Owner handing over the reins to iconic business


  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>A fixture on the Lunenburg waterfront for more than two decades, the horse and buggy service Trot In Time, owned by Basil Oickle (shown here with his horse Jake), now has new owners at the reins. See story Page 6.</p>
  • <p>JOHN VANDERBRUGGE, PHOTO</p><p>Shay VanderBrugge and her mother Donna Williams will be arriving with John VanderBrugge in February as the new owner operators of a Lunenburg horse and carriage business.</p>

Launched by Basil Oickle 25 years ago, Trot In Time's horse and buggy rides have become an iconic summer service in Old Town Lunenburg.

As he moves on to retirement, Oickle is now handing over the reins to the service, Trot In Time Buggy Rides, along with his farm outside of Lunenburg, to a husband, wife and their daughter in Ontario, who will be arriving in February.

Oickle, 63, won't be putting the brakes on Trot In Time completely as far as he's concerned, however. As of last week he sold the Garden Lots property to John VanderBrugge and his wife Donna Williams of St. Catharines, but he will continue to stay on at the farm and help transition the business service to its new owner/operators.

At the same time, Oickle is in the throes of creating a series of children's books based on the story behind Trot In Time, and he expects the first book to be out later this month.

In an interview with LighthouseNOW, Oickle explained the buggy business has put increasing strain on his shoulders, and he's been finding the general tasks more and more difficult. "You're committed to the barn, twice a day, 365 days out of the year. Whether you're sick or not, you must go to work."

Nonetheless, he said, "I am just so overwhelmed and pleased Trot In Time buggy rides, the legacy, will continue."

Certainly the business has had its challenges. At its peak, Oickle had eight working horses. In August, 2019, a pair of wagons, along with shoeing tools and thousands of dollars worth of other instrumental gear were destroyed when the barn housing the equipment burned down. Within months, the community rallied around and helped Oickle replace the barn.

Along with other businesses stymied by the COVID-19 pandemic health regulations, Trot In Time was parked for the summer of 2020, while this summer it was only allowed to operate for half the season.

VanderBrugge, Williams and their 17-year-old daughter, Shay, whose last name is VanderBrugge, were among the customers who enjoyed a buggy ride through Lunenburg in August. When they learned that Oickle was wanting to sell the business and property, they joined him at the farm and began to explore the notion of a purchase.

They returned again in October and stayed at one of the cottages on the property. "And at the end of the week, their minds were made up this is where they want to be," reported Oickle.

"We were looking for a change of pace and a move from Ontario," explained VanderBrugge, who will be retiring as a tool setter for General Motors. Williams, a belly dance instructor, may look to continue with this service in Lunenburg.

VanderBrugge told LighthouseNOW the family was getting tired of Ontario's hectic pace. Living not far from Toronto, he said, "It's just traffic jams all the time. We're looking for a quieter existence."

They had always loved Nova Scotia and its environment and decided to make a buggy ride business and a move to Lunenburg "our new goal going forward."

However, it won't be a big leap for the family whom VanderBrugg says has "been in the horse world for a long time."

"My daughter's a very big horse person. She wants to make horses her life," he said of Shay, noting that she's a competitive rider and is one of the youngest carriage drivers working in Niagara on the Lake.

"We're looking forward to coming out there. We're real horse animal lovers so our priority is going to be making sure the horses are well cared for," he said.

As Oickle moves to wind down the business Trot In Time Buggy Rides, the family will be establishing a new company with only a slight variation on the name - Trot In Time Carriage Tours.

For the most part, said, VanderBrugge, they will be operating the business the way Oickle's been running it, though they might expand it to include weddings and proposals "and that kind of thing....

"But the core of the business will still be down on Bluenose Drive there with the historical tours."

Meanwhile, Oickle's been busy putting the final touches on his series of children's books, which he is self-publishing through the Alberta company Tellwell.

He's written five books "so far," based on his own Trot In Time true story, each one continuing on from the other According to Oickle, it had been on his mind to write children's books for a couple of decades, but it was only a couple of years ago that he decided "this was a good time."

But he admits, that upon deciding to write the books, "I struggled. I couldn't write them. I just felt like I was bragging about myself. For two years I was annoyed at myself, frustrated that I couldn't write this, because I knew that it could be a good story."

He recalls that one day while walking from the barn the solution struck him. "I knew who could write the book. And I was just jumping with glory. And that would be my very first horse, Cindy. Once I realized I could tell the story through her eyes, through her perspective, I want you to know the words just flowed," he said.

While the story is aimed at children, according to Oickle,"parents are going to love reading this thing to their children."

"It starts from the very beginning, in 1996, when I knocked on the door of the world's strongest man, and asked if they had a horse for sale. True story. And that"s how the story begins."

In more ways than one, Trot In Time is turning a chapter in people's lives.

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