on Conny Graf Lewis from Maple Ridge B.C.
“Conny’s Canadian Animal Ark”
There is something missing here. Conny, where is YOUR cowboy hat?
Conny writes: “This is Mark and me in Baden in 2011 when we both were in Switzerland for my brother’s wedding.” (All photos courtesy of Conny Graf Lewis.)
Most Swiss people have no grasp of the huge distances in Canada.
It is not their fault.
They live in a very small country.
When Conny Graf Lewis (45) tried to explain to her Swiss friends how far she and her husband Mark Lewis traveled when they crossed Canada from West to East, she told them: “It is like driving from Zurich to the Arab Emirates.”
In 2008, Conny and Mark moved from British Columbia to Nova Scotia. They traveled about 6300 kilometres (!) with 4 dogs, 3 horses and 4 cats. And two trailers and two vehicles.
It was like Noah’s ark on wheels.
The truck that pulled the horse trailer was 20 years old and they had bought it four years earlier for 1000 dollars!
During their trip, they took the horses to the campground and built a small corral behind the horse trailer. But in Northern Ontario, they found something much better: A hotel for horses!
It was a ranch where their horses could stay for the night and were looked after.
O-tone Conny: “Here you see how we stopped at campgrounds with our horses. We just built a small temporary corral behind the horse trailer so the horses could stretch their legs some. Here in Renfrew Ontario in 2008.”
Conny and Mark who is a saddle maker by trade, thought that was a neat idea. They stayed two years in Nova Scotia and then – because they liked the West coast better – traveled back again, in the truck that was now 22 years old (it never broke down), all across Canada, with horses, dogs and cats, to British Columbia.
To Maple Ridge, actually, which is about 45 minutes from Vancouver.
They bought a house and seven acres. Today they offer natural boarding for horses, they also have a horse sanctuary for animals that people don’t want anymore. And they have a horse hotel.
Isn’t this an enormous transformation for a Swiss accountant who mostly grew up in Killwangen in the canton Aargau!
Way to go, Conny!
You would not believe it but she still has her accounting business in Switzerland. How does she do it, we wonder?
We have to make an UPC (Urgent Phone Call) to Conny Graf Lewis to find out.
Conny, how on earth did a Swiss account-ant get into the horse business in Canada?
In 1996, I visited my uncle who lives in Canada and in the following years, I traveled a lot within Canada. In 2002, I started having riding lessons while I still lived in Switzerland, but I really had a hard time to learn to ride. So when I came back to Canada again in 2003, I wanted to ride and I was looking for a horse. Somebody told me it is cheaper to lease a horse than to pay for riding lessons. The person introduced me to Mark. So I found a husband and a horse!
Mark and I got married in 2005.
So you have given up accounting in Switzerland?
No, not at all! I still have a business there. I travel twice a year to Switzerland to see my clients. I always say: If my clients are loyal to me, I am loyal to them. I do a lot of controlling, you can do that from anywhere. But I travel back and forth a lot. I am actually living two lives, one in Switzerland and one in Canada.
So how does your hotel for horses look like?
We provide a stall and a corral for a night or two. When people travel far, you cannot have a horse in a trailer the whole time, it needs to stretch its legs. We also have a sanctuary for horses that are injured and need time for healing or if somebody cannot afford the horse anymore. At our place, they can just be horses and don’t have to perform.
Why is your house and property called “Leaf Tribe Ranch”?
It is Mark’s creation. He is a romantic through and through while I am more the head-controlled Swiss penny pincher. Anyways, Leaf is formed from the first two letters of his last name Lewis and the last two letters of my maiden name Graf. As Mark has some native blood in him, he calls us the Leaf Tribe. We call our animals the Leaf Tribe Gang.
We actually even have a company called Leaf Tribe Holdings Corporation.
Are you now an expert in riding?
(laughs) No, I’m not. But I know how to ride now. Still, sometimes a horse can go to fast for my taste.
By the way, I ended up buying the horse that I leased in 2003. Her name was Sally.
I get attached to animals. I brought my Siamese cat over from Switzerland. She is now 17 years old still going strong.
You see, we did a lot of crazy stuff!
Have a look at their ranch website:
This is Mark and Conny’s saddle and custom leather ware business:
And Conny’s business website in Switzerland: