2019-05-22

Hinchinbrook able to ride on with new grant

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>CONTRIBUTED PHOTO</p><p>Patricia McGill is a founder of the therapeutic riding program at Hinchinbrook Farm in Blockhouse.</p>

The therapeutic riding program at Hinchinbrook Farm in Blockhouse received some major financial nourishment that will help it carry on for another three years.

On May 13, the Hinchinbrook Farm Society announced it was getting a three-year grant from the Windsor Foundation of Halifax worth a total of $100,000.

The money means another three years of employment for the founder and operator of the farm society's therapeutic riding program, Patricia McGill.

McGill, a therapeutic riding instructor who has been highly committed to the program since she started it in 2007, has struggled to support herself.

"One hundred per cent" of the lesson fees and money gleaned through the society's fundraising efforts go toward the upkeep of the animals, infrastructure development and maintenance, and insurance, says McGill.

"Every once in a while it was, oh my gosh, how can I do this?" she admitted to LighthouseNOW.

"It's a no-brainer why there aren't more therapeutic riding sites. People that I've trained just can't see their way clear to set up a program and starve. And they do not know how they're going to do it.

"It's pretty scary, but when it works, it works really, really well," says McGill.

Established in 2010, the Hinchinbrook Farm Society is a registered charitable organization offering therapeutic riding and other sensory-focused recreational activities to families dealing with mental and physical challenges, mainly with children who exhibit Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Its efforts are supported by about 40 volunteers.

Recent additions to its programming include using movement to improve learning in students at the Middle Level Connect Centre on the South Shore and equine therapy for young adults with mental challenges.

Its core programs include individual equine-based therapy as well as "Ther-a-Playdate" social-group sessions.

The Windsor Foundation is a private foundation established in 1960 by Sydney Albert Windsor, who owned and operated a canning business in Saint-Jean, Québec.

Now deceased, Windsor was born and educated in New Brunswick and maintained strong ties to the Maritime provinces, according to a press release the society issued.

The foundation supports programs which provide services or benefit disadvantaged or vulnerable youth and seniors, and for those physically and intellectually challenged.

David Friendly, a volunteer with Hinchinbrook, approached the foundation for assistance, according to McGill.

This is not the first time the Windsor Foundation has come through with assistance for the program. About three years ago it contributed a year's salary for an employee to help McGill manage the administration side of the program.

"I just couldn't do four '0 clock mornings any more doing the paper work," she says.

Following that, Friendly applied to the foundation for a salary for McGill.

For the past three years the Windsor Foundation had funded half of her salary, while an American family foundation covered the other half.

McGill explained that the programs offered at the farm can benefit a wide range of children, not just those on the autism spectrum.

She maintains that behavioral issues can result from children not developing all of their senses because they're spending so much time in front of screens.

"Kids today are not moving the way we moved 30 years ago. I mean, we boogied. We were up trees; we were all over the place."

At Hinchinbrook, children might be on a zip line or in a stream, catching fish, handling worms, or having biology lessons in the forest, she says.

"And they just thrive. They just thrive," says McGill.

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