Monday Magazine writer Natalie North takes the Lochside Trail by horseback with Terry Cardin, owner of Valle Vista Stables.

Monday Magazine writer Natalie North takes the Lochside Trail by horseback with Terry Cardin, owner of Valle Vista Stables.

West Coast Wild: Happy trails

Hands on the horn of the saddle, leaning back slightly, I press my heels against her and eventually we get going.

The waiver handed to me at Valle Vista Stables was an opus of epic proportions, a bone-chilling yet creative document. If an adult whose only experience with horses is running past them as quickly as possible at Elk/Beaver Lake didn’t already have a few nerves over mounting one, page after page outlining equine unpredictability, injury and quite possibly death is a great way to introduce some. Just as I’m about to do what I do every time I get on an airplane and come to terms with my own mortality, Valle Vista owner Terry Cardin and his trail guide Dieter Elliott introduce me to their rescued Arabian, Barbie. She’s beautiful.

Elliott leads Barbie to the riding ring and a three-step staircase where I’m able to easily slip my foot inside the stirrup and climb atop her sturdy saddle. Any anxieties born of the weighty waiver instantly dissolve and with the simplest of instructions: pull left on the halter to lead her leftward; pull with my right hand to lead her right. Pull back to stop. And the one tricky move to master – give her a little kick to get going. Hands on the horn of the saddle, leaning back slightly, I press my heels against her and eventually we get going. It’s not so much a kick as it is a massage with the back of my boots. I just don’t think she deserves the kick.

Barbie – or T-Rex Barbie Doll – is a gentle, semi-retired 24 year-old from Poland, naturally inclined to follow Cardin atop George – technically Giegio Valle – the Spanish stallion, here to keep us in line. With George and Cardin up front, Elliot chatting at my side, this feels incredibly safe, but not overly controlled – like a high school party with the cool parents still at home. We turn onto Lochside Drive and in a few minutes, we’ve hit the trail. Cardin twists over his shoulder and lets me in on a few nuggets of wisdom he’s gathered during his 40-plus years riding.

The most common mistake he sees newbie riders make: assume they can break out into a gallop on their maiden voyage. I’m not about to see from where Barbie earned her T-Rex moniker. I’m thinking she’s more of a glam rocker than a fierce pre-historic predator, but either way, we’re keeping a damper on her fire while I’m aboard. About 20 minutes in, I feel like an extra in High Noon. This is too much fun.

Other fatal missteps Cardin deals with regularly seem too dumb to take seriously: riders clad in dresses, flip-flops, heels. I’m going to Stossel-out on this one and simply add, Give Me a Break. If you have a shred of common sense and an open mind, you’ve got this. Even harbouring a little anxiety through the ride is alright. His horses, Cardin says, generally pick up on the energy and adapt accordingly. The emotional bond formed between horse and rider is the one holding Cardin in the career.

His first ride came as an enthused six-year-old in Esquimalt, before he became a full-time show rider and eventually landed where he is today: a businessman with a heavy focus on on kids’ camps and therapeutic riding for children with disabilities of all kinds. I get it. We meander across the mulch, alongside the lush, foliage and I feel both as giddy as a kid on pony ride at the fair and totally chill – something I know I haven’t been as of late. The easy roll of Barbie’s gait is novel enough to keep me engaged and engaging enough to keep my mind from turning back to life’s ongoing stresses. Every so often, she breaks into a trot, I bounce in the saddle and just as I’ve had enough excitement, she’s responded to my tug on the halter and slowed to a crawl. By now I’ve fallen just a little in love with Barbie.

“You have it in you,” Cardin says. “You’re either a rider or you’re not a rider. You can make somebody ride, but if they don’t have the heart of desire, they will never become a good rider.”

I will never become a good rider. But I reveled in the commercial experience – the joy of riding without the real work involved, the saddling, grooming, feeding, cleaning of the stalls.

“It’s very calming and relaxing,” Elliot says. “It’s nice to be out with animals in nature – and you’re always learning.”

The first lesson learned: Cardin’s waiver was a little exhaustive.

The hour-long beginner’s session evaporated around me and suddenly, we’re back at the stables. I clutch the saddle, forgo the step to dismount and swing my right leg from stirrup to dirt like a bona fide cowgirl. Or maybe more like a glam rocker confidently flailing about and unafraid to pass the next set of hooves I encounter out on a run.

Valle Vista Stables is located at 6281 Lochside Dr. in Central Saanich, with a second location, aimed at more advanced trail rides, slated for a July 1 launch in Prospect Lake. For details, contact

vallevistastables.com.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
B.C. musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s close connection to director led to rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah

The Gordon Head Recreation Centre stands in as the Quimper Regional Hospital on Feb. 23 for filming Maid, a 10-part Netflix series. (Greg Sutton/District of Saanich)
Netflix transforms Saanich recreation centre into hospital for filming

Facility was closed to public Feb. 23 for filming of Maid

This image released by SYFY shows Meredith Garretson, left, and Alan Tudyk in the new series "Resident Alien." (James Dittinger/SYFY via AP)
B.C.-shot ‘Resident Alien’ invader gets lift-off with viewers

New Syfy series catching on, proving TV doesn’t have to come from premium cable

Nico Rhodes, Lucas Smart, James McRae and Kosma Busheikin (from left) recorded their set for the Nanaimo International Jazz Festival’s online video series at the Harbour City Theatre in December. (Photo courtesy François Savard)
Music starts next week at online Nanaimo International Jazz Festival

Ten free, virtual performances to occur over three weeks in March

The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
 The original artwork created by local artist Emily Thiessen, is featured as the Commercial Alley’s eighth installation. (City of Victoria)
Victoria calls for artists to fill Commercial Alley gallery

Competition open to artists in the Capital Regional District

Cowichan Valley author Teresa Schapansky’s books for young readers have become a phenomenon on Amazon. (Submitted)
Cowichan author tops Amazon charts

Award-winning author Teresa Schapansky learned of a need for low-level readers in the classroom

Nadia Rieger restocks some of the art supplies at the Crows Nest Artist Collective. Their move to stocking more art supplies over the course of the pandemic was a response to increased demand, which she thinks shows people have been turning to creating art to cope with mental health struggles due to lockdowns and restrictions on other activities. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
Vancouver Islanders using art to conquer COVID blues

It seems people have been turning to their creative sides to stay mentally and emotionally healthy

Chris Bullock, Parksville artist, stands next to his ‘Mermother’ series, on display at the McMillan Arts Centre until Feb. 29. Bullock himself will be at the MAC from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. every Saturday until the end of the month. (Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville artist Chris Bullock’s unique illustrations on display

‘I’m heavily influenced by old comic book styles from the 1950s’

VIU music instructors Hans Verhoeven, Ben Henriques and Ken Lister (from left) are presenting a weekly jazz performance series with pianist James Darling (not pictured). (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
VIU music instructors presenting online jazz concert series

Musicians getting ‘back in shape’ performing American Songbook standards

Nanaimo’s Todd Cameron won the $1,000 Fan Favourite prize in Vancouver radio station CFOX 99.3 FM’s one-minute movie contest for his version of ‘The Big Lebowski.’ (Photo courtesy Todd Cameron)
Nanaimo man’s 60-second stop-motion ‘Big Lebowski’ remake wins fans’ choice award

Todd Cameron takes home $1,000 prize in Vancouver radio station contest

Kathryn Calder, City of Victoria’s artist in residence, is facilitating a performance and songwriting workshop for youth. (YouTube)
Online music workshops available for Greater Victoria young artists

Artist in Residence Kathryn Calder to host songwriting, performance series

Most Read