Hanover Township horse farm is a place of tranquility.
HANOVER TWP. — There’s peace in the valley at Off the Rail Farm.
Well, OK, the neighing of horses might break the silence, and things can start out a bit hectic on nights when students show up for horse riding lessons.
But generally, Kelly and Ernie Sieber’s 30-acre farm, tucked amid rolling hills and woods in Hanover Township, half a mile off the paved road, is a place of tranquility.
And tranquility is a hot commodity these days, so the Siebers are finding creative new uses for their land, including a recently launched, guided horse-riding trail.
They’ve also begun hosting intimate outdoor dinners where ticketed guests can enjoy local libations and live music.
At a debut dinner several weekends ago, a gathering of 20 sat at spaced-apart picnic tables, savoring food from Two Chefs Catering in Hopewell Township, wines from the new Harkins Mill Winery in New Sewickley Township and acoustic classic rock with a twist by Washington County singer Dan Baker.
“It probably turned out way more upscale than we intended,” Ernie Sieber said. “Now we’re planning to do it on a fairly regular basis. We’ve called it An Evening on the Farm, which is perfect with everything that’s going on right now.”
The Siebers have put the final touches on the next Evening on the Farm dinner, which will be announced any day now on the Off the Rail Farm Facebook page.
“We’re looking at 20 people again, to come out for some kind of nice meal with alcohol from maybe a local brewery and some live music, just in a very quiet, peaceful setting,” Sieber said.
Harkins Mill Winery would welcome the chance to partner again on an Off the Rail event.
“They have a great venue, and they have a lot of exciting plans for the future,” winery co-owner Deana Rape said.
In the time of COVID-19, people are looking for safe, outdoor, close-to-home activities. Off the Rail’s Kelly Sieber smiles when recalling the person who called to inquire about the new trail rides, asking if there’d be social distancing. That kind of comes naturally when horse riding.
By appointment only, individuals or small groups can schedule an hour-long guided ride along a mixture of logging roads and hand-cut trails.
“It’s kind of semi-rugged, but safe,” Ernie Sieber said.
Horse riding experience isn’t necessary.
“It’s a walk only. It’s meant to enjoy the trails, stop and take some pictures and look around,” Sieber said.
The Siebers had talked for years about finding new ways to utilize their land.
“Now’s a good time to bring that stuff forward,” Sieber said. “It gives people something to do and utilizes our farm.”
For a second straight summer, Off the Rail also will host a day for photographers and models, who can pose in a farm setting to build their portfolios.
The Siebers also are kicking around the idea of an outdoor Sunday brunch.
Off the Rail continues to operate its Equestrian Excellence Academy for children ages 6 to 13 with little to no horse experience who want to learn everything there is about riding.
“They meet every other Friday evening and learn everything we can possibly cram into them about a horse, from taking care of it to riding it,” Sieber said. “It seemed like a really good idea, especially now, because there’s nothing for the kids to do.
As the kids in that program learn to ride, their parents often sit at a secluded bench in the shade, reading or allowing themselves to get lost in their own thoughts.