MOUNT FOREST – A new owner opened an equestrian facility in Mount Forest in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brenda Gibb, owner of Fairbanks Equestrian, had a plan that didn’t pan out as she expected.
“I had every confidence that I could run this business and make it a huge success because I know the industry inside and out and I know how to market this stuff,” she said.
But opening during the pandemic threw a curve ball.
“With that in front of me and a huge overhead it was pretty scary,” she said.
However, the business has pivoted and ended up having a successful summer.
Originally Gibb planned on facilitating mainly elite hunter jumper training.
“We import horses from Europe and we sell expensive show jumpers,” Gibb said.
However, when she started advertising she received a lot of inquiries about beginner western riding lessons.
“I had to sort of scramble and go out and I bought like 15 trail horses, school horses type of thing,” she said.
Now, Fairbanks Equestrian not only offers English and western lessons but also trail rides for the public and people come from all over for the experience.
“It’s a beautiful property, it’s a really gorgeous location, we have a river on the property so we ride the horses through the river, which is just a really unique experience for anybody to do,” Gibb said.
“It’s rewarding to take these people that have never ridden before and take them out and have this experience. It’s been cool.”
The facility also offered about three weeks of camp this summer.
“We’ve had a really large response and that was again really rewarding to see all these kids get out and do something in the fresh air,” Gibb said.
She’s hoping to be able to offer summer camp again next year as well as Christmas vacation camps and March break camps. However, it will depend on the pandemic.
“It’s been really tough to coordinate this amongst that set of restrictions and so yeah it’s been a challenge,” she said.
Another service Gibb and Fairbanks Equestrian offers is two Air B and B rentals.
“We’re offering a unique experience where people … come and have this riding vacation,” Gibb said.
“We had people, well they’re Canadians obviously but a wide range, especially immigrants who have never seen a horse in their life come and stay in our vacation rentals and then get to know the horses and go for trail rides and … I think that’s a unique offering in Ontario too where it’s a horse related Air B and B and it’s a really gorgeous peaceful setting with the river and the forest.
“So that’s been a cool thing and that’s been basically sold out all summer.”
It’s this mixture of services that makes the farm unique.
“We’re doing the high-level jumper showing and yet at the same time offering beginner western stuff and the ability for the public to come and do trail rides which is actually pretty rare in the province now,” she said.
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