The Hinchinbrook Farm Society is a non-profit organization whose prime objective is to provide a therapeutic horse back riding program to support the physical mental and emotional well-being of persons with disabilities. Its main clients are families with autism.
This is the only facility of the 2 riding locations registered with the Nova Scotia Equestrian Federation that provides therapeutic riding, using very close contact between client and horse as a partner to bring the autistic child into the exterior world as often these children are very insular and removed from the outside environment.
Therapeutic riding reduces spasms, atrophy, incontinence and high blood pressure. The activities are designed to increase balance, mobility, body awareness, circulation, strength, co-ordination, muscle tone and endurance. The benefits to education and cognitive development from therapeutic riding include improved communication, behaviour, task management, sequential and cognitive thinking. Activities with the volunteers (who work one-on-one with the clients) facilitate social contact, build confidence, develop self-esteem and increase the development of social interaction skills with the children, and even for the volunteer staff who work with them.
Our Pony Play-dates areintended to help families with autism. Parents and siblings join in the activities of the child who is affected, since many of the benefits of the program are in the development of closer family connections with the child, who retains these feelings after the sessions are over. The volunteers have to be specially trained, which means a higher training cost and the need to ensure that trained volunteers can be retained for long periods of time. The volunteers are masters at transition and sensory work. The program emphasizes very close body contact between horse and rider, often just lying on the horse and listening for a heart-beat. The joyous experiences they get from very close contact with the horse allow communication to develop and social skills to emerge in a very low stress environment.
Activities at the farm are all out-doors, surrounded either by farm buildings and corrals or in the woods. A walk or ride through the wooded paths leads to a pea-gravel-filled dory (a locally used fishing boat design), equipped with sandbox toys. Further on there is a brook and small waterfall where the children can splash in summer and hunt for frogs or salamanders and watch the water or listen to natural sounds in other seasons. There is a pond that affords opportunities to fish, learn co-ordination skills with a radio-controlled boat (or just balancing on the floating dock) and in winter, skate. Other facilities include a spring-free and netted trampoline, a fire pit and a horse painting area where, yes, the children paint the horses.