Caia and Heather going in for a hongi. The hongi is a Māori people unity greeting which consists of two people pressing their nose and forehead together. (Natalia Cuevas-Huaico, Kelowna Capital News)

A healing journey at Arion Therapeutic Farm

What started as a therapeutic horseriding facility has become so much more

“We could all use a little farm time.”

Looking for a new beginning, Wendy Haley and her 10-year-old daughter Caia Haley moved back to Kelowna from Hawaii 6 years ago.

Throughout their life in Hawaii, Wendy noticed that Caia was late on all her benchmarks, like crawling, walking and talking, but she was always very social.

“She didn’t get the autism diagnosis right away, she got diagnosed with apraxia of speech diagnosis just this last year,” said Wendy.

“Which are a speech and motor coordination diagnosis where she knows the words in her head but has difficulty connecting speech messages from the brain to the mouth.”

Since moving back to the Central Okanagan, Wendy said she’s had a difficult time finding services and programs that are inclusive of kids living with diverse learning abilities, especially in Kelowna.

“We thankfully found the Arion farm and instantly felt so much love, so much connection, and most importantly, so much acceptance,” said Wendy.

Caia began horseback riding lessons a few years back and has returned to visit the farm and it’s animals weekly since then.

“It has helped heal the anxiety that comes with the diagnosis for her and for me. It hasn’t healed the attributes of the diagnosis, but more so reduced the stress of the diagnosis while building Caia’s social skills.”

READ MORE: Kelowna’s Arion Therapeutic Farm celebrates 10th anniversary

The Arion Therapeutic Farm community customizes their therapeutic farm experiences to accommodate the needs of each individual.

Brandon Krys a longtime volunteer and former rider at the farm explained that their programs have especially improved the overall well-being of individuals who fall somewhere on the diverse abilities spectrum, including himself.

“When we first came, Caia wouldn’t even get on a horse and now I can’t even get her away from the animals. She really connects with each and every animal on the farm, they’re her friends, so socially she’s made a lot of progress in that way,” said Wendy.

Wendy expressed that as a mom of a child with special needs it can be a very emotional experience that comes with many forms of anxiety and that she too has benefited from the farm and its animals.

“I always say that this is a sanctuary for animals and people,” said Wendy.

Director and founder of Arion Therapeutic Farms Heather Henderson established the farm as a therapeutic destination in 2007. Henderson said the farm began as a therapeutic horse riding facility.

“Our programs teach patience, compassion and unconditional love,” said Henderson.

Since then, Henderson said the farm has gradually become a special space where everyone of all ages and abilities can escape to and heal.

“I’ve seen amazing transformations of children who with time felt safe and comfortable enough to share their stories and interact with others, and that in itself is healing for them,” said Henderson.

READ MORE: Kelowna child amputee cooks better than her mom

The Arion Therapeutic Farm is operated by a team of volunteers who assist with program lessons, farm maintenance, feeding and caring for the animals and tour guiding.

The farm is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last tour starting at 4 p.m.

The drop-in fee is $5 which includes access to a meet and greet with the small farm animals, the Nature Play Space, Creekside Picnic Park, and Vegan Cafe.

The Arion Therapeutic Farm is located in Southeast Kelowna on 2457 Saucier Road, Kelowna, B.C.

For more information check out Arion Therapeutic Farm.


Natalia Cuevas Huaico
Social Media Co-ordinator/ Reporter, Black Press Media
Email me at Natalia.CuevasHuaico@blackpress.ca

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