WindReach Farm incorporates all that country life has to offer — animals, sprawling land and fresh country air. The 109-acre property is located in the picturesque countryside of Ashburn, Ontario. But one thing sets this farm apart from other farms in the area: WindReach is designed to meet the needs of individuals with different abilities.
When Sandy Mitchell bought WindReach Farm in 1985, he had a vision to make it accessible to people of all abilities. The farm has many accessible features, including wheelchair accessible pathways, buildings and barns.
“Accessibility is important, but most farms are not [accessible],” says Sandy, who has Cerebral Palsy.
WindReach offers a variety of programs, including a volunteer program and a day visitor’s program that welcomes over 20,000 visitors each year to enjoy the trails, petting zoo and museum. The farm also offers a therapeutic riding program for individuals with special needs. Therapeutic riding benefits riders by helping with “balance, self-esteem and muscle-tone,” says Sandy, who is a rider himself.
“We have a lot of riders who have autism, learning disabilities, cerebral palsy and sight impairments,” says Kendra Flynn-Stronach, head instructor at WindReach Farm. Kendra did not have a lot of experience with therapeutic riding before she came to the farm.
“Once you get involved you get hooked. It is phenomenal how horses relate to people with special needs,” she says.
Edna Spencer knows the benefits of therapeutic riding. Her granddaughter Erin, who has a developmental disability, has been riding throughout her teen years.
“She enjoys riding. It’s a great way of interacting with another creature, and few farms are set up to accommodate special needs people. It’s a big plus,” says Edna.
In 2010, WindReach hosted the International ParaDressage Show, which welcomed riders with disabilities from all over the world to compete. Sandy competed in the event and qualified for the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky.
Thanks to Sandy, WindReach Farm has enabled people with disabilities to participate in recreational and competitive activities, while enjoying a little bit of the country life.