PEI

'Feel the wind on your face': P.E.I. ranch offers horse and cart lessons for kids

When piano and dance lessons just don't cut it. Meet a 9-year-old P.E.I. girl who's taking horse and cart lessons.

Rosehill Ranch started the lessons for those not comfortable in the saddle

'Sometimes I just wish I could go to school in it,' says Casey Slade, of the horse-drawn cart. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Most of the kids who come to Rosehill Ranch in Central Lot 16, P.E.I., want to learn how to ride a horse.

But nine-year-old Casey Slade quickly realized horseback riding wasn't for her.

So when ranch owner Caitlin Heckbert started offering horse and cart lessons in April, Casey jumped at the chance to grab the reins.

'I know how much fun I have when I'm behind driving the cart so I figured why not extend that to the children,' says Caitlin Heckbert, left. (Pat Martel/CBC)

"It feels like you're in a car, but you're not. You're with a horse," Casey said. "You get to bond with the horse and it's really fun."

That's why Caitlin Heckbert felt it was important to offer cart lessons as an alternative to horseback riding. "I do have a certain amount of children that come that would love to build a bond with the horse but are not typically comfortable in the saddle," said Heckbert.

'It warms my heart'

"I'd like to think it's outside of the box," Heckbert said. "I know how much fun I have when I'm behind driving the cart so I figured why not extend that to the children."

"It's just wonderful," said Trish Altass, Casey's mom. "It warms my heart because she's able to really take on that independent role to lead that horse around."

'I do have certain children that would love to build a bond with the horse but are not typically comfortable in the saddle,' said Heckbert, who started offering horse and cart lessons in April. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Before Casey harnesses up her favourite horse Hercules, she and the other kids must do the chores — from sweeping up the barn to brushing the horses. 

"She's not just learning how to drive the cart," Altass said. "She's learning how to respect animals, how to take care of them, how to be responsible and how to work with others, so it's really a full range of skills that she gets to develop."

'I think Casey really enjoys being able to control the reins of the cart,' says Casey's mom, Trish Altass. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Casey has taken other kinds of lessons, such as gymnastics that just didn't measure up to a cart lesson. "It's definitely way better," she said. "In gymnastics, you have to do a bunch of warm ups and stuff and I don't really like it. I was never good at cartwheels."

But she's certainly good in the cart on wheels. "Yeah," Casey said with a laugh.

Before the kids take the horse out, they must do the chores — everything from sweeping up the barn to brushing the horses. (Pat Martel/CBC)

With Heckbert sitting next to her on the cart, Casey takes the reins and off they go zipping around the farmyard. "Hercules loves his job so he really does want to go," Casey said. 

'You can just say, "Whoa!" and he'll stop' 

Casey has caught on using the reins to go left or right, even though sometimes Hercules has a mind of his own.

"Sometimes he just lopes when you don't want him to, but you can just say, 'Whoa!' and he'll stop and then you can just tell him to jog again."

Casey has caught on to using the reins but Hercules still has a mind of his own. 'He just lopes when you don't want him to, but you can just say 'Whoa!' and he'll stop.' (Pat Martel/CBC)

Casey's mom is full of pride as her daughter whizzes by in the cart. "I think that she really enjoyed being able to control the reins of the cart and that experience," Altass said.

Casey said there's one thing she likes best about carting. "You feel the wind on your face and it just feels good."

Speaking of wind, Casey pointed to one of the drawbacks of being behind Hercules. "Sometimes you have to hold your breath because he farts a lot."

The students at Rosehill Ranch are taught to clean the hooves, without hurting any tender areas. (Pat Martel/CBC)

Casey has a dream that one day she will be able to take a special trip in the cart. "Sometimes I just wish I could go to school in it, instead of taking the bus. That would be fun."

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About the Author

Pat Martel has worked with CBC P.E.I. for three decades, mostly with Island Morning where he was a writer-broadcaster and producer. He joined the web team recently to share his passion for great video. Pat also runs an adult coed soccer league in Stratford. He retired in Oct. 2019.

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