“To: Whom it may concern,
We are writing today to tell you about our experience with Walkabout Farm and the difference it has made to our daughter. Our daughter, who is autistic, was 3 years old when we started visiting the farm. At that time she had limited communication, anxiety in new situations, difficulty with social interactions and a strong fear of animals. We were hesitant about how she would react to the horses because any previous experience she’d had with animals, horses included, did not go well. We first arrived at the farm and our daughter was hesitant but immediately curious about everything there, as we walked up the driveway and she saw the horses she whispered “I want to ride one!”. We were amazed and hopeful because this was the first positive response we’d had with an animal from her but still unsure as to how it would go when we got closer.
We met Jen at the comfort station and she started to introduce us to the animals there. It was one of the most amazing experiences we’ve had as parents to see our child start to visibly relax and show curiosity about the world around her as opposed to the tense anxiety she normally shows her surroundings. Here was our child, who is normally so fearful of animals we can’t even go into the tent area at the local fair, standing among these horses looking relaxed and happy! We were amazed at how easy it seemed to come to her as she touched the horses, played with the dogs and explored the farm. The second visit she marked another new amazing accomplishment and major milestone, she actually got on a horse! By the third visit it was clear to see that this was her happy place. To see her at the farm is to see her in the only environment other than our home that she is relaxed, happy and comfortable.
Our child struggles with sensory issues, communication, anxiety, and social situations and does not usually interact with others or play with other children; in fact she would usually run away from them. In the few short months since we have been going to Walkabout Farm we’ve seen many changes in her when we’re there. She has formed a relationship with “her horse” Coconut, had her first actual conversation with someone and is actually playing with other children! Words cannot express how wonderful it is to see her engaging in the world around her and the confidence she’s gained in such a short period of time. As a parent it gives you a sense of relief to know that there is a place like this in our community where our child is not only accepted and understood but she can also flourish and thrive. We were encouraged by a few members of the community who know our daughter and some of the challenges she has to contact Walkabout and I’m forever grateful to those who did because this is truly a special and one of a kind place
“That top photo is amazing! I can’t wait to show Joel in the morning. He so loves sharing his Walkabout experience the following day at school and the photos help him so much. Thank you for the beauty you have and so willingly give to others. Our little man is remembering who he is and watching him unveil himself to himself brings tears to my eyes and immense joy to my heart. Today I could have stopped time when he was talking and hugging Tino. So much love.” – Lisa M., participant parent
“Walkabout Farm Therapeutic Riding Association Inc. provides a much-needed service in our community for individuals who have been traumatized or who have extra challenges in their lives. Jennifer has enormous empathy and her incredibly positive approach has really helped my daughter build better self esteem and confidence. Jennifer provides a safe and inclusive environment with some pretty amazing animals. I am so grateful that she is able to offer her wonderful work!” — T. Burton, participant parent
I have sat and tried to write this review of Walkabout Farm a few times now, but keep coming up short. How do you adequately review an organization that changed your child’s life.
My daughter was diagnosed with BPD in 2015, in her short 17 years there has been many hospitalizations, medications and attempts at therapy, with BPD you see the world as black / white all good or all bad and unfortunately for T, the local resources were / are severely lacking when it came to counselling options. We did try to use our local youth service but after 3 different therapists in a short 6 month span of time, it was obvious that continuity was severely lacking.
In my quest to find someone who would stay, as well as push T to do more, I came across Jen. I was hesitant in the first meeting as Jen is very outspoken and strong, not someone T could easily manipulate, so from experience, someone I thought T would refuse to see her. To my complete surprise T decided to give it a try. Jen was / is the change that T needed in her life, someone who made her own up to her shortfalls but celebrated every victory small or big. Giving T the ability to connect with her in any way T needed no matter the time. Under Jen’s guidance at the farm, my young suicidal daughter flourished, she gained confidence, courage and strength. She learned how to speak her mind, and stand for what she believed in, even if she was standing alone.
After the suicide of a local youth, Jen was the person who was available at any time to encourage, support and just be there, anytime T needed it, whether a day at the barn or a day at the tobogganing hill, or a reassuring text, to validate whatever it was T was thinking. When I came to Jen recently with concerns regarding my youngest daughter B, Jen not only offered the use of her services once again, but she is always willing to adjust to my time schedule. And did an amazing job of reassuring me and my mothers guilt, that I am not only a good mom, but doing everything in my power to help my children.
There does not seem to be enough words to adequately describe Jen, and our experience with Walkabout Farm, but I will honestly say I am not sure where my family would be without it.“
— Sincerely, Breann N, participant parent