Excursion in Nova Scotia

Two of my equestrian dreams came true in August 2001 in Nova Scotia, at the beautiful 350-acre Beaverdam Farm owned by Arthur and Carol Rivoire. Our family vacation is usually spent at Chincoteague, Va., where the wild ponies roam on nearby Assateague Island, but after reading about the Beginner's Driving Vacation in Nova Scotia, I convinced certain members of my family that we should head north for our vacation. My two dreams were to ride a horse on a picturesque beach and to drive a horse through the countryside. Both of those dreams came true at Beaverdam Farm, which breeds and trains one of my favorite breeds, the Norwegian Fjord.

That week of vacation was perfect. The weather, the people, the food, the horses, and the natural peacefulness of Nova Scotia were unmatched by any other vacation I have taken. The remote cabin that we stayed in suited us perfectly, although most vacationers stay in the nearby town of Antigonish. The Beginner's Driving Vacation also included a gourmet dinner in town at Gabrieau's Bistro and tickets to the theater.

Monday morning began with a delicious brunch at the Rivoire's home and the guests got to know each other. The Rivoires asked about our experience with horses, then explained the week's agenda and stressed safety. We even watched a video showing driving accidents; the video did not dampen our enthusiasm, but it did instill a deep respect for the need of safety as with any horse sport.

The driving lessons began with learning how to handle the reins using a reining board. This helps save the horses' mouths from being ruined by beginners using the reins incorrectly. Next we learned how to harness a horse, and before long, we were ground-driving horses in the ring. After a delicious home-cooked lunch, we learned how to hitch the horse to a carriage and began driving with their excellent instructors beside us. The instructors held the whip and the well-trained Fjords knew their voices and cooperated beautifully. This made the lessons pleasurable for the beginner driver and made certain that the horses received the kindest handling possible.

Each day we had a morning lesson, a delicious lunch, an afternoon lesson, plus time to relax and visit with other guests or the horses. Cleaning the harness after each use was also a part of the routine. Each lesson was different whether we learned to drive a dressage test, drove through the countryside, or just went on a trail ride. Wednesday afternoon is the traditional cheese and wine party on the nearby beach with guests riding the Fjords. As my daughter Sarah and I rode up and down the pristine beach, in and out of the ocean waves, my dream of riding on a beach finally came true after 40-plus years of trail riding!

On Thursday, the last day of the vacation, we participated in the driving dressage competition and a cones course competition. My daughter, being an experienced dressage rider, had no problem earning the highest score, but I probably had the biggest smile.

Working with the Beaverdam Fjords was a wonderful experience because they are so well-trained, gentle, quiet, and friendly. On the trail ride, the teenagers wanted to canter, so they went ahead, and the Fjord I was riding calmly stayed behind because I preferred to take my time and "smell the wild flowers." The views of the ocean and coastline were spectacular. What could be better than riding or driving a fantastic horse in the middle of incredible scenery?

This vacation was not just an equestrian experience. Carol Rivoire's flower gardens were gorgeous due to all of the organic fertilizer available. Carol is a talented writer and has published a book titled The Fjordhorse Handbook. Arthur is an artist, so we enjoyed viewing his artwork displayed throughout their home. Working interns from Germany made the week a cultural experience, and their barn manager, Jaimie Benoit, knows her job thoroughly and is a gifted trainer of Fjords.

The memories of driving and riding the exceptional Fjord horses at Beaverdam Farm will always be with me. Carol even took me on a drive using her gorgeous stallion Gjest, whose ground-covering trot was very impressive. Thankfully, we already own a Fjord or I might have had to become a permanent resident in Nova Scotia. (More information on this type of vacation can be found at www.beaverdamfarm.com.)

About the Author

Sandra Church

Sandra Church, a former elementary school teacher, has trail ridden and driven horses for over 40 years. She enjoyed being a "Horse Show Mom" for her daughters, Stephanie and Sarah, and a “Boy Scout Mom” to her son, Travis. She lives in Virginia with her husband and her six horses, among them a Belgian/Quarter Horse cross and two Minis.

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