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Nova Scotia, Canada: Fabulous Food, Scenery and Two Great Trail Rides
December 30, 2010
Photos courtesy of Michelle Winner
I had the pleasure of visiting Nova Scotia, Canada this fall. I had no idea what to expect of the topography, cuisine, culture or temperament of the people - which to me at this point in my career as a journalist is the greatest delight.
Temperament: the Nova Scotia are a delightful bunch. Open, friendly and proud of their heritage that is some French, some English, some Scotish, Norwegian, Danish and other seafarers and some native peoples: almost unanimously they display a kindness usually relegated to small town America.
I flew into Halifax Airport from JFK which is a distance out from downtown Halifax and wandered into my hotel better than half an hour later. The press trip I was on with the IFWTWA was to showcase the cuisine and local wines of the area so the next few days were filled with pastoral scenery, chef dinners, cheese production right on a farm, lobster fisheries, winery visits, tidal bore rafting the huge surges of Shubencadie River, a few days of Victorian opulence at Blomindon Inn in Wolfville and a night in a stationary refurbished train car at home at the old Tatamagouche station. A culinary paradise: create your own adventure in taste to sample freshest fish, scallops, lobster, cheeses and fine wines in Nova Scotia by visiting www.adventuresintaste.ca
I also toured the Halifax Maritime Museum’s comprehensive Titanic disaster display, stopped for a typical sugar camp workers lunch at Sugar Moon Farm, traced my ancestors’ path from France to Antigonish N.S. at the Canada Immigration Museum Pier 21, wandered around the fort at Citadel Hill, clomped along the UNESCO Heritage site of Lunenburg in a “Trot-in-Time” two horse carriage, and poked at a beach cookout fire at Atlantica Hotel across from Oak Island and wondered about it’s reputed pirate treasure. But the best time is usually the same for me; spent on the back of a horse!
Boulderwood Stables near Mount Uniacke in Ardoise is approximately forty- five minutes from Halifax. I arrived way too early so I ducked into a stately 1816 Georgian mansion called Uniacke Estate Museum Park at Mt. Uniacke and talked with the ladies in period costume and took a private tour. A lovingly restored mansion on stately acreage, it was not crowded and very accessible with many artifacts that belonged to the Uniacke family on display. Worth exploring. A delightful tea room serves snacks in the kitchen making for a welcoming road stop .
I hopped over to Boulderwood Stables right on time and had no sooner got out of the car than a smiling man came up and introduced himself. James & Ann Wootton own Boulderwood and run it as part boarding part private lessons, trail rides and offer special ride and swim events in summer. Jim’s English but has lived here for many years with his wife Ann and his mother an accomplished jumper. He’s not emulating the Western Cowboy - he’s dressed in a simple lace up boot, zip-on jacket and a grin- no hat. His day-camp ride has just come into the barn and as little girls scurry around removing saddles and tack he walks over to the one in tears. “He just jumped back and tried to throw me,” she sniffs, and then wails “he doesn’t like me anymore.” “Nonsense!” James tells her, “you have to remember he is a horse!” The horses are for the most Standard Bred and Belgian crosses. He favors the big workhorses that he also rescues. “I have a soft heart for them” he says.
We ride the horses across the road and into his gated woods. Waking onto a flat section of trail he says to me “ how fast do you want to go?” I have to beg off the gallop he proposes saying that although I’m really enjoying his big bear of a horse, I’m not completely sure of him or know the terrain- so I stay at a chicken pace. We walk/trot and my horse follows smoothly down the lush green trail flanked by Christmas trees.
You will love personable guided rides at Boulderwood Stables. James and Ann can arrange to host large groups as they have a string of good horses to ride. This is a simple place - not a fancy equestrian center but you will appreciate James and his horses especially if you are fond of the larger breeds and cold bloods. Lovely trails; he will let the accomplished break from the nose-to- tail string and ride a bit. At the end of your ride you will have made a new friend in Jim or one of his guides. Reserve ahead, very reasonable and you are free to picnic too.
In contrast Hatfield Farm Cowboy Adventures in Hammonds Plains Nova, Scotia is a larger operation. They have trail rides, horse drawn wagon rides, events, weddings, sleigh rides, petting corral, riding lessons, pony rides, advanced rides and camp dinners in lodge type and rustic buildings providing the perfect backdrop for a themed party or wedding. The atmosphere is very Western Cowboy as you might guess and its run very efficiently . Guides are courteous and helpful, and the horses are sweet and have varied bloodlines including Canadian Cow Horse. You can arrange an advanced ride with more challenging trails. The trail we took wandered through flats, woods, view points to the river and day lodge. From the number of parties going on when I went- you should reserve ahead. Go for the atmosphere, farm animals and leisurely trail ride.
Of course you know that a visit to any horse country would not be complete without stopping into the neighborhood equestrian shop. Road Apples is the dream of Pam MacKinnon and is very close to Hatfield’s. Check out their upscale, mostly English shop including English show clothing, tack and custom built Prestige saddles from Italy along with horse care, boots and a fabulous locally made skin and wound salve I discovered at Boulderwood for “horse to hound” called Fiskes. Need advice? Ask Pam or Reg- this is one of the friendliest shops that I have ever visited.
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