I first heard about WindReach Farm in 1999 when I was looking for a job, and I’d always been interested in working on a farm. It was quite exciting to get the chance to work somewhere that was a little out of the norm for a person in a wheelchair.
Sandy Mitchell had a unique idea about creating a place for people with disabilities to come and experience the country, and see what it was like to work on a farm. I grew up around horses, so I was comfortable around animals. For some, cleaning stalls and feeding animals might not seem like fun, but I really enjoyed myself.
Of course, there were other duties in my job description, such as being a tour guide for the visiting groups, and that was fun too. I remember one group in particular that came to visit from a seniors home in Toronto. They were old enough to remember life before tractors and other machines. What was really interesting was sitting down with this one gentleman who was just full of stories about growing up on a farm in southern Ontario. He told me all about his daily routine, and how he’d have to do his chores before and after school. Seeing the farm equipment we had on display, he knew what things were, and what they were used for, because he’d seen them used as a young boy. I think being there that day really brought him out of his shell. I thoroughly enjoyed visiting with him that day, and there were many other visitors to the farm who also had very interesting stories to tell.
In 2006, I was introduced to the therapeutic riding program at WindReach Farm. I had been put on a horse for the first time when I was three and a half, and rode until I was 11. It did me a world of good, so I was happy to share that experience, and see other people benefit from their own experiences with horses. I’ve been involved with all the different programs at the stable, and it’s not uncommon to see me there five days a week. I just love being there, and the reason is the riders.
In the school program, I’ve seen students who were barely able to approach a horse one week, and only a few weeks later, they were sitting in the saddle, tall and proud. Part of the school program is to have the students groom a horse. I teach them the purpose of each brush, and how and why they are used in a specific order, but some of the students just choose to stand and brush the same spot. Even though it may not be technically correct, you just have to look at the smiles on their faces to know that the experience is enjoyable and beneficial. Horses are truly incredible animals, and they bring out the best in people.