It’s a family affair at Bluebear Farms as the fifth generation is now working on the Nichols family property near Sanford.
Sheryl Feller (nee Nichols) said there’s a lot of history on her family’s century farm. For example, her great-grandparents boarded hunting dogs and carriage horses for wealthy Winnipeggers in the 1920s.
With an inherited love for horses, Sheryl began riding at a young age.
"I’ve been horse-crazy all my life," she said, adding that she saved up to buy her first show horse as soon as she could.
Sheryl, husband Barry and children Jamie and Lindsay moved back to the family home in 1987.
Making the decision to turn their family’s horse hobby into a business, they built a large barn in 1999, then an arena for indoor riding in 2000. They now can board up to 27 horses, including their own, and offer English and Western riding lessons.
The Bluebear name dates back to when the family raised Bernese mountain dogs.
Jamie, wife Ashley and their two young children now live on the property and look after the daily tasks required to run the equestrian centre. Lindsay helps with online promotion and marketing.
Sheryl said that over the years, an older clientele has developed, a group she calls her "golden spurs" riders. Some of the 10 riders come from as far away as Morris to take lessons.
Shirley Anne Edmunds is one of these older riders and has boarded a horse at Bluebear Farms for 15 years.
"It’s the most positive place I’ve ever ridden," she said, adding the Fellers helped comfort her after she had to have her horse put down.
Barb McMillan, of Winnipeg, makes the short trip out twice a week to ride the horse she has a part share in. Having ridden at other stables, she said she appreciates the knowledge of horses the Fellers possess, as well as the centre’s cleanliness, and the availability of fresh hay that’s grown on the farm.
Sheryl attributes her riders’ loyalty to a few factors: lesson groups with just two or three riders, the family’s emphasis on maintaining a clean stable and arena, and the care they provide for the horses which board at the centre.
Lindsay recently competed in dressage on the Manitoba team participating at the Canada Interprovincial Equestrian Championship in Calgary, and Jamie qualified for an international reining competition in Oklahoma in December.
Sheryl said the family’s goal is to help all its riders become more competitive through the long-term development model created by Equine Canada.
She and Ashley are working towards their Certified Horsemanship Association certification with a focus on providing safety, fun and excellence at their family business.
They’re also busy planning their 7th annual Halloween show, which will take place on Oct. 26 and 27. The pumpkin jumping contest is a favourite, said Sheryl.
"There’s always a few smashed pumpkins," laughed Ashley.
For more information on Bluebear Farms, see http://www.bluebearent.ca/farm/