by Cassidy Nunn –
Nicky Hannam, like many horse lovers out there (myself included!) discovered her passion for horses at the tender age of three. Her love for these majestic animals only grew over the years and she began riding and then eventually owning horses, including winning her first horse in a raffle of all things! Her two daughters, Samantha and Vanessa Reid, also inherited the horse-loving gene and in 1999, between the three of them, they were boarding five of their own horses; it was time to look for a farm property. “I had always wanted to live on a farm,” says Nicky. Her husband, John Hannam, was keen to try the farming life as well. Their search led them to a 36-acre parcel in Brentwood Bay which had no house and only a small cow shed, but they could see the potential. Within two weeks of purchasing the property, they had a nine-stall barn built which was quickly filled with horses (theirs and a few boarders). Next came an outdoor riding arena and then the family’s home. The original barn is still on the property and home to many happy horses.
Although no one in the family had any previous farming experience, when another local farmer offered to sell them his haying equipment, John jumped at the opportunity, purchased the equipment and began to learn all about haying. In the summer, haying time is all hands on deck; it’s usually an intense two weeks of 18-hour days filled with cutting, tedding, drying, baling and then hauling the hay off the fields. The hay produced on the property, approximately 3,300 bales per year from two cuts (depending on the season and weather) is sold locally and John often enters a bale into the Saanich Fair each Labour Day weekend.
Riding through the wet winters in Victoria has always been a soggy experience and the increase in inclement weather over the years spurred the decision to look into building an indoor arena on the property. The planning for a new equestrian facility began in 2013; by 2014 the building of the indoor arena and stalls were underway and the project was finished in the summer of 2015. The over 25,000-square-foot new barn and arena officially opened in 2016 as a training and boarding facility.
Fairlawn Equestrian Centre is home to 16 to 20 horses, although that number changes depending on how many are in for training. The family also enjoys hosting events at the farm, from horse shows to bringing in international-level clinicians, such as Michael Eilberg and Stephen Clarke. In May they will be hosting a clinic with Cesar Torrente, a Colombian FEI 4* Judge. Being a part of the thriving horse community, as well as the farming network on the Peninsula, has always been important to the family.
Samantha began coaching at the age of 17 at High Oaks Stables and has continued to coach and train horses, focusing on dressage, in the years since. She runs the day-to-day management of Fairlawn Equestrian Centre, although all of the family members have their role in the running of the facility. “Horses are a lot of work!” says Samantha. “There’s an awful lot of manual labour required.” The days are very full but rewarding, from organizing grain and hay to feeding four times a day – breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night hay – to harrowing the ring and cleaning the paddocks and stalls. Riding is a daily activity at the centre of it all; the training horses are ridden as per their training schedule and Samantha teaches lessons to boarders and other students. “I don’t think you could do this if you didn’t love the animals and the lifestyle,” she says.
It’s a labour of love and a lifestyle not cut out for everyone, but for this horsey family, they are all very willingly involved.
Photo by Nunn Other Photography