Ranche2

Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler provides support through animal interaction

‘I also come from a family of doers - if something that is needed isn’t there, you just figure it out’

Spirit’s Respite Ranch, just north of Stettler, is an animal therapy ranch that helps those with special needs and conditions ranging from PTSD to anxiety.

It’s something of a labour of love for owners/operators Janelle and Kent Robinson, whose son Dax was a key inspiration to launch the service this past summer.

Dax, who turns six next March, is severely autistic, and the Robinsons of course do everything they can to help their son – and that includes providing therapy that involves time spent with animals, said Janelle, adding that the critters have a positive effect on Dax and others who are dealing with everything from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder to anxiety issues.

The Robinsons also noticed that there isn’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.

“We had decided to start a place here where we could offer horseback riding and animal therapy – just a respite service for workers to come with their clients or families to come together,” she explained.

“It’s also more needed now than ever,” said Janelle, adding that even in the midst of the pandemic, they’ve been growing.

And it’s not just for kids, she said.

“Support homes bring their adults here, too. I also have respite workers who bring their adults and teens here, and we are partnered with the high school now to be a work experience place for the students which is fantastic.

“All animals are really mirrors of what we bring as people,” she added. “And special needs kids don’t bring fear, they don’t know animosity, they don’t know ulterior motives or manipulation – they come with such pure hearts and they connect with whatever animal it is. I have chickens, pigs, miniature cows, horses, ponies, miniature donkeys, goats, sheep, bunnies -there’s a little bit of everything,” she said. “For kids who can’t communicate with us, I can see exactly how they are feeling through how the animals are reacting to them and with them.”

Janelle’s grandparents started Ol’ MacDonald’s Resort by Buffalo Lake, so she spent plenty of time leading trails rides there.

“My favourite time of year was when we had the action groups come. It’s where I first had my experience with people who have special needs. And that’s where I learned, at a young age, how horses affected people with special needs, and people who had different struggles,” she explained. “You will see a peace and a calm come over them.

“It’s also incredible to see the effects this has on the parents, too, who come,” said Janelle. “I make them a coffee and they can just sit for a few minutes, and sometimes they also go out to the barn and hang out with everyone,” she added. “It’s interesting because they see their child or client do things that they haven’t done before.”

Parents are also helped because, as Janelle said, she understands where they are coming from. “They are so happy that there is a place like this where they can go with their kids; and that there is another family willing to open up their home who ‘gets’ it. We’ve been there, and we know what it’s like,” she said.

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.

“When I ride with special needs clients, we incorporate games that help them work on the strategies that they are working on at home or with their occupational/physical/speech therapists,” explained Janelle. “Because they are on horseback and having fun, the ‘work’ of the therapy doesn’t seem to be as daunting, and most times comes much easier.

“We 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,” she said.

“The parents and aides are a big part of letting us know how the client has been reacting before and after each session so that we can ensure we are working on what the client needs at that time to help them become more regulated, as well as having fun,” she explained.

Looking ahead, Janelle said that one of their goals is to be able to have handicap accessible cabins or RVs on the property for families to rent so the families can more fully enjoy the farm experience.

”To provide these families with a welcoming place to enjoy the outdoors together – as well as an inclusive place for them to ride horses, play at a sensory playground, or even just throw rocks into a pond together – would be amazing.”

In the meantime, Janelle said corporate or private donations go towards getting kids and adults into the programs by helping to subsidize costs.

And from the start, the community support has been strong, she said.

“Stettler is such an incredible town. I have had people come to me and say they want to donate, they want to volunteer. They have donated saddles, and they have said, ‘If you need anything,’ let us know’.

“So our community support is incredible, and we are so thankful for that! It will grow – this is such a needed service.

“I also come from a family of doers – if something that is needed isn’t there, you just figure it out. You build it, you provide it or you do it. It may take a long time, but you just get at it.”

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

 

Janelle

dogs

animals

sheep

cat

Just Posted

A gofundme account has been set up for Lilac the husky, of Blackfalds. (Photo from gofundme)
Dog ends up in coma after a walk in Blackfalds

Dog finds a baggie that likely contained drugs

(Contributed)
Red Deer man reported missing

Red Deer RCMP seek public’s assistance

An attendee of the Maskwacis memorial held on May 31, 2021, for the 215 school children found in Kamloops, B.C. the week before, holds a teddy bear. <ins>The grandstand was filled with 215 bears to represent the lost children. They were offered to residential school survivors at the end of the memorial. </ins>(Photo illustration by Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
Ermineskin residential school survivor: ‘It just brings me back to the cries at night’

Discovery in Kamloops of remains of 215 children a painful time for survivors

Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven before a confidence vote in the Swedish Parliament in Stockholm, Sweden, Monday June 21, 2021. Sweden’s Prime Minister Stefan Lofven faces a no-confidence vote in the Riksdag parliament, after the Left Party said this week that it had lost confidence in Lofven and his center-left minority government. (Anders Wiklund / TT via AP)
Swedish PM loses confidence vote, sparking uncertainty

Prime minister has one week to call new election or ask parliament speaker to find a new government

A large number of supporters were out Saturday at a rally intended to bring awareness about including Hinduism in the grade 2 portion of the K-6 draft curriculum. As it stands now, Hinduism won’t be taught until grade 6 in the proposed draft curriculum. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Video: Rally to support adding Hinduism to draft curriculum draws crowd in Red Deer

The Hindu community in Red Deer came out in droves on Saturday… Continue reading

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Canada to unveil travel rules for fully vaccinated citizens, permanent residents

OTTAWA — Canada is set to detail what quarantine rules citizens and… Continue reading

Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky poses for a photo in Toronto on Monday, October 17, 2016. Two of Canada’s most prominent athletes are part of the ownership group of a new Las Vegas National Lacrosse League franchise. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michelle Siu
Wayne Gretzky, Steve Nash join forces with Las Vegas lacrosse team

League’s 15th team will start play in the fall of 2022

Orlando City and Montreal Impact players take a knee before their MLS match, Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020, at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
CF Montreal finds two new home venues as Gold Cup comes to Fort Lauderdale

Exploria Stadium has been Toronto FC’s home field this year

Police and firefighters respond after a truck drove into a crowd of people injuring them during The Stonewall Pride Parade and Street Festival in Wilton Manors, Fla., on Saturday, June 19, 2021. WPLG-TV reports that the driver of the truck was taken into custody. (Chris Day/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)
Officials say deadly Pride parade crash was not intentional

Driver and the victims were a part of the Fort Lauderdale Gay Men’s Chorus family

FILE - In this April 18, 2017, file photo, a conference worker passes a demo booth at Facebook’s annual F8 developer conference, in San Jose, Calif. Facebook is launching podcasts and live audio streams in the U.S. Monday, June 21, 2021, to keep users engaged on its platform and to compete with emerging rivals.(AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
Facebook launches podcasts, live audio service

Handful of podcasts will first be available to people in the U.S.

Intricate cloth masks with Indigenous design made by Teresa Snow. Facebook/ Masks4Maskwacis
‘Masks 4 Maskwacis’ wins Northern Lights Volunteer Award

The group received recognition for their efforts to support their community during COVID-19.

Barbara Violo, pharmacist and owner of The Junction Chemist Pharmacy, draws up a dose behind vials of both Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines on the counter, in Toronto, Friday, June 18, 2021. An independent vaccine tracker website founded by a University of Saskatchewan student says just over 20 per cent of eligible Canadians — those 12 years old and above — are now fully vaccinated. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
At least 20% of eligible Canadians fully vaccinated, 75% with one dose: data

Earlier projections for reopening at this milestone didn’t include Delta variant

This undated file photo provided by Ernie Carswell & Partners shows the home featured in the opening and closing scenes of The Brady Bunch in Los Angeles. Do you know the occupation of Mike Brady, the father in this show about a blended family? (Anthony Barcelo/Ernie Carswell & Partners via AP, File)
QUIZ: A celebration of dad on Father’s Day

How much do you know about famous fathers?

Most Read