July 11, 2023 Mountain Living

Community Spaces: The Bow Valley Riding Association

By Kate Barker

Living in the Bow Valley is more than just buying a home.

The Bow Valley Riding Association (BVRA) has been a place for residents of Canmore, Harvie Heights, Exshaw, Lac Des Arcs, and Deadman’s Flats to keep their horses for almost 60 years. The association offers paddocks for purchase at a self-care facility that features 34 privately held paddocks, three riding arenas, a clubhouse, and access to many trails around the Canmore area. The family-friendly club welcomes horse lovers of all disciplines.

The BVRA was created in 1966 on land that had previously been a private horse lease. The goal was to provide an affordable place for residents of the Bow Valley to keep their horses close to home, and to allow riders to access the amazing trails in and around Canmore. The lease sprawls over 135 acres and includes the paddock grounds but also numerous trails and natural areas.

The BVRA is a non-profit association, comprised of members who keep horses on the grounds. The setup allows owners to care for their horses, which helps keep costs down compared to traditional boarding arrangements. The shared lease also means horse-owners can have access to property to keep their animals without forking out the money required to buy an appropriately sized acreage.

“It’s like a condo association for horses,” says Lisa Young, a long-time member of the BVRA and a current member of the executive. “You own the buildings and fences that make up your paddock, but the shared facilities and the land your paddock sits on belong to the BVRA’s lease. It’s not a boarding facility, where you’re essentially renting a space for your horse on someone else’s property and paying for care. At the BVRA, you have something that’s yours, but it’s part of a whole. It’s completely a self-care situation, although you could pay someone privately to look after your horses for you.”

The BVRA also offers something called a “paddock share” in which someone who already owns a paddock may be open to sharing their space. This allows a new member to keep their horses on the property without buying a paddock of their own. While these sharing arrangements are done on an individual basis between the paddock owner and the paddock share, it can be a way to experience the BVRA without committing to purchasing a paddock.

Keeping horses at the BVRA allows horse-owners to enjoy the benefits of living in town with all the amenities while still having space for their large, four-legged family members. It’s also a more cost-effective way of owning horses. “It’s a lot less expensive than boarding outside of the Bow Valley,” says Young. And there are other benefits of keeping your horses close to town. “You don’t have to drive far, and there are lots of great trails accessible right from the lease. Most boarding stables require you to trailer to find mountain trails, but our trails are right there at our doorstep.”

The facility also features three riding arenas, including a round pen, a 100’ x 200’ outdoor riding arena, and a 65’ x 150’ outdoor riding arena. It’s a great setup for families and horseback riders of all disciplines. “The club is open to everyone. It was originally set up for families, but we like to attract anyone who likes horses and is looking for a place to keep their own horse.”

The BVRA is a great community for horse lovers, but it’s also a part of the Canmore community at large. People will often see horses on the local trails, and the association maintains trails on their lease for public use. Members of the BVRA also help maintain trails on public lands and provincial parkland around the lease, both for horseback riding and other trail users. “The original trails in the Horseshoe Loop area were created by and for horseback riders,” says Young. That area has now become popular with hikers, mountain bikers, and trail runners, but it’s still a popular spot for BVRA members to ride their horses.

While most members at the BVRA keep their horses in town for the spring, summer, and fall, some keep their horses on the lease year-round. These horses and riders continue to ride throughout the winter, and they make the most of the trails when the conditions permit.

Are you looking for a way to enjoy your horses close to home? The BVRA currently has paddocks available for sale as well as some paddock-sharing options available. The best way to get in touch is to email bvra14@gmail.com for more information and to get the process started.

Trail Tips

Did you know that horses have the right of way on multi-use trails? When you see horses riding on trails in the area, make sure to stop, say hi to the rider, and discuss how it’s best to proceed. Seasoned trail horses are used to seeing other trail users, but young horses may be experiencing the mountains for the first time. The rider will know what’s best to keep everyone safe on the trail. Never hide in the bushes, as this predatory behaviour might make horses think you’re trying to attack. Find more information on sharing the trails, here.

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