother, watching on the edge of the area, off-the-cuff, said “Teresa understands horses and ponies, but she really understands kids. She knows when to push and when to not.”  Teresa overheard and added, “you want to have the right influence on a kid. I’m a parent first.”

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