In the posh South Vancouver neighbourhood of Southlands, it’s not uncommon to see a horse walking down the street.
The area, which is comprised of some 1,286 acres situated along the Fraser River between the University Endowment Lands and the community of Marpole, is home to many designated horse properties. And even more equine residents.
After turning off the bustling Southwest Marine Drive, become quickly enveloped by the quiet, tree-lined tranquility of the neighbourhood. With the constant hum of traffic a distant memory, it doesn’t take long for the senses to home in on the unlikely scents and sounds of horses that seem so foreign in an urban environment.
If visiting on a warm, sunny day, do not be surprised to spot a well-dressed human walking an equally well-groomed animal down the paved street of Balaclava, the blacktop regularly punctuated by faded remnants of what was once a pile of horse manure that has since been diligently removed by area residents (or smashed under the tire of a sportscar). To say this neighbourhood is an equestrian oasis is a bit of an understatement.
While Southlands is home to some of the city’s most affluent residents and their impressive, multi-million-dollar mansions, the semi-agricultural zoned neighbourhood is also where the Vancouver’s historic Southlands Riding Club is located—and has been since it opened in 1943.
The members-only riding club, which is often referred to as one of Vancouver’s best-kept secrets, sits on an approximately 16-acre swath of land. The meticulously maintained grounds include two covered riding arenas, a clubhouse, several outdoor grass-footed riding spaces, and a half-mile track. And somewhat surprisingly, the well-appointed facility is home to not a single horse; instead, it is used by its 400 riding and non-riding members for training, meetings, events, equestrian shows, and other events.
Part of what makes Southlands Riding Club so unique is its proximity to the downtown core of what is consistently called one of North America’s most expensive cities. The club’s grounds are situated less than nine kilometres, or a 15-minute drive, from downtown Vancouver; it is a unique luxury that local horseback riders and several Southlands residents have fought to maintain since the club was first introduced.
Property zoning in the area was initially changed to protect these equestrian interests in 1955. And, after a period of embittered issues regarding development pressures and use of the neighborhood lands, the Southlands Plan was voted into action on March 8, 1988, furthering the effort to maintain the community’s country feel.
These days, the future of the Southlands Riding Club is relatively secure. Under the watchful eye of passionate Southlands residents such as Jennifer Maynard, owner of the Southlands Heritage Farm, the Vancouver equestrian community will continue to thrive—even as the city surrounding it continues to grow.
Read more about our Community.