The Riding Academy offers an adult introductory riding course that runs for 8 weeks out of the Horse Palace, which is on the exhibition grounds. The building itself is a strange, yet wonderful place. Originally built in 1931 to house the Royal Winter Fair, it remains mostly empty for the majority of the year. The Riding Academy is housed along the south wall, with approximately 20 horses. Also housed in the building is the Toronto Police Mounted Unit.
My first visit to the school was a bit surreal. I entered the building through the south west red and black doors adorned. Upon entering the vestibule, I was met with another set of red and black wooden doors. Once through them, I was in a huge – seemingly deserted – building filled with rows and rows of empty stalls. There’s no signage to direct you to the school, so I wandered through a few rows, hearing only my footfalls on the concrete. I ventured up a flight of stairs covered in dust and bits of straw, but came across only more stalls. I returned to the main floor and started my exploration to the back of the building. To my delight, at the very back there was the school. As I turned the corner I was met with a bustling hall, filled with horses and riders tacking up. The entrance is marked with a wrought iron arbor decorated with white Christmas lights. As I walked through, I couldn’t help but feel like I was entering my own fairy tale.
Now that I’ve been a few times, the mystique has faded away, but the complete joy I feel every time I enter is unmistakable.