Currently I am on holiday with my family touring round parts of America and Canada, in these tours dad always organises ‘something for everyone’ and this year for me was the ranch. I am a little horse obsessed, love teaching them, riding them and just being with them so the prospect of spending 3 days with them in the middle of a holiday is just so damn exciting. However we have been to ranches before and it’s not all galloping off into the sunset so I tried to keep expectations low- well that was unnecessary!!
Von Doelers ranch is situated in Ontario, Canda and is owned and run by the Von Doeler family, in particular Elana Von Doeler who is just an incredible human being- not only does she compete in professional rodeos and 3 day eventing the lady is beautiful, modest and super good fun! The ranch offers trail rides, English and Western riding lessons, rodeo events, summer camps, cabins on the lake and more all super flexible to cater for everyone from complete beginners to experience horse people. My family were lucky enough to be on a pack holiday lasting 3 nights the itinerary of which was…
Day 1: Turn up at leisure, go out for a beautiful trail ride ending up at the cabin where we would spend two nights, cook food on the open campfire overlooking the lake and then going for a late night swim taking in the amazing surroundings
Day 2: A relaxed start followed by another trail ride visiting the waterfalls at the end of the lake on a different but equally lovely set of horseys, cattle sorting (we didn’t know what this was but it turns out it involves two people on horseback moving cattle from one pen into the other in a specific order, this was my dad’s favourite activity as he said he felt like a proper cowboy and was grinning from ear to ear) then it was time for some food and we had a roast and pie cooked by the ranch, after food we learnt how to rope a wooden calf which caused a lot of amusement and varied levels of success, to conclude the day some of the family had a go on the “bungee bull” which is basically a barrel that you sit on while two people use the elastic ropes attached to it to make it bounce around like a rodeo bull!
Day 3: Brunch at the ranch was an impressive amount of pancakes, bacon and berries all super yummy! Then we had some free time- most of my family went back to the lake to canoe while I stayed up at the ranch where by now i felt totally at home. I brushed and tacked up horses with the ranch hands before Elana offered me a ride on one of her horseys Abbey. It was on Abbey that I learnt how you go around barrels in barrel racing and thoroughly enjoyed attempting to canter round them as the weather suddenly took a turn for the worse. The rest of the family arrived up at the ranch and we waited out the storm with some snacks. Then we packed up the horses ready for our camping trip. To get to the campsite it was a couple hours of riding through super rough trails which were proper cowboy stuff ending in a steep scramble up to the cliff side. Just as we arrived it started raining again badly and it took some serious effort to get a fire going but we did. Food was cooked (steaks, potatoes and garlic bread) and the rain stopped around 10pm just in time for clothes to dry off and smores to be made before heading to bed. Day 3 was in short a bloody brilliant day!!
Day 4: Started with a good breakfast of thick bacon and egg on croissant cooked on another ace campfire before packing up the tents and horses so we could head back up to the ranch. Halfway back Elana asked us if we wanted to canter- the answer was a resounding yes. So we looped around the ranch cantering along the sandy trails whooping as we went. Arriving back at the ranch was really quite sad as we all became aware that we would soon have to leave.
Here are my thoughts on various aspects of Von Doelers Ranch…
The Staff- everyone at Von Doelers was amazing-they came from a mixture of backgrounds but all had a common love of horses which was apparent in there energy and enthusiasm. I have already talked about Elana but let me just say again for the record what a fabulous person she is (yes okay I have a girl crush on her) her and the team are so hardworking and never seem to stop! They are quick with a joke and a helping hand, often simultaneously, and all have so many skills from fire making to singing that all come in handy on a ranch! I couldn’t believe how upbeat they all remained even in the storm on top of the cliff out camping but they seemed to relish the challenge as much as me and my family did. They are all super resourceful too managing to erect a tarp over the fire pit using the horses spare head collars and lead ropes! Even after spending only 4 days with these people I would call them my friends and hope to stay in contact with them and follow their interesting life stories.
*another key member of staff was Wiser the dog who loves to get involved in all aspects of the ranch including following us all the way up to the cliff top to camp out for the night!
The Horseys- all of the horses are Curleys which are hypoallergenic(ish). They are a small breed of horses and I kept mistakenly calling them ponies but they are the most sure footed bunc of equines I have ever had the pleasure of encountering. All of them had been raised and trained on the yard by the Von Doeler team and are consequently super chilled, easy to handle and a lot of fun. Their relaxed outlook on life and the way they took on every obstacle in front of them is such a credit to the ranch as it reflects their phenomenal handling and upbringing. Oh and by the way they are super cute!
The Trails- all of the trails had been carefully planned and created by the Von Doelers and therefore they really suited all different time demands as well as being versatile and in places challenging. As a keen horsewoman I really wanted to do some cantering and was not dissapointed by the long stretches of sandy trail perfect for cantering along. There was also a ‘ruff n tuff’ trail which made the whole family feel like pioneers- it was rocky, it was twisty, it went over little brooks and up and down some very steep hills- basically it was epic! I never thought walking on a trail could be so much fun but oh it was. Everyone was grinning from ear to ear by the end of it!
The Cabin- we stayed in the cabin for two nights and although it was a simple rustic accommodation it was really nice! The decor was very homely and it was a really cosy and comfortable place to stay. There was no electricity but we were provided with candles and battery operated fairy lights, there was no running water but we were given a sizeable container of drinking water and an outhouse so we had everything we needed. The cabin is situated literally right by the lake and came with a canoe and woggles to use (which I think the Canadians call noodles!). Infront of the cabin was a fire pit- complete with grill for cooking on- surrounded by wooden benches and chairs.
The Overall Experience- the Von Doelers Ranch is out of this world, it allows you to be as adventurous as you want while still feeling completely safe. I would recommend anyone to go there if they want to do a ranch type holiday. The camping trip was out of this world and a truly special experience that I will never forget. The family spent the whole stay smiling and laughing having the time of their life. We learnt so much about rodeoin and western riding that we all left feeling like Cowboys. Leaving was so hard as this ranch felt like home, and I know that I will go back there hopefully multiple times in the future!