At Hinchinbrook Farm everything is about the kids, the environment, the socialization, the fun. Our environment is all about saying yes and not about saying no! Every bit of the farm is developed for the kids. Our paddock is used as a social environment for kids with Autism! It has a campfire pit, trampoline, climbing fences, horse washing and painting station, chalk drawing station, horse tire swing, log jumping game, and lots of fun toys! It’s also a pretty popular spot for mounted hide and go seek. The paddock is fully fenced to allow horses to graze and just hang out with the kids as they play.
Let’s move on to the barn. The barn is not only the home and safe haven of our horses, it’s also used for sensory work in storms, learning about horse care; and it has an efficient tack/feed room. As many as 30 people can be comfortable inside on the main floor with the horses on a stormy day. There’s a downstairs pad for two horses, a storage area and a hay loft. The hayloft is a very popular spot to explore, climb or just relax and read a good book.
Our barn is also used for teaching. Kids can choose a hands on tack lesson, grooming lesson or cover the horses in stickers — labelling all their body parts. Kids can learn about measuring feed and supplements and they can help pick up the code browns in the horse stalls (commonly called “mucking”). Chores include sweeping, shoveling, wheel barrowing, vacuuming, watering, feeding and organizing.
Next we have the pond. Our pond is home to a variety of wildlife, fish, frogs, ducks, and if you’re lucky you might be able to find a snail. Finding and observing these animals in there natural environment is a thrill for these kids, Often I have sat for over and hour at the pond with a child and found frogs and named them all, I believe we found a total of eight that day. The other thing our pond is used for is swimming, our volunteers love to splash around or use the blow up boats to play and explore. Parents are very involved in this activity and enjoy watching the smiles across their children’s faces.
The Riding Ring is used by a handful of riders. Depending on ability our riders learn to lunge, long line, trick train or play games. Our riding ring also comes equipped with brightly coloured ribbons, flags and letters to keep the kids interested as well as to aid in their riding.
The biggest area of Hinchinbrook Farm would have to be the woods. Our woods are used for anything and everything! Woods-wide hide and seek games are a pretty popular thing because of the large area. The first thing that is important about our woods is the trails. All of our trails are clearly marked with a color ribbon and each trail is either designed for riders with side walkers and leaders, or for independent riders. Each Trail also leads to play areas.
One of our play areas is a little waterfall and brook. The waterfall is often used to throw plastic eggs down and capture at the bottom with butterfly nets. We also use the bottom of the waterfall for mud soaks. The brook is also pretty popular to ‘water hitchhike’ which means walking all the way down the brook to the bridge and pond. The kids often use their imagination to pretend they are jungle explorers.
Our woods also holds our pea gravel boat, the boat has lots of trucks, shovels and buckets used for playing, and of course making things. The boat is surrounded not only by swings and brightly coloured ribbons but is also over-looking an excavation yard, a pretty popular sight for our young contractors-in-training.
The best part about the farm is all the room and freedom the kids have to learn, play and socialize. Often if we don’t have something at the farm we create it, the pasture can double as a soccer field, the kitchen can double as an art studio or a bakery. It’s all up to the kids as we follow their imaginations and let them be our guides.
Until 2016, the only “survey” we had of the property was this crayon drawing. A difference of opinion with the neighbour required us to get a full survey, donated by Patty, which proved that she owned (and leased to the Society for $1 a year) all of the paths that we had been using.