Nineteen-year-old Amanda enjoys a ride during a visit to Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. photo submitted

Nineteen-year-old Amanda enjoys a ride during a visit to Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. photo submitted

Busy days at Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler

The ranch, which launched operations last summer, provides support through animal interaction

Things continue to flourish at Spirit’s Respite Ranch – an animal therapy ranch that helps those with special needs and conditions ranging from PTSD to anxiety.

Located near Stettler, the ranch is run by owners/operators Janelle and Kent Robinson. Their son Dax, who has autism, was a key inspiration to launch the service last summer.

“We’ve been so busy, it’s been awesome,” explained Janelle. “We are still OK to be doing our riding lessons, which is wonderful because that’s all I do anyway – the one on one. So we are very lucky that we can keep going and we don’t have to worry about space limitations with the arena being as big as it is.

“We can keep on going for those kids and young adults who have had so many opportunities and programs already stripped away,” she said.

Looking back, the Robinsons also noticed that there wasn’t an abundance of support for families of special needs children in general, so they wanted to extend a helping hand themselves – thus the founding of Spirit’s Respite Ranch.

And it’s not just for kids. Support homes bring their adults to the ranch as well, as do respite workers who bring their adults and teens to the site also.

Janelle has pointed out that animals are really mirrors of what we bring as people.

Special needs kids don’t bring fear, and they don’t know animosity.

She said they also don’t know ulterior motives or manipulation – they just come with pure hearts and have an ability to connect with pretty much any animal. And there are plenty on the ranch to see, from chickens, pigs, miniature cows and horses to ponies, miniature donkeys, goats, sheep and bunnies.

According to the Central Alberta Humane Society, interactions with animals are known to provide positive health results including the lowering of blood pressure, the calming of agitation and anxiety, and the stimulating of creativity and bolstered interaction.

At the ranch, volunteers and staff incorporate games that help the kids work on strategies that they are working on at home or with their occupational/physical/speech therapists.

“They do things like aiming/tossing games on horseback to working on left and right hand/body coordination, speech games/sound practice to help communicate with their horse, and simple direction-following strategies for our more severe riders,” said Janelle.

Marilee Colp of Stettler can’t say enough about how the ranch has helped 19-year-old Amanda; a local woman who Colp works with as a community liaison.

Amanda, who has Down’s Syndrome, has thoroughly enjoyed her times at the ranch.

“It’s been so positive for her – her growth is unbelievable. She’s in a leadership role there, too, because she’s helping a young fellow out who has autism. That’s the great thing about this place, too.”

Colp said the animals have a calming effect as well. “She’s also very confident with them now. And the horses ‘give’ that too her. It’s almost like they have a sixth sense,” she said. “They know what we need, and they give you that assurance.”

For more, find Spirit’s Respite Ranch on Facebook.

Just Posted

Ella Stoner, five, is ready to cut off her hair and donate it to A Child’s Voice Foundation. (Photo by Lauren Stoner Photography)
Central Alberta girl to donate her ‘princess hair’ to A Child’s Voice Foundation

A five-year-old girl from Rimbey has never had a haircut before. Now,… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta adds 1,195 new COVID-19 cases Saturday

Red Deer has dropped to 760 active cases

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr
Central Alberta MLAs comment on UCP members kicked out of caucus

A pair of central Alberta MLAs have commented on the two United… Continue reading

Contributed photo
Johanna Hannaford: Central Alberta designer offers inclusive clothing

By Stephanie Rhodes Local designer Johanna Hannaford’s inclusive clothing creations are smashing… Continue reading

Red life-ring with splash
Started from the bottom: How a family business started and grew in central Alberta

By Carina Moran We started our business in the basement of our… Continue reading

Vancouver Canucks' Zack MacEwen (71), Travis Boyd (72) and Jimmy Vesey (24) celebrate a goal against the Edmonton Oilers during third period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 15, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Big third period lifts Vancouver Canucks to 4-1 victory over Edmonton Oilers

Canucks 4 Oilers 1 EDMONTON — Matthew Highmore scored twice in the… Continue reading

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy
Canada’s vaccine rollout operation won’t miss a beat with new military leader: expert

DARTMOUTH — The sudden departure of the senior military officer in charge… Continue reading

Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday, September 29, 2020 at the legislature in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec premier argues province has power to amend constitution in letter to Trudeau

MONTREAL — Quebec Premier François Legault has written a letter to Prime… Continue reading

A demonstrator stands in front of riot police officers during a banned protest in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Saturday, May, 15, 2021. Marches in support of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip were being held Saturday in a dozen French cities, but the focus was on Paris where riot police countered organizers who said they would defy a ban on the protest, ordered on the grounds that it risked turning violent. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)
Police fire tear gas on banned Palestinian march in Paris

PARIS (AP) — French riot police fired tear gas and used water… Continue reading

Photo by The Associated Press
NYC Pride parade bans police; Gay officers ‘disheartened’

NEW YORK (AP) — Organizers of New York City’s Pride events said… Continue reading

Welcoming cowboy boots at the historic and colourful Last Chance Saloon in the ghost town of Wayne near Drumheller, Alta., on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019. The bar and hotel are up for sale. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘It was a going concern’: Remaining bar and hotel in Alberta coal ghost town for sale

WAYNE, Alta. — Built during the First World War, it survived the… Continue reading

A letter from a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 is shown in an undated handout photo. A team of researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to solve the mystery of whether a letter in a bottle that washed up in New Brunswick in 2017 was indeed from a young victim of Titanic shipwreck or simply a hoax. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, N. Beaudry, UQAR *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Real or hoax? Quebec scholars probe mystery letter allegedly from Titanic passenger

MONTREAL — Researchers from Université du Québec à Rimouski are trying to… Continue reading

Minister of Transport Marc Garneau takes part in a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication between the federal Transport Department and the Canadian Transportation Agency regarding passenger refunds throws into question the independence of the CTA, an arm’s-length body. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Emails reveal close communication between government, transport regulator on refunds

OTTAWA — Advocates, experts and opposition MPs say correspondence showing close communication… Continue reading

Most Read