Metro Detroit Stables Reopen to Riders Looking for Equine Experiences

By: Karen Dybis | October 12, 2020

Photo Courtesy of O.A.T.S.

Riding a horse gives you a new view of not only the countryside around you but also of the world as a whole: Things seem more in perspective, and that fresh air and equine company seems to put everyone in a more mindful mood.

Metro Detroit has many horse farms, riding stables and equine facilities that give people one-time or long-time riding options. Many are re-opened for business but with limited capacity and other restrictions, such as mandatory masks, during the coronavirus pandemic. Still, having that space, access to the great outdoors and horse at your side makes the drive worth it. 

One established horseback-riding facility that is seeking riders is O.A.T.S. or Offering Alternative Therapy with Smiles, a facility with more than a dozen horses and a menagerie of other animals in Ortonville, a city in rural Oakland County. 

O.A.T.S., which is a 501(c)3 facility, has been sharing its 40-acre horse farm with riders for more than 23 years, said Executive Director Beth Pellerito. Things have changed somewhat because of coronavirus, but the mission remains the same, Pellerito said. O.A.T.S. wants to give people with disabilities the ability to ride a horse, gain that balance and flexibility while also enjoying the horse and the beautiful environment around them. 

People with disabilities are especially encouraged to try horseback riding, Pellerito said, but O.A.T.S. is open to everyone. She especially encourages people to come by for a ride during the coronavirus for a time to enjoy nature and gain some mindfulness in this otherwise stressful moment in our collective lives. 

Some of the people who have come in over the past few years include children who have been bullied in school, people who have anxiety or other mental or physical challenges as well as military veterans who may have PTSD or a related issue, Pellerito said. While her employees are certified therapeutic riding instructors, the animals on the O.A.T.S. farm are just as important, she added. 

“We call our animals the therapists,” Pellerito said, including the horses, cows, chickens, goats, a pot-bellied pig and donkeys all living at O.A.T.S. “They all play a part in the therapy process, whatever someone might need.”

Pellerito said they are limiting how many people can be on the property to about 40 percent of capacity right now. That means more work for her family as well as the few volunteers who can be on the property. Coronavirus-related physical distancing also limits how much fund-raising activity that O.A.T.S. can do. Pellerito said that O.A.T.S. is taking donations all of the time, and that funds can be offered in the form of monetary donations as well as can drives, merchandise and other fund-raising methods. 

As things continue to open up, O.A.T.S. will look for more volunteers, Pellerito added. Moreover, they will need more help as school groups start to return. People interested in volunteering can check the website as well as contract Pellerito for more information. 

Here are some other riding stables and farms that are open for visitors in Metro Detroit.

Rushlow Arabians

Rushlow’s Arabians in Romulus is a professional equine facility that has been involved in the breeding and training of horses including riding lessons for well over thirty years. Right now, Rushlow’s is open for lessons by appointment but bookings are full through November, officials said.

Windermere Equestrian Center

Since 1983, Windermere Equestrian Center has sought to help its riders create a connection with the horse, which can only be developed through working with horses in all aspects of horsemanship — stable management, grooming, health care, ground training and riding. The Clinton Township location is open for lessons but we currently have a four-page wait list for new students, officials said.

Willow Tree Riding Stable

Located in Romulus, this riding and boarding table has created a learning environment for riders of all ages combined with outstanding horse care. The stable currently offers full-service stall boarding, horse starting and dressage training as well as riding lessons on school horses.

Grosse Pointe Equestrian

This sports club in Grosse Pointe Woods has a 50-stall barn, 23 paddocks, two indoor and two outdoor arenas and more. It also offers full-service boarding, training options, and a lesson program open to boarders and non-boarders.