Every Friday, HN teams up with Ovation Riding to spotlight an individual or organization doing good work in the horse world. Today, we salute Windrush Farm of North Andover, Massachusetts.
This week’s honoree:
Windrush Farm is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose formal mission states:
Windrush Farm expands and enriches the personal, emotional and physical abilities of all those we serve by partnering with our horses and the environment.
We caught up with Windrush Farm through Marketing and Communications Coordinator Emma Hammond, who answered our questions with feedback from the rest of the staff.
Where are you located? What’s the story of how you got started?
Windrush Farm is a non-profit, therapeutic horse farm that has been successfully helping children and adults with special needs since 1964. Located on 38 acres of woods and fields and surrounded by 160 acres of conservation land in North Andover, Massachusetts, we partner with our horses and the environment to expand the personal, emotional and physical abilities of children and adults with a broad range and combination of disabilities. Our diverse equine-assisted programs encourage and motivate our clients to realize their abilities, rather than focus on their limitations.
The Windrush story began 50 years ago, when Marj Kittredge, a lifelong horsewoman and nationally recognized dressage and event judge, was intrigued by the success of the Outward Bound program. If you could encourage young people to learn and grow by challenging them in new ways with activities like sailing and hiking, she wondered, why couldn’t you do the same thing with horses?
The horse, she was convinced, could be an invaluable educator and therapy partner. Horses are large, strong and gentle. They don’t care what you look like, or if you can see, if you just got out of a wheelchair, or what just happened to you at school or home. They respond to gentleness, kindness and patience, not appearances or expectations. Gaining the trust and respect of a 1000-pound animal takes self-control and builds self-esteem. Taking care of an animal, especially a large animal, teaches children and adults to accept responsibilities. Learning to ride a horse requires determination and perseverance. Horses encourage their riders to stretch, to improve posture, to correct balance, to work on coordination. Their rhythmic movement can soothe spasms and strengthen muscles. They can carry you outside to feel the fresh air, the sunshine, the breeze. Horses offer the opportunity to sit tall, feel powerful, have fun, be in charge, be free. Marj was sure that these lessons, which horses teach so effortlessly, could empower children and adults to achieve. Decades before terms like “experiential education” or “equine-facilitated learning” were even created, she knew horses and the outdoors could help.
So she used her family farm to make this happen. In 1964, Marjorie V. Kittredge founded Windrush Farm, one of the first therapeutic riding centers in the United States Now, 50 years later, Windrush is a premier accredited center through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, is a nationally recognized leader in the equine-assisted activities and therapies industry. Every day we strive to help each and every one of our clients realize that they are always capable of more than they think.
Where does your funding come from? Any upcoming fundraisers to share?
Here at Windrush Farm, we only charge our clients 1/4 of the cost of a class. That means that we are responsible for subsidizing the remaining 75%. We could not do what we do without the incredible support of the local community. We have an unbelievable donor base of individuals — some that have been giving to Windrush for decades. We also receive funding from foundations, grants and corporations.
We just completed our annual fundraising gala. It was a fun and successful evening. While we will shortly be rolling out our annual appeal, our next big fundraiser is our Holiday Stars Campaign. For $25, donors can submit a picture of a star in their life. All pictures will be displayed on our Star Website as well as on a banner at Windrush Farm. The money raised from the Star campaign will be used to provide winter shoes for the Windrush Farm Stars — our horses. Check our website in November to learn more!
Who are your clients/students?
Windrush’s clients come from all over New England, and from various parts of the country at times! Many are individuals and their families who have heard about us through word of mouth, referrals from doctors or other health professionals, or local organizations. Some of our clients come as part of a group from group homes, day programs, residential programs, schools and other large organizations. Our veterans have come from local VA hospitals and from the Wounded Warrior Project. Windrush’s lessons for children and adults with and without special needs start at 6 years old. We do not have an upper age limit as long as we can keep that individual safe while working with our horses. We have beginner riders taking their very first lessons all the way through walk, trot, canter, and jumping up to 2′. We also have unmounted programs that focus on teaching horse behavior, herd dynamics, horse care, and other horsemanship skills. Our new extreme trail course provides many opportunities for working with the horses from the ground! Our therapeutic clients come with a variety of diagnoses, such as ADHD, PTSD, autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy and anxiety disorders.
Please describe your volunteers, if applicable.
Our volunteers are the backbone of our program. We couldn’t offer our unique therapy without their hard work and dedication to our riders. They come to us as working students, horse handlers, side walkers, barn help, fundraising committee members, student interns or as individuals just looking to give something back to society.
Our volunteers are middle and high school students, college interns, working professionals, retirees and stay-at-home moms and dads. Some of the volunteers have experience with horses, but most do not. We invite you to join the Windrush community and discover the power of volunteering.
All new volunteers, regardless of their background, must attend a full training and orientation session. This gives us an opportunity to review Windrush Farm’s methods and practices with both our clients and our horses. In addition, this also helps us to place volunteers to match their interests and strengths. In addition, as part of our Premier Accreditation, this is a PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International) requirement.
We would love to hear from you if it is to ride, volunteer or just come for a visit. Be sure to check out our website to learn about Windrush Farm and how you can get involved.
Many thanks thanks to Ovation Riding for their support of both Horse Nation and individuals and organizations that are doing good work in the horse world. If you know someone who deserves a Standing Ovation, we would love to recognize them in a future post. Email the name of the person or organization along with a message about the good work they do to [email protected] Photos/videos are always welcome, and include a link to their website if applicable.