Canada Riding Vacation
Inns of Gaspe - Canada
July 27 - August 2, 2008
I have just returned from a riding trip with some of my students
to the Gaspesie region of Quebec in Canada. The ride was booked through
Equitours ( www.equitours.com ). For
those of you considering a riding vacation, I thought I’d share some of our
experience and impressions from the trip.
First of all, we are from Houston, Texas, and the ride meets up at an Inn in
Metis Sur Mer near Mt. Jolie in Quebec, Canada. We had to GET there. OMG! What a
nightmare (both going and returning)! We flew Continental Airlines with a stop
over to change planes at Newark Airport. NEVER AGAIN will I fly through Newark.
I’ll walk first!
The airline cancelled our flight to Quebec and we were booked onto the Quebec
flight the next day meaning we’d lose a day of riding. We opted to fly into
Montreal where we rented a car and drove 8 hours to the Inn, arriving at 3:00
am. We were absolutely exhausted but were seriously cheered up when we were met
at the door by the Innkeeper, Matthieu, looking a bit bedraggled (as he had been
waiting up for us) but very friendly and helpful. We slept about 4 hours and
then had the most awesome breakfast of crepes with fresh strawberries and
bananas. Met our trip guide, Pierre, at breakfast and he walked us out back to
meet our horses.
found, to our delight, that we would be riding some good Canadian drafty type
sport horses with good bone and in great flesh and muscled like you wouldn’t
believe. Good thing, too, as they were going to haul our butts for over 100
miles in the next 5 days.
We immediately hit the road (an unpaved logging road) and began to wind around
for a good 22+ miles the first day through some absolutely gorgeous countryside.
We travelled mostly along logging roads and faint trails through heavy forests
and the most amazingly thick and varied wildflowers you can imagine. On one
morning I attempted to count the different types of wildflowers and just gave up
when I reached forty! There were tons more. Just lovely.
rides took us not only through verdant forests and along rustic roads, but also
across countless and vast fields of alfalfa, wheat, oats and mixed hay meadows.
We passed by, but not through, enormous fields of canola in full bloom looking
for all the world like there had come a blizzard of bright yellow snow. And I
cannot begin to describe how beautiful were all the lakes, small and large, and
the rivers over which we crossed and watered our horses each day.
Pierre was obviously a good and loving horseman, making certain that we stopped
each hour to allow the horses to graze and rest – claiming each time it was a
“pit stop” for the riders. We knew better. And at every stream we passed, the
horses were encouraged to drink their fill. On one day, we even took turns
allowing the horses to drink from a tiny watering hole that Pierre actually had
to use the machete he carried on his saddle to cut through the brush enough to
expose the tiny trickle of water. Pierre tried mightily to appear to be a
French-Canadian tough guy, but we could tell he was a softie when it came to his
beloved horses. And his 18 year old daughter, Alexandra, who travelled with us
bringing up the rear, was much the same.
day we lunched in a different, and very special, place. The first day was at a
place where the most wonderful maple syrup is made. We learned about the process
of boiling down the maple water until it becomes syrup and then boiling it more
until it becomes maple sugar. After we finished our very typically European
lunch of light sandwiches, cru d’état, juice and light dessert, we were treated
to samples of maple syrup and maple sugar (more on that wonderful maple product
The next day was at a lovely scenic blueberry farm. After a light lunch, we
waited patiently for dessert and were told “Your dessert is that way.” We hiked
up the hill to the blueberry fields and picked and ate blueberries (and some
wild raspberries and wild cherries) till we were fit to bust.
Next day’s lunch was beside a trout pond, eaten after we had each caught a trout
cooked for our dinner that night! Then the next day was at an organic farm where
the owners delighted us not only with the wonderful quiche and
rhubarb/strawberry upside down cake, but with their farm and their seven (count
them – SEVEN!) adopted children. And the final lunch, a simple but elegant
packed lunch, was eaten perched precariously on a ridge overlooking the entire
Dinners? OMG! Let’s just say that the Continental French have nothing on the
French Canadians when it comes to cooking. I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten so well
for an entire week. Matthieu and his wife, Stephanie, and Michelle are to be
especially commended for some spectacular meals.
More about the rides. Each day featured a new “roller coaster canter” that
definitely kept us on our toes and left us breathless and exhilarated. The
horses loved them, too. These special gallops varied in terrain from deep wooded
winding trails to up and down the hillsides to dashes alongside a multitude of
flowered fields. As if these were not exciting enough, the last day’s ride took
us all the way to the St. Lawrence Seaway, where we rode right on the beach with
waves crashing all around us, then on the “Bonzaii Gallop” of approximately 2
kilometers where our wonderful horses blew out all the stops and seemed to find
as much joy with the wind (and rain that day) in their faces as we did.
last day was a full 30 miles of riding and ended back at l'Auberge Une Ferme en
Gaspesie, owned by our adored Matthieu and Stephanie, where we were welcomed
back with good Quebecois wine and a meal to die for. OMG! Please let me have
more of that pheasant en cruet! And then the dessert of a fresh bread covered in
heavy cream, fresh maple syrup and maple sugar was just unbelievably
scrumptious. It was topped with a farewell shot the contents of which I will not
reveal. You must experience it for yourselves.
After such a lovely riding trip, it was truly a bummer to fly back into Newark
and have our flight to Houston cancelled and to be told we would have to sleep
on the airport floor as there were no hotels available for 50 miles. We flew out
the next morning at 5:30 am, just thankful we didn’t get stuck like one of our
party who volunteered to drive our rental car back to Montreal and fly back from
there. She was stuck for TWO DAYS.
But the trip was definitely worth the hassle. If you are a decent rider and are
comfortable at a full gallop for long periods of time on fit horses, then you
owe yourself a trip like this. And if you go, give Pierre and Alexandra and
Michelle and Matthieu (and my sweet horse of the week, Jack) a hug for me.
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