${vImageAlt}
Riders take their horses on a trail ride in Grasswood Horse Park. Submitted photo.

Park "field of dreams" for horse enthusiasts

Three years ago local horse enthusiasts Charlene Dalen-Brown and Colleen Kellett found they were quickly running out of safe places to ride in their community of Grasswood, south of Saskatoon, Sask.

"It is in an area that is getting heavily developed, but there were a lot of horse owners out there before that [expansion]," say Kellett. "With all this development, along comes quads, dirt bikes, off leash dogs and drivers who don't understand horse behaviour. So riding in the ditches became dangerous."

Determined to preserve space for horses and riders before it was too late, the pair formed the Corman Park Horse Riders Association (CPHRA). The non-profit corporation is now responsible for the development and maintenance of Grasswood Horse Park — an equine-friendly park that's open to people and horses alike.

The park, which is just over 20 hectares (50 acres) in size, is entirely fenced and includes an outdoor arena plus plenty of space to ride. It's located just a few miles south of Saskatoon in the rural municipality of Corman Park.

"Our vision was mostly for a natural area with outdoor riding arena space, like a small town fairgrounds," says Kellett.

But before Dalen-Brown and Kellett could realize their dreams for the park, their first obstacle was getting access to the land. The area is public land that is zoned for recreational activities, but most people were unaware of its designation.

"There was always this big field that had been farmed. It was actually zoned as municipal reserve, but nobody seemed to know that or what it actually meant," says Kellett.

After seeking community input, CPHRA approached the RM of Corman Park to lease the municipal reserve land. The rural municipality also dedicated funds from the municipal reserve for the park's development.

The next challenge has been developing the land. "It was an alfalfa field so we are trying to convert it over to natural grasses," says Dalen-Brown.

A team of volunteers planted 2,200 trees last summer, and this year, volunteers pitched in to fence the entire park. Some residents were concerned about the park's close proximity to a local elementary school, but as an additional safety measure, the fence between the two properties has been fortified with chain link.

"It is all fenced so if a horse gets loose, it is not a hazard in the community nor in the school ground," says Kellett.

In addition, rules have been posted to ensure the safety of horses and riders. No dogs, off-road vehicles or flying objects are permitted in the park as they may scare some horses.

grasswood-horse-park-map

"You never know — it could turn out to be a Spruce Meadows, but we are happy if it is just a small-town fair grounds too," says Dalen-Brown.

While there is no fee to use the park, Dalen-Brown says donations to CPHRA are appreciated. The non-profit organization has received funds from the RM of Corman Park to develop the park, but its members will need to raise money for ongoing maintenance and insurance. CPHRA also hopes to raise funds through facility rentals by groups for specific events. So far, the park has hosted a trail challenge clinic and competition as well as gymkhana events.

"Now that the park is built, we need people to take on the task of planning events and get people out who want to do things in this community park," says Dalen-Brown.

Grasswood Horse Park is hoping to have a grand opening in the summer of 2015. In the meantime, Dalen-Brown and Kellett are hoping local horse owners will come up with more opportunities for individuals and groups to use the park.

"I want to work with the 4H-ers and the Pony Clubs to see if they would like to use the land," says Dalen-Brown. "And then there is the opportunity for anyone who wants to ride there."

Kellett often rode in the park last summer: "Where I am, it is all small acreages so the only place to ride is in the ditch. It is just nice to have an area to go away from traffic."

As for Dalen-Brown, she believes that the park is a real asset to the community. "[Grasswood Horse Park] is a safe place to ride — a place to gather and socialize. While it's called Grasswood Horse Park, it is not only a horse park — it's for people, too."

Hayley Kosolofski is a third-year veterinary student from Sherwood Park, Alta., who is the undergraduate student representative for the WCVM's Equine Health Research Fund.
Share this story