Riding across the snow-covered golf course streaked with cross-country ski tracks astride Static, a Belgian horse apparently crossed with a comfortable couch, is one of the most relaxing things a person can do outside in negative 12 degree Celsius weather. I’ve ridden here at Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville before through the hilly Muskoka landscape that’s a vista-view experience for a rider over the age of 12.
Of course, most kids are too young to ride beyond a pony circle in the enclosed paddocks, and that’s why Deerhurst Resort, and the company contracted to run the stables, has added an ‘animal encounter experience as one of the year-round family activities at this pet-friendly northern resort. The growing petting zoo on the property includes donkeys, miniature ponies, bunnies, ducks, roosters, goats, and one cow, most raised together from babies.
In the summer, kids 5 to 10 can participate in pony rides and kids 4 and under can play in the petting zoo and ride Homer, the miniature horse. During the winter there’s an enclosed ring where buddled up little ones can try dog ‘Chilly-Doggin’ – rides in a pint-sized sleigh pulled by a sled dog.
The barn is only one activity available here at this year-round resort. Winter fun (part of the activity fee) include a heated indoor pool and hot tub, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and pond skating. Riding, snowmobiling and dogsledding are extra, and so is the indoor climbing wall (for kids 4+) monitored all year.
Summer of course is high season for this resort, known for giving Shania Twain her start in its (still running) nightly musical show called Decades. Kids under 4 are free with adult admission. There are three restaurants on site (although in-town options including franchised fast food aren’t far away.)
In addition to three outdoor pools active in the summer, there are lake activities such as boating and kayaking, along with tennis and golf (those under 17 play free including rentals) and children’s dance lessons July and August. Prices go up when the sun comes out, so the best deals are found after the snow falls.
Accommodations include traditional style hotel rooms in the main building or family-friendly suites in outside buildings that have a kitchenette and sitting area. And, as with most hotels, kids 18 stay free in the same room as parents. Dogs can come along too – for $25 extra per stay. (http://www.deerhurstresort.com)
(This article was originally published in Mom & Caregiver Magazine, Jan. 2016)