By Danielle Ray, Senior Reporter
Cornerstone Ranch has been in the fortunate position of business not only remaining steady but increasing over the last year during the pandemic.
“Things are going great at the ranch,” said Julia Connell, who teaches horseback riding lessons, organizes and leads trail rides, and works at the ranch her mother Susan Connell owns. “We have actually been the busiest we have ever been through this winter. Normally we slow down a lot through January and February, but we have had so many great people come for our outdoor activities.”
The outdoor activities that draw visitors to the ranch year-round include wagon rides, private and group horseback riding lessons, trail rides, workshops, and more.
“We have been able to get three wagons out at a time which has been very helpful in order to get as many out as possible without having the horses get overworked, and since we take one group per wagon to help with social distancing,” Julia Connell said.
Twenty-seven horses, a donkey, and two dogs, the ranch mascots Angus and Jasper, call the ranch home. The number of horses has grown significantly from just five horses when Susan Connell carved out the now 55-acre ranch over two decades ago. Four licensed instructors teach horseback riding lessons all year, including in the indoor rink during the colder months, and there are five part-time employees and many volunteers who help Susan Connell to run and maintain the ranch, including her daughter.
“I find people who come often see the ranch as an escape from their busy daily lives,” Julia Connell said. “We know many families who come yearly for a wagon or trail ride, and those who come for the first time love hearing about our history and how we have grown.”
Cornerstone temporarily closed for three months last year due to businesses regulations put forth by the state as a result of the pandemic. Once Governor Charlie Baker, who has gone on a fall trail ride at the ranch before with his family, gave the green light for businesses to host outdoor activities for small groups, ranch staff began by offering private horseback riding lessons to students and then added back group lessons, trail rides, and full day workshops.
“All of our activities are outdoors and grouped so that whoever comes together will be in their own group, so social distancing is easy,” Julia Connell said. “I always say horseback riding is the best way to social distance.”
Julia Connell said she enjoys sharing their horses with the ranch visitors and riding students.
“It is a different experience for them,” Julia Connell said. “Since I have been around horses my whole life, I forget sometimes how the bond with a horse can be so incredible. Teaching people how to ride on trails and in lessons is so rewarding, seeing the improvement over time and seeing people form connections with the horses is truly a beautiful experience.”
She said and her mother feel “truly blessed” that they have been able to not only keep their business afloat during the pandemic but flourishing.
“We are very thankful to all of our customers who come for any of our activities,” Julia Connell said. “We love offering chances for people to experience the history of horses and how much they have done for us, and now what we can do for them. I find many people are just looking for a way to forget about the stress of the pandemic and the chaos of daily lives and going to Cornerstone Ranch is the best place to do just that.”
For more information visit cornerstoneranch.com and follow Cornerstone Ranch, LLC on Facebook and Instagram.