Windy Acres: it takes a team to build a horse business

Windy Acres Wagon and Sleigh Rides is located just outside the little village of Metz, southwest of Arthur.

Home base is up a maple tree-lined laneway, past a century home, on the McDougall’s third-generation family farm.

Business partners include Christine and Paul McDougall, Brenda and Seb Abate and a team of Clydesdale heavy horses.

Over the years, Windy Acres has taken part in many different kinds of events including weddings, anniversaries, family reunions, community events and parades.

Their business has been in operation for ten years and their current horses, Ozzy and Dougall have been partners for four years. According to Christine McDougall, “This may be our best team yet.”

Christine and Brenda drive the horses, do the daily care of the horses and prep for events. The trimming, bathing and braiding can take anywhere from four to six hours and needs to be completed just prior to attending an event.

In addition, tack also needs to be cleaned and the wagon or carriage need to be prepared and in good working order.

Paul and Seb comprise the Windy Acres ‘pit crew.’ They help out with the transport of the horses and wagon, bringing in hay and provide the extra bodies required to get in and out of an event.

Safety is a top priority. Christine and Brenda go to the venue in advance and scout it out before taking their horses. If it is a busy spot with lots of people milling around, the team needs to clear space before moving the horses forward and do additional checks along the route.

Heavy horses like Ozzy and Dougall weigh upwards of 2,000 pounds and can pull four times their body weight.

A wagon or sleigh full of people is no problem. The Windy Acres wagon can hold between 15 and 18 adults, depending on the terrain, incline and on the nature of the event itself.

In addition to the wagon, they have a carriage for smaller events and a sleigh for winter rides.

Their horses are about 18 hands high (72 inches) and their big presence adds a certain majesty at events and celebrations.

Ozzy and Dougall are Clydesdales, a breed that originates from the Clyde River region in Scotland. These big beauties have a long history of working with people for transportation and farming.

In addition to their physical strength, Clydesdales are known for their gentle manner and willing attitude. They are classified as a cold blood breed and are appreciated for keeping a cool head in challenging situations.

Clydesdales generally have dark brown and white markings. However, Ozzy is known as a “roan” accounting for his lighter brown dappled colouring.

Asked how the partnership started, Christine and Brenda agreed chocolate chip cookies were the beginning.

Christine’s son landed a job at Brenda’s bakery in Arthur and Christine eventually landed a business partner, teamster and horse pal.

Windy Acres wagon and sleigh rides start at $350 in addition to an hourly rate. Events taking place off-site start at $500, plus an hourly rate.

In addition to the heavy horse team, Christine and Brenda offer pony lessons and basic horsemanship and rides for birthday parties at the farm or at other locations.

Asked what they like to do best, Christine laughed, saying repeat events.

“That way we know what to expect when we get there, because every event is a little different.”

With a pandemic pause in activity last year, the business partners used the downtime to refurbish the McDougall century bank barn.

They installed a heated tack room and a washing station. New landscaping
and flower gardens create a nice backdrop for beautiful photos. Heavy horses remain a part of Wellington
County heritage.

Now that events are re-starting, Ozzy and Dougall and the Windy Acres team are champing at the bit to get going again.

Windy Acres Wagon and Sleigh Rides 519-848-3049

Bridget Ryan