a peek inside the fishbowl

21 Jul, 2010

If wishes were horses

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Easy ways to make kids happy|Ottawa|Publishing/writing/career stuff

I like the idea of giving my kids an unforgettable experience instead of a toy.

My most recent piece for SavvyMom was about Pinto Valley Ranch.

Sky at Pinto

The girls flipped when I told them where we were going. They went to YMCA horse camp last summer, and Pinto Valley Ranch is where the horsey part of their day took place. After hearing about it for nearly a year I decided it might be (a) Savvy-worthy and (b) worth seeing for myself. And it was.

Boots for borrowing

It is a real ranch; dusty and hot and rather rustic. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I just don’t want to give the impression that it’s the equivalent of a Spa Nordik for horses, with manicured lawns, polished fencing and elegantly upholstered stalls for pampered animals. It is flies and horse poop, big of sky and wide of field. But that’s cool in my books, because This is How It Is.

Dusty run

I spent a lot of time talking to Tracey, the mom who’s running the place right now. She is a hoot. Her parents owned Pinto Valley before her, and she grew up there. Now she and her husband are raising their kids there too. (One of whom was artfully dodging the horses and a shoelace-chewing baby alpaca on his roller blades while I was there.)

Chewbacca chews

Everyone I met was fantastic; responsible, experienced, and friendly. The horses? They were the same, only bigger. I met a lovely soul named Apple Jack.

Apple Jack

If you’re looking for something different to do with your kids, GO. You won’t be sorry. It’s a very pretty drive from Ottawa (we actually saw a BEAR on the way there) and your kids will never forget it.

They recently opened up a little diner on the site too, so take advantage of it and time your visit around a meal.

There is trail-riding too, but that’s for folks 11 and over.

Here’s my idea of a nice summer outing :

  1. 1) Arrive first thing in the morning.
  2. 2) Order breakfast.
  3. 3) Buy some time in the pony ring.
  4. 4) When it’s all said and done, spend some time visiting the other resident animals. (There were baby peacocks living in the barn when we were there. BABY PEACOCKS.)
  5. 5) Drive home.


Warning: this place is cash only, so hit up that ATM before you arrive. There are a few other important things to know before you go too – safety issues, clothing requirements – you can read that over here.

My only fear going to Pinto? Was that the girls were going to want a horse of their own.

3 Responses to "If wishes were horses"

1 | karen

July 21st, 2010 at 10:17 am


My parents used to live just outside of Fitzroy Harbor and we visited Pinto Valley Ranch with my daughter quite a bit. She still asks to go back and it has been six years. At almost 12 she can hardly wait to go horseback riding. She has taken a few lessons so we are hoping to go this summer. We live in Morrisburg now but I think the trip will be worth it.

2 | DaniGirl

July 22nd, 2010 at 6:59 am


Oh fun! This is something I’ve been meaning to do with the boys, now that Lucas is close to an age where he’d enjoy it! We went to Pinto Valley many many (pre-kids) moons ago and had a lovely time. Thanks for the reminder!

3 | LO

July 22nd, 2010 at 10:52 am


We love Pinto also! Brynn had her birthday party there a few years ago. My only concern was the communal helmets. We went to Karter’s Corners and for 25 cents bought mesh hair nets to wear under helmets. Now I see they encourage you bring your bike helmet so this relieves a lot of my fear of transmitted head ‘friends.’
p.s. i wonder if that bear is the same one that comes on ‘the ridge’ in spring and raids the bird feeders of our neighbours that don’t know not to put up bird feeders in late winter/early spring due to this!!! :)

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark. We have two daughters: Emma (19) and Sarah (17). I am the managing editor of our community newspaper, the Kitchissippi Times. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger, and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999... which makes me either a total dinosaur or a veteran, I'm not sure which! The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, family travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa for families. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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