Eastman Stories

Down n’ Dirty: It’s a Family Thing!

By Eastman Tourism

May 21, 2022
Read time: 7 min

Down n’ Dirty: It’s a Family Thing! Connect with Those You Love in a Different Way

In 2021, Eastman Tourism released the Experiential Tourism Program, where four Eastern Manitoba businesses participated in creating four separate and unique Experiences. These Experiences are launching this summer, with the first being Hidden Valley Haven’s Down n’ Dirty: It’s a Family Thing! and is open for bookings today!

Down n’ Dirty caters to families, encouraging them to take a break from the rigid bustle of everyday life and let loose together. Keep reading to learn more about this exciting Experience with Eastman Tourism team member, Skylor.

Setting the Stage

The most important thing in life is family – whether biologically, legally, or even when you unofficially adopt people to your crazy inner circle of family. Now, maybe this is just my corny side showing (it definitely is), but perhaps who said it best are the characters of the 2002 Disney movie Lilo and Stitch – “Ohana means Family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten”.

Right to its very core, Hidden Valley Haven’s Down n’ Dirty Experience is all about bringing families together through fun, laughter, challenges and tasks, and, of course, roughin’ it ranch style.

To start your Experience, you’ll have to know where you’re going. Hidden Valley Haven is located in Roseau River, Manitoba. The property is a nature lover’s dream come true with a large cottage on-site that overlooks the flowing Roseau River, trails, wildlife and beautiful wildflowers. And it is an active horse ranch with plenty of other furry and feathery friends like goats, chickens, cats, and even Sarge, their faithful, hardworking dog who sometimes tags along.

When you first arrive, you’ll be greeted by Jordana, owner of the Haven and your host for the day. A little bit about Jordana is that she’s a superhuman; maybe not in the you-just-got-bitten-by-a-radioactive-spider kind, but, honestly, pretty darn close if you ask me! Jordana is a life coach extraordinaire, an animal lover (which sparked her passion to start a ranch and rescue animals), active with her community, and never afraid to lend a helping hand. She is a mother to eight hundred (realistically eight) children and wife to a full-time health care worker. Her newest venture added to her long list is the Haven itself. With the Haven, she incorporates all her passions together with rehomed, rescued animals calling the Haven home; her family continuously dedicated to helping care for the animals and property with her; and connecting with people and families through her programs, events, sessions, and activities.

Jordana’s patience, kindness, passion, and her heart on her sleeve gives her the ability to connect with people from all walks of life in a meaningful way.

Let the Fun Begin!

It’s time to get down n’ dirty! The Experience begins by gathering together by the river, where Jordana will briefly introduce herself and describe some of the adventures of the day before you and your family set off for your first activity – exploring the walking trail.

The trail is short but packs a punch of quality and breathtaking sights. To your right, you’ll see nature at its finest as most of the prairie landscape remains untouched, offering prime sightings of luscious foliage, tall grass, wildflowers, and birds. To your left is the Roseau River gently flowing and the valley overlooking your group. The stillness along the trail is spectacular, and as you walk, you’ll hear the sounds of birds singing, the flap of their wings, the grass slowly swaying in the breeze, and the soothing lull of the river flowing. Near the end of the trail is easy access to the riverbank, where your group can dip your toes into the river, skip rocks, and go on the hunt for shells!

I love this part of the Experience as it sets the tone for the day and shifts your mindset to a relaxing, fun one, keeping those thoughts of work and frustrations out of mind. And the little ones love exploring and soaking in the beautiful surroundings!After your walk, it’s time to start horsing around – literally! Working together, you’ll prep the outdoor arena for your next activity with the horses. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Yay! Horseback riding!” or “Oh no! Horseback riding,” depending on your feelings towards riding a real, live horse. But I have some good news for those who had the latter reaction. You won’t be riding a horse, but you certainly will be working with them.

I’m not going to give away the FULL story because what fun would that be? But here’s the gist of this laugh-out activity/challenge. Jordana will go through safety steps to take while being around the horses and continuously provide support and encouragement during your time in the pen. I will quickly add that the horses are very well behaved, properly trained, and are ABSOLUTELY adorable! But always be cautious while being around these big, beautiful animals.

Once you’ve bonded with your horse for a bit, it’s time for the real fun to begin! The goal is to successfully complete multiple obstacles throughout the arena with your newfound furry friend in tow! Completing the tasks requires communication and your group to work together. Which, as you can imagine, with a few of your teammates being kids, makes for many memorable moments of fun and laughter.

I LOVE this team-building activity, and no, not just because of the horses, but that is a huge bonus! I found the experience challenging yet fun, safe, and enlightening on how we communicate. During the activity, not only are you communicating with your teammates but also with the horse vocally, with your physical body, and emotionally.

Dinner Time!

Get yourselves cleaned up because it’s time to start cooking dinner! Everyone will head into the cottage to start prepping dinner, with the kids taking the bulk of work and mom and dad assisting when needed. On the menu is a whole farm fresh chicken that will (hopefully!) be seasoned to perfection by the kiddos.

While dinner is cooking, you’ll be busy with a very unique activity – mutton bustin’ for kids eight and under and bull riding. I know there’s a lot to digest with that statement, but bear with me. When I say “bull riding,” don’t think of that classic Looney Tunes episode of Bugs Bunny bullfighting, a very antagonized bull because 1). Jordana’s bull is very friendly and, for lack of a better word, chill and 2). you’ll be riding said well-mannered bull, NOT bullfighting! The biggest concern with the Haven’s bull is he might be more interested in eating than giving you a ride.

And for those who don’t know what mutton bustin’ is, it is quite possibly the best thing I have ever seen in my life! I didn’t know what it was and had never seen it done before, never mind watched in person. So, your child of eight or under will mount a sheep (while wearing protective gear) in the carrel. The fence gate will open, and there goes little Tommy or Susie on the back of a full-steam-ahead sheep into the outdoor arena.After this rather exciting activity, mom and dad will be swept away to enjoy a rejuvenating activity together – the activity itself may change for some dates, but usually, it’s a relaxing, guided yoga session set against the Roseau River. While mom and dad do that, the kids will be busy with Jordana for a very special and secret mission/surprise that will blow mom and dad away! I won’t spoil it for you, but it will definitely melt your hearts!

By now, the chicken is most likely done cooking, and it’s time to sit around the table together to enjoy a fresh and incredibly tasty meal cooked together by all of you. This is the perfect time to talk about your day, share your favourite moments, and reflect on the lessons learned during the Experience.

Dinner may be the last official activity, but Jordana isn’t in any hurry to get rid of you. After eating, feel free to explore the property some more, take a dip in the river, visit the animals, play on haybales, enjoy cuddling by the fire pit, and add those finishing touches to your experience – whatever they may be!

Visit Hidden Valley Haven’s website to book your Down n’ Dirty experience today!

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