Having been a huge part of the country’s agricultural development, horses have a proud tradition in Canada. The country’s many horse farms are involved with western riding with cattle, equestrian, racing, trekking, breeding, polo, and hobby-riding. Volunteering on one of these farms offers travellers the chance to learn more about horses and get some riding in, while experiencing Canadian ranch life.
During your placement, you’ll be expected to help out around the house, participate in family social events, and, of course, help care for the horses. You’ll spend time on food prep, cleaning, grocery shopping, helping in the vegetable garden, getting the children ready for school, and playing with the children after school. Your work with the horses will most likely include mucking out, feeding, tacking up, and/or lunging, as well as other general stable duties. Those placed at equestrian farms may also need to travel to competitions, and if you’re an experienced rider, you may also be able to compete yourself.
Tasks are varied and change from week to week and season to season. However, typical tasks include;
Handing young horses
Helping with riding lessons
Loading / uploading horses on the float
Shampooing / washing horses
Preparing horses for shows
Helping on competition days
Taking horses to and from the paddock
Other general cleaning and farm work around the yard
Other jobs around the farm with other animals
Helping with children
If you are required to work at horse shows this may include getting horses ready for the riders, cleaning, providing general assistance etc. However, traveling to the show, cooking, watching competitions and going to events at the show is not considered work. Work does not include riding (unless jockeying), lessons, competing, or learning about something new such as changing a shoe or watching a vaccinating etc.
While living on the property you’re also required to help with an additional domestic duties which are considered your everyday household chores and are not considered work. For example; preparing and cooking meals, cleaning and washing your clothes, vacuuming, keeping your bedroom and living areas tidy, going grocery shopping and feeding the pets.
Accommodation is included in your placement. You’ll have a private bedroom in the main family home, or in a cottage or detached sleepout on the property.
Meals are included in your placement and most meals will be with your host family. If you’re travelling with friends or living with other volunteers, you may have some meals in your own cottage, but the food will be supplied. In general, you’re expected to help in the kitchen. If you’d like additional snacks, you’ll need to buy these yourself – and with regard to alcoholic drinks, you must get permission from your host family to bring this to the farm, and do so at your own expense. You are also responsible for buying any food that meets specific dietary requirements, such as vegan milks or gluten-free bread.
Most families have wifi that you can use for basic purposes, such as contacting your family, checking your emails, and occasional Skype calls. Please ask your host family before using the wifi, as some locations have very limited reception and high usage charges. You’ll be able to buy data for your own mobile phone or personal device.
You’ll likely be pretty busy during your placement, helping out for around 5-7 hours per day on the farm, and for 2-3 hours in the house. Depending on your placement, you may also have specific duties on weekends or in the evening. Every farm is different, so you should speak to your host family about what a typical day or week will look like during your stay.
This means you may not have much built-in opportunity to travel during your placement itself. However, rest assured you won’t be bored! Your host family will include you in their own social activities such as visiting family and friends, and going to shows or community events. Additionally, if you wish to go away for a few days or weeks during your placement, you can discuss this with your host family. They are usually very accommodating – however, please note you won’t be refunded for weekly costs (e.g. meals, accommodation) for the time you’re away from the farm. Remember that Canada is a huge country, and getting away from the farm may be difficult.
If possible, however, we also recommend you allow some time before or after your placement to see the country. We work with several backpacker travel companies who can show you the best of Canada as well as the United States, Mexico, and Central America. If you’re interested in a spot of extra travel around your placement, let us know and we’ll advise you about travel options before you book your flights.