The Hinchinbrook Farm Society in Blockhouse, NS is the only Canadian recipient of a 2020 grant from the Latham Foundation for the Promotion of Humane Education. The Foundation received almost 200 applications and awarded 35 grants. The Latham Foundation mission is stated as: “To foster a deeper understanding of and sympathy with animals, who cannot speak for themselves; to inculcate the higher principles of humaneness upon which the unity and happiness of the world depend; to emphasize the spiritual fundamentals that lead to world friendship; and to promote the child’s character through an understanding of universal kinship”.
The Hinchinbrook Farm Society is a non-profit registered charity whose prime objective is to provide a therapeutic horse back riding program and other outdoor recreational activities to support the physical, mental and emotional well-being of persons with disabilities. Its main clients are families with autism. Its main programs include individual therapeutic riding and group/family Ther-A-Playdates.
The gist of the Hinchinbrook application for the Latham grant was that both the horses and the clients are shown how to treat each other with respect and love for both their abilities and their challenges. The Hinchinbrook methodology includes the “theory of YES”, which means that we allow the children, as part of their therapy, to self-direct within the range of activities they make available and within the boundaries of safety. Each child has a volunteer shadow who ensures that the experience is always fun — more of a game than therapy — and always safe. When on the horses, there is a trained person leading and a trained person side-walking. The child not only helps to prepare the horse for its lesson by grooming and tacking up whenever it is physically possible, he or she also is encouraged to praise the horse and provide post-lesson treats. This is actually part of the therapy, since it encourages speech where often that is a challenge for the child, it pushes them to test their physical limits when for some even grooming is difficult and it also demonstrates that we need to respect and care for the animals that help us in our daily lives.
Hinchinbrook Farm has been described by some parents as their “fantasy island” where they can watch their children enjoy their time while the parent gets well-needed rest from the constant high-level care that some of the children require. It is an oasis of peace with which the Latham Foundation is likely very proud to be affiliated.