Twenty years ago, with the hopes of establishing a greater connection between human and horse here, Rusty Jade Ranch has continued their mission amongst the Caledon community, doing just that.
Kelly Solowka founded a horseback facility know as Stable Relations back in 2000, which included riding lessons with boarded and trained horses. As the years flew by, the ranch evolved to include more education, connection with the animals and even pivoting into harvesting.
“When I first started the company 20 years ago, there was a lot of issues out there, especially like now with COVID-19, with people having anxiety and depression and all that kind of stuff,” Solowka explained. “Riding horses, isn’t just about riding horses. It’s about making a connection with another being, and they themselves bring so much to us, and our bodies and souls.”
She dedicated herself to her business with the help of her children, and later on with her partner Brad, who have all grown with the company and contributed to its constant evolvution.
Her daughter Andi later went on to graduate from OCAD with Marketing and Advertisement. She has now brought that knowledge back to the family business to help its growth. Especially with the growing influence of technology.
“20 years ago, there was no iPhones, there weren’t tablets. That’s something that I have a hard time wrapping my head around, but it’s a good thing Andi is young, and she can keep me online with that stuff,” she said. “She can understand it a whole lot more, and then Brad’s daughters, they’re also way more advanced in technology. They’re able to speak up and help us try to understand.”
Solowka reflects on her memories from when she began the business and how it has formed today and is proud of the success over the past 20 years.
“We’re not just doing the riding stuff, but the ranch itself is developing into some good stuff like healthy eating, wellness being,” she said. “My vision is not just to give riding lessons, what I teach I’m more of a therapist. The children will tell me all kinds of stuff and what’s happening at home or if they’re upset and the horse absorbs that as well and gives back to them. They do the same thing for the adults as well.”
The ranch has grown not only with its stables, but the ranch itself has expanded through harvesting their own hay and vegetables, and teaching youth the lifestyle and getting their hands dirty.
The all girls team, besides Brad, continue to learn how to harvest, use the farming equipment like tractors, drive the horse trailers, and wagons.
“It’s pretty much an all-girl operation,” said Solowka. “I think girls can do so much more than they’re ever given credit for. Typically, farm work in the past has always been a male dominated thing. There’s more and more females getting into it.”
Working as a family business can have its ups and downs, but daughter Andi explained how it was nice going back home to the family farm after being in Toronto for school.
“We’re very privileged,” she said. “I was at school downtown Toronto, to contract that with my upbringing here. It’s the little things. The fresh air, and even though things might be really hard at times with the physical labour, the administrative stuff and just feeling overwhelmed, but then you smell the horses, and it’s really nice to be able to be in the fresh air.”
“When you have a family business, for youngsters, they do have to go out and they do have to experience things to see that it’s not so bad on the family farm,” said Kelly. “They’re all great, and they’re all very hard workers.”
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the family and community members have not been able to celebrate their 20th anniversary because of restrictions and maintaining small gatherings.
They were looking forward to getting together with all their clients, enjoy live music and celebrate together as one big family, but are looking to postpone until next year, when things hopefully clear up.
“We’ll celebrate 21 years!” they exclaimed.
Alyssa Parkhill, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Caledon Citizen