Jo Gillis 1925-2011

It was so touching to me to see how many people came to the visitation Wednesday night and to the service on Thursday afternoon. There often seems to be one mother in a neighborhood that provides a place where kids can congregate. After seeing how many of my friends from high school came to the visitation on Wednesday night I would have to guess that my mom was one of those mothers. I remember that there were always homemade cookies or grilled cheese sandwiches to be had but, perhaps more importantly, there was an empathetic welcoming presence that could be sensed as soon as you walked through the door.

It did not matter to my mom how a person appeared on the surface nor did it interest her even remotely what walk of life that person came from. If the guest was genuine, honest and good-hearted they were welcomed in her home. As a kid growing up I took that aspect of her character for granted but as I move through life I increasingly recognize how unusual it was and how blessed I was.

I hope that I can be as brave and resilient as she was throughout her life and I hope that I can live in a way that would make her proud.

Thanks again to everyone who covered for me at the farm during this difficult time. I am reluctant to try to name any names out of fear that I would over look someone, so please accept my thanks and know that your support meant the world to me.

(Sadly Pat's mother passed away on June 25th.
Click here for the eulogy Pat delivered.)


Rocky's New Best Friend

As some of you may know, Rocky has had a sore back for the last few weeks. We first noticed it while preparing for the May 24th weekend Dressage Show at Blue Star Farm. He suddenly had trouble going forward at the sitting trot and to the left, his tail would be caught between his hocks. Pat discovered that the saddle we were using for him (my older saddle) had a broken tree. After about ten days of rest and gentle work at the rising trot it seemed he was better.

Having missed the May show we decided to try the June 22nd show. This was Rocky's first trip to Blue Star without a horse companion. He was quite nervous but very good on the road. In the ring, however, he was really tense and stiff. The back trouble had returned. The marks were not good.

Now, the question was "how to help him?" The name Catherine Barlow was suggested. This lady had helped other horses with different ailments. So Catherine came to see if she could help Rocky. What an amazing woman! She has been treating horses for about 50 years and has magic healing hands. She believes horses must adjust themselves but is able to help them. She is close to a horse chiropractor but does not really like that term. After examining Rocky for a few minutes she told us that he had fallen (which he had) and hurt his shoulder and all of his back trouble was a result of him compensating, as best he could, with the discomfort he was having. She says that some horses are very stoic and don't like to complain but just carry on, as best they can.

Catherine started to stretch his legs and even crossed his legs, which is good for his shoulders. I must admit I was a bit concerned about some of these things but Rocky obviously loved these maneuvers.

Then she helped him by adjusting his spine. She put her arm over the tallest part of his croup (his hips) and just seemed to touch him on the other side and his leg dropped about five inches! It was quite dramatic. Then she did the other side and, from the look on Rocky's face, he was feeling much better and was clearly in love with Catherine and her magic hands.

After more adjustments and a rest, I walked Rocky and did some simple "round and down" rising trot. Happily his tail was now hanging normally.

Catherine then did some acupuncture on his hips. When she had placed about eight needles in his back his eyes started to close and he started to breathe so deeply I thought he was going to fall asleep. These procedures took about two hours and both Rocky and I were so grateful to Catherine for her help.

Rocky's treatments are on-going. I am to sweat his back (with apple cider vinegar) two to three times a week and also to sweat his hocks, as there was some soreness there as well.

I have ridden Rocky a few times since the adjustments and he seems to be going forward more easily and his tail is hanging properly - all good signs.

Catherine will come in a few weeks to check on his progress and I know Rocky will be happy to see this caring woman with the magic healing hands!

Heather Woods


Anything to do with Horses is a Workout!

You may be surprised how many calories are burned in horse related activities! There is a school of thought that the horse gets all the exercise and the rider is just a passenger, but people who think that way have obviously never ridden a horse - or looked after one, let alone 30! Between the shoveling, the grooming and the riding you are burning up a lot of calories. For example, riding at a trot burns more calories than going for a brisk walk!

The following applies for a person weighing 130 lbs (and the heavier you are the more calories you burn):

Shovelling 354 cal/hr
General riding 236 cal/hr
Riding @ walk 148 cal/hr
Riding @ trot 384 cal/hr
Grooming 354 cal/hr

All that compared to walking briskly, at about 6 km per hour, which burns 236 calories per hour or walking, carrying a 15 pound load, which burns 207 calories per hour.

Of course, all that healthy exercise does make you hungry!


Campers Page



Thank You!

Thank you to all the parents and staff for supporting our Saturday Morning Coffee Drive. This year we collected $100.00! Proceeds have been given to Pat for our summer camp supplies.

I hope everyone has a wonderful summer. I'll be back with coffee in October.

Linda - the Coffee Lady

Thank you Linda!

Thank you also for looking after lunch every day


Do You Know How To ...

Take a horse's temperature?

(Until you have had practice, do not attempt this without the assistance of an experienced person.)

Take a horse's pulse?

The normal pulse rate at rest is 36 - 42 beats per minute - ponies may be faster.


Thinking September

It may feel as though summer has only just arrived but it is time to start planning your riding schedule for September!

Please complete this form and return it to avoid last minute disappointment - we want to be sure there is an opening for YOU to ride at your level at the time which is most convenient for you.

NAME: ___________________________

TELEPHONE # ____________________

E-MAIL ___________________________

Please circle the best day/time for you - more than one choice would be good!


5:30 pm 6:30 pm 7:30 pm



9:30 am 10:30 am 11:30 am

12:30 pm 1:30 pm


OR I am available in the week during the day

Please specify day(s)_______________



Open House and Registration

10 AM - 2 PM

FREE RIDING ASSESSMENT (This is a mini riding lesson which allows you to experience what is involved, and enables us to place you in the correct lesson. (Please contact us by August 27 for this as space is limited)







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Christine Benns Photography




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Eulogy - Jo Gillis 1925-2011

I want to tell you a few things about my Mom.
She loved drawing, she loved music, she loved to dance and she loved to laugh…

Born in Cheticamp in 1925 she moved to Halifax when she was about 17 years old. It was there, working at the infirmary, that she met the man that teased her incessantly. Despite this, she fell in love and agreed to marry him in 1950 after they moved to Toronto!

In Toronto, she worked at the Western hospital and it was there that she continued to develop her skill for sewing. She utilized her talents in sewing in many ways. She made costumes for contestants on the Tiny Talent Show and elaborate evening dresses for women who sought her skills. We of course benefited from this because, when she wasn't sewing for clients, she was making intricate doll clothes for June's dolls or school clothes for both of us. In fact in August, we would go shopping and pick out what we wanted to wear for our first day of school. She would study the outfit and then go to the fabric store and purchase material. From memory and without a pattern she would recreate the outfits that we would proudly wear to the first day of school in September. It was quite a skill and one which I can say with great certainty I did not inherit!

Both Mom and Dad loved to learn and so they took up ball room dancing and even square dancing. (I give you a lot of credit for that one Dad.) They also took night school courses. Dad tried to learn French and Mom took typing courses. She even took a course on how to use a computer although she did confess to me that it was just so at least she'd know how to turn the damn thing on!

Her English was excellent but there were some occasions where you would be reminded that French was her first language. For example, she was very fond of saLmon. In fact she'd willingly tell you that, prepared correctly, it could be a real DE-LECK-ASEE! I also remember June and I got her pretty angry once when we were down home in Cape Breton. She had told us to be quiet and go to sleep and I guess we kept carrying on. At any rate, she stormed into the room and proceeded to tell us in no uncertain terms that she was not going to tolerate our behaviour except of course she said it all in French. June and I found this so funny and, although I can't recall, I imagine that at that particular time she didn't share our sense of hilarity!

When she mispronounced the odd word and you corrected her, even in fun, if it slowed her down from what she was trying to say or what she wanted to do she would tersely ask "did you know what I mean?" and that was the end of that.

She didn't have much patience for being stopped in her pursuit of whatever caught her interest and because she always interested in something she was always on the go.

Dad was telling us the other day about their boat ride from New Brunswick to Bar Harbor on the American side. She exhausted him because for an hour and a half she ran up and down the stairs not wanting to miss one view from the many vantage points she had found. When she finally took a rest a gentleman who had noticed her wild enthusiasm offered her his binoculars so that she could see the whales. I'm sure that wound her up right back up again!

But that was how she always was. If something interested her, and so very many things did, she would throw herself into it. No matter how mundane, if she had never seen it before she wanted to learn about it.

In her 40's she met her friend Dulcie while they both worked at the Canada Foils factory. I suspect that Dulcie recognized a kindred spirit in Mom because the two of them had many great adventures together. Together they learned to swim and then they learned to ice skate and then they both got a bicycle and they went everywhere on them. For Mom that bicycle represented her freedom. She even did a lot of her grocery shopping with it but it also served another purpose for her…

Years earlier Mom and Dad had bought a piano from someone who had left it in their shed, a foot deep in mud. After giving the owner $15.00 for the piano and a truck driver $9.00 to bring it to our house, my Dad lovingly restored the piano so that June and I could take lessons. Now, so many years later, it was Mom's turn. She admitted to feeling a bit foolish trying to start so late in her life but luckily she was blessed to find a brilliant teacher in Furio who encouraged her to persevere and so she did. Every week she would ride her bike up to Lawrence and the Don Valley Parkway for her class and practice hard throughout the week until it was time to cycle back up to Lawrence for her next lesson. We were all happy to see her finally doing something that was just for her and it still makes me smile to remember how much joy it brought to her life

Of course she brought joy to the lives of others too. She had a natural empathy and people seemed to sense that. Russ and David took a welding class and with their newly acquired skill they proceeded to create an ugly steel monstrosity of misshapen sheet metal. As a joke, they brought it to my Mom as a gift, knowing exactly what her reaction would be. She graciously thanked them and proudly gave it a prominent display place. I don't know how the two of them kept a straight face and I can't tell you how long she kept that damn thing.

Throughout her life she was constantly drawn to animals. As most of you know we had dogs all our lives and she cherished each one and also mourned the passing of each one. My parents had gone a while without a dog and we decided that maybe it was time again. She worried that a cocker spaniel (the family dog of choice for years) might be a bit too large to handle and so we began the search for a littler canine. Thanks to our friend Erin, on line shopper extraordinaire, we were able to arrange to purchase a little rescued Pomeranian in Hamilton. I remember how Mom brought a hand written bill of sale because she knew that she would fall in love with the little dog and wanted to make sure that no one could ever come and take GiGi
away from her. The little dog was a great joy and companion for Mom, giving her comfort especially while she worried about Dad when he was in the hospital.
I loved how the simplest things brought her such joy and how she always tried to put others at ease and if all else failed…she'd feed them.

Each year at Christmas she would try to remember everyone that had helped me at the farm. Because they are always so many she would have to narrow down her list and I know that was always difficult for her. Once she had her list she would proceed to make her traditional fudge and carefully wrap individual pieces, put name tags on them and deliver them to the farm. When we were cleaning up some things at the house this week I found her little list for this past Christmas. It was hard to look at how shaky her hand writing was and I can only imagine how difficult the process must have become for her even with Dad's help. But she never wanted to disappoint people or not show her appreciation.

Even as she grew weaker and her illness made her time difficult, she would always insist that she was just fine. She would worry about disturbing Dad's sleep when she needed his assistance and was always so thankful for the littlest thing you could do for her. Even in the hospital, when I am sure she knew, she always tried to manage a smile whenever she thought we looked sad.

I know that she knows we loved her and I know that she is with God now and that he loves her too.

Thank you Mom for continuing to be my inspiration for so many things in my life.
We love you.
Je t'aime

Toronto, June 30th 2011