By Darren Lum
Abbey Gardens is embarking on a gofundme effort to help finance a new Equine-Assisted Learning Program that not only promotes personal growth for adults and children but also ensures the preservation of the rare Canadian breed the Lac La Croix Indian Ponies.
The not-for-profit charity has two Lac La Croix brother ponies Maple and Sammy (including a miniature Blanket Appaloosa Flapjack) at their Green Lake location. They use them in children’s programming self-guided interpretive signage tours and volunteer programming for adults.
They are not just part of the centre’s educational offering but also act as ambassadors for this rare breed that needs help for a continued existence. The ponies are also known as Ojibway ponies or Manitou spirit ponies and only number close to 200 in the world.
Cara Steele Abbey Gardens program coordinator and ecological specialist said it is therapeutic when people spend time with the ponies.
The scope of the benefits include the ponies as much as the people she adds.
“We find with any of our kids’ programs they just totally light up to go and visit them. Both the kids and the ponies. We find actually the ponies really respond back to children especially” she said.
“When we have kids on site and our ponies hear them they run to the gate and whiney for them until they come over.”
She remembers when the Practical and Academic Life Skills students visited there was an amazing thing that happened.
“We found the ponies really reacted to them in the sense they were very calm and very gentle very patient and just wanted to be there to get attention from them really” she said.
Part of the fundraising will also go to the volunteer program that is geared to adult education.
Participants of this program learn equine care techniques but also develop a greater understanding of the breed and themselves.
“People get hooked. We have people come out twice a week because they said it’s relaxing and soothing. They love [that] the ponies are young and are actually help shape their behaviours” she said.
The ponies Maple and Sammy were part of a Lac La Croix ponies foster program from three years ago which was rooted in preserving this breed that started with a breeding pair who had two offspring.
Among the reasons Abbey Gardens chose to bring these ponies was to be part of an effort to preserve a Canadian breed and they are incredibly naturally suited to the area (thick coats for warmth and the hooves are capable of handling the rocky substrates) which lessened the care required to keep the hardy ponies.
The newly proposed program is expected to also be offered to corporate clients for team building or to youth to build confidence and self-esteem or customized for one-on-one training.
To donate to their effort which has a goal of $30000 see https://www.gofundme.com/canadianponies.
According to this page the money will help with the design and launch of the Equine-Assisted Learning program the installment of a visitor viewing shelter add to the collection of interpretive signs for self-guided learning opportunities related to their ponies and rare breeds; expansion to the paddock to increase visibility and accessibility to the public and support for the volunteer program which teaches equine care techniques and builds familiarity and compassion for the breed.
Also the goal is to certify current pony trainer Lesley English as an instructor for the program.
“We want to share these ponies with as many people as we can” she said.
From this gofundme page the Gardens welcome donors with questions to contact them for more information at 705 754 -4769. A charitable tax receipt is eligible for all donations above $20. After you donate you will receive an email with directions to receive your tax receipt along with a certificate for joining our Pony Pals Club.