WindReach farms helps disabled through Theraputic Riding

by Ryan Jhagroo
Thursday, November 19, 2009

They describe themselves as a working farm, planting crops and harvesting.  They have bees producing honey, an orchard for apple picking, and pens where pigs are raised.  Only here, agriculture is secondary.  WindReach Farm in Ashburn, Ontario prides itself on being able to offer those with disabilities the experience of farming.

This is not the first year WindReach has been involved at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.  On Thursday, at their booth, square bales of hay substitute as seats, there are pamphlets, brochures, flyers, and a widescreen TV monitor discussing the farm.

WindReach also provides tours of the Royal to visitors with disabilities.

“We take them through the whole winter fair.  We do that every year,” said Donna Pellerin, an instructor at the farm.  Their booth also serves to promote the farm and its therapeutic riding program.

The bond between horses and humans is used as a rehabilitation tool at WindReach.   Therapeutic riding is horseback riding, which is not only fun but can help to improve the physical, mental, and emotional well being of patients.  Horse-assisted therapy can be useful for individuals suffering from disabilities such as, but not limited to,  paraplegia, multiple sclerosis, and Down syndrome.

According to Pellerin, therapeutic riding is what fostered the involvement of WindReach at the Royal.

“From the Canadian Therapeutic Riding Association and the Ontario Therapeutic Riding Association, those organizations extended invitations to us to come and take part, “ she explained.  Since then, WindReach has been setting up at its familiar spot, the south wall in the main exhibitors’ area.

Not too far away, located at a high traffic corridor, is a booth for Pets and Animals Magazine.  Jodie Cowan, publisher of the magazine, has worked with WindReach Farm.

“If you’ve got a wheelchair, you can go in and feed the animals. It’s quite amazing,” she said.

Cowan champions the farm for its ability to include all types of bodies in the agricultural experience.

“It’s a working farm and it’s all for people that have different types of disabilities,” she said.

This past summer was the organizations 20th anniversary.  Being a non-profit organization, WindReach has many fundraisers such as galas, formal dinners, and golf tournaments they run yearly.

“We sell products that are made on the farm such as scarves, mittens, and socks out of wool, according to Pellerin.  The farm also rents out space for weddings, parties, and corporate functions.

The money acquired goes toward running and improving the farm.  Of all the areas they would like to expand, Pellerin says it’s their therapeutic riding program.  It was only acquired, and officially became a part of WindReach for four years.