Saddle up for warm winter rides at WindReach Farm

Pat Bullock, co-ordinator of equine services at WindReach Farm holds two-year-old Kiera Sims after her riding lesson with volunteers Michele and Maureen.

There’s going to be a lot more horsing around this winter at WindReach Farm in Ashburn.  Pride and excitement hung in the air at their stables at a recent ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the winterization of the indoor riding arena at the Alexander J. Mitchell Equestrian Centre.

Whitby-Oshawa MPP Lorne Coe, and Whitby deputy mayor, Derrick Gleed, attended the event to formally open the revamped facility which was partially funded by a $150,000 Ontario Trillium Foundation Grant.

Kelly Jewer, executive director of WindReach Farm speaking at the official opening of the newly renovated indoor riding arena says, “We really do change lives, and along the way change our own lives.”
Kelly Jewer, executive director of WindReach Farm speaking at the official opening of the newly renovated indoor riding arena says, “We really do change lives, and along the way change our own lives.”

The grant paid for an insulated ceiling, along with a new lighting and heating system.  The renovation will enable the centre to extend the use of the facility throughout the year.

WindReach Farm is a fully accessible working farm which serves the needs of all individuals, but especially those with special needs.  It offers services for people of all ages in its recreational, educational and therapeutic riding programs.

“It has always been our dream to put in more lighting, insulation and heating,” said Carol Dahlquist, manager of donor relations at WindReach Farm.  Dahlquist explained the therapeutic riding lessons used to stop in the winter months when temperatures in the barn dropped well below freezing.  “It’s difficult to ride when it’s minus 20 degrees,” she said.

MPP Lorne Coe addressed the small gathering of WindReach Farm employees and volunteers before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“It is all about opportunity and giving people a chance to participate in a way that everybody else does,” said Coe. “The therapeutic value that this particular facility is going to be immeasurable.”

The director of WindReach Farm, Kelly Jewer, was excited about the improvements to the arena, and keen to point out the insulation’s added benefit keeps the space cool during the hot summer months.

“It’s like air conditioning,” she said.  Jewer said the facility serves approximately 100 families in the therapeutic riding program.  Many of their clients have expressed an interest in the winter riding lessons and Jewer expects an enrolment of around 75 riders a week this winter.

Jewer said the stables are also the Ontario home of Can Praxis, a program funded by Wounded Warriors Canada, which uses horses to help soldiers recover from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and regain their family relationships. Can Praxis has been coming to the facility for two years using the stables three to four times a year.

One of the youngest riders at WindReach, two-year-old Kiera Sims of Ajax, looked like a china doll riding in the sunlit arena. Flanked by two volunteer side-walkers and led by another, the little girl seemed comfortable and happy on her ride, Max.

“This facility is amazing,” said Susan Sims, Kiera’s mother. “Durham Region is very lucky to have a place like this. Sims said her daughter, who has a rare genetic disorder known as Prader-Willi syndrome, started riding when she was 21-months-old.

“We were very lucky to find a place that would take her,” said Sims. “She is so much stronger since she started riding, and her speech has really come along too. It’s definitely beneficial for her.”





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Barbara Howe is a second-year journalism student at Durham College. She enjoys writing about campus, community, health and social issues for The Chronicle. Her work can also be seen in The Brooklin Town Crier. Barbara is a mother of two teenagers who loves to travel the world. She hopes to make a career as a travel journalist for a major newspaper or magazine.