What does WindReach mean to Me? Everything.
by Stephanie Coveart
Introduction by Tracey Coveart
The Stables at WindReach Farm – The Alexander J. Mitchell Equestrian Facility – is a magical place, a place where dreams come true every day. I know this because I have watched my daughter realize her dreams here for more than 15 years, and I have witnessed the magic firsthand.
My daughter, Stephanie, has been riding horses therapeutically since she was five years old, but it wasn't until she came to WindReach that she truly blossomed as an equestrian and a young woman. Here, Stephanie has found a welcoming family – both human and equine. With the instruction of her wonderful coaches, she has become an independent dressage competitor, regularly entering the Sea-to-Sea national competition for riders with disabilities, and regularly placing in the top three in her class. She has also realized her dream of owning her own horse – something no one in our family ever imagined possible. Buddy is not only her dressage partner but also her dear friend, and she shares him joyfully with other riders at the barn, proud that he is her beautiful boy. And it is at WindReach that Stephanie has found both her joy and her vocation. She is welcomed as a volunteer; an integral member of the team that keeps the horses happy and healthy, and the barn running like clockwork.
Stephanie is an amazing person. Kind, generous, loving, funny, and eager to pitch in where she is needed. She also happens to have multiple disabilities caused by a rare genetic disorder: epilepsy, global developmental delay, sensory integration disorder, autism. At 28, Stephanie cannot read or write or live independently or do many of the things that neuro-typical 28-year-old women can do. It has not been easy for my exceptional daughter to find her place; somewhere she feels embraced and valued and happy. WindReach is that place, and we are thankful every day that the barn, the people, and the horses in it are such an enormous part of her life.
I think WindReach is amazing. When I walk into the barn it is such a lovely feeling. It's a feeling that I never take for granted. I truly believe that the barn is my second home, my second life. It's the best feeling you could ever have to see all the horses that love you, and all the people who love you. We have a community that is really special. It is the most incredible thing. I love it more than anything in the world. At the barn, I am able to just be me and that means everything to me.
I love my barn people. I think they are fabulous. The world needs more of them! I don't know what I would do without the amazing staff that I think about as my family. I do. I think of them as my family. Going in to work and seeing those faces that you know and love and knowing that you're safe. It's an unbelievable feeling to have a job that you love so much. I know that I am helping in a very big way.
My job is something I take a lot of pride in. I muck, I sweep the barn floors, I clean windows, I clean tack, I go out on the Gator with my boss, Andrew, and feed the horses. I love watching the horses run to me and make noise when they hear the Gator. It's such a cute thing. My favourite job is taking the horses in to the barn and out to their paddock. It is an honour that I am trusted with that job. I get shivers down my spine thinking about it. To walk beside a horse is a really amazing feeling. You look in their eyes and you know that they trust you completely and they've got your back.
Horses are one of my favourite animals. They don't judge you, they are always there for you. I have always wanted to own my own horse, but I never in a million years thought my dream would become a reality. Buddy is a Clyde-Hackney cross. He has been my partner at the barn for a long, long time. I was looking for a horse to buy and the girls (Pat and Kendra) and I had such a hard time finding the right one. Then, suddenly, something just clicked in my head that said, “Buddy was always the one.” So I signed an agreement with WindReach that they would help with all of his needs and that he would stay in the therapeutic riding program, but now I owned him. It felt surreal! Sometimes it still hits me all of a sudden that he is mine. I love Buddy so much. He is my best friend. His eyes are beautiful. You look in those eyes and you know that he is such an amazing creature. And when I get on his back I feel so free. All your worries about trying to be someone go away. When I'm on Buddy I feel like I could take on the world.
Competing with Buddy in Sea-to-Sea is amazing. It's hard work, but it's hard work that I love. When I came in first place I felt ecstatic! I feel very successful because I know that all this hard work is going to pay off in a big way. Someday, I hope to compete in dressage at the Special Olympics.
I love dressage. I love it because it opened my eyes to things I didn't think I could do. It's one of the things I don't think I could live without. It makes me feel invincible. There are many things I can't do. I can't read or write or do any of that stuff, but when I get on a horse it feels different; like I've found somewhere I belong. If I wasn't riding I don't even know who I would be.