On the Forest Boarding (OFB) has been in business since 2007. The owners, riders and boarders at this little piece of heaven pride themselves on being a supportive community, available to help each other out and to make everyone feel welcome. Last August On the Forest moved to a new location. Their long-term lease had run out and wasn’t renewed because the property owner is considering new directions, possibly development.
Their new location is at 17299 Kennedy Road, just south of Davis Drive. You might know this property because it has a private hockey arena on it, used occasionally for team sport. Or, in the equestrian world, this had been the property of well-known dressage rider Eva Maria Pracht, who represented Canada at the 1987 Pan American Games (Gold medal) and 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea (Bronze medal).
Margot Turner and her two daughters, Evelyn (Ev) Burke and Sarah Marsch, run the farm. Margot is at the farm full-time. She didn’t start riding until she was 40 years old. Margot is a retired teacher from a Waldorf school in Toronto. Although she loved teaching, it appears that she loves horses more. “Sarah builds everything and holds the place together,” said Margot. Sarah has a miniature horse on the farm named Mr. Peanut Butter.
Ev is at the farm most evenings and weekends. True to the former owner of the farm, she competes in dressage events. It appears that Ev financially supports the farm by working a non-farm day job. She has a degree in Environmental Science from the University of Guelph and works for a well-known international environmental consultancy. Ev also has a Master’s Degree from the University of Toronto where she wrote a thesis on Equine Pasture Management.
All three of the women are warm, friendly and easy to talk to. The farm move shrank their footprint from 30 acres to 9 acres, but they are surrounded by the lush green of Regional Forests. The new farm also has the added value of a major facility upgrade, including a large indoor training facility and accompanying stalls. Now they can offer riding year-round. With less land, the emphasis for On the Forest Boarding is less about boarding these days, although they still do some boarding. “Our borders are like family,” says Ev.
When asked to define their specialty, Margot said, “We specialize in adult riding – it’s never too late to start.” OFB often takes people out on trail rides; many are repeat riders, on a weekly or monthly basis. They focus on offering personalized lessons for first timers, return riders or nervous adults and mature adolescents/children who are looking for more individualized time and understanding; and for up-and-coming dressage riders looking to reach the next level.
We have come a long way from a dependence on horses for work and transportation, but research shows that there are health benefits associated with horse riding. Core strength, including posture strength, is probably one of the biggest; it takes muscles to keep one balanced properly on a horse. Other benefits include quick thinking, coordination, body awareness, and meditation. It’s no secret that riding is dangerous, but for most equestrians, the benefits outweigh the risks.
At OFB there is no big riding school, just personalized lesson programs for every rider in a fun, laid-back environment. “Our riders become part of the community and can enjoy hanging out for coffee in the lounge and our seasonal social events and just-for-fun in-house shows,” said Sarah.