Kelowna's Arion Therapeutic Farm suffers setback

Heather Henderson surveys the damage at her therapeutic riding farm this week—she
Heather Henderson surveys the damage at her therapeutic riding farm this week—she's looking for a volunteer engineer and donations.
— image credit: Sean Connor

It’s going to take more than a lucky horseshoe to get Kelowna’s Arion Therapeutic Farm back on track after the early spring runoff removed a critical bridge this week.

While lessons are still underway on the 12-acre property, able-bodied and disabled students alike were forced to choose between the bumpy drive over an easement into the back of the farm or hoofing it across pieces of plywood being used as a footbridge over Priest Creek.

“You try to let everybody know which way to come and not come but you can’t get everybody,” said Heather Henderson, the visionary who started the small farm in 2009.

Over the weekend, Henderson and her staff were on hand to watch the generally tiny creek blow through two culverts and finally rip the property in two as it removed a section of the road that accesses the farm.

Initial estimates have a straight-forward span pegged at roughly $20,000, but this might not offer the best long-term solution.

“The family is not going to give the property up,” said Henderson, who has never disclosed who offered the group its lease after she went to the public pleading for a home.

“What we need is an engineer who can volunteer their time,” she said.

Just how tricky reconstructing the roadway and bridge will get is anyone’s guess at this point.

Henderson figures it’s possible the farm could make a pitch to have a road brought along the easement, but noted that too could cost the non-profit organization a lot of money it does not have.

For the last couple of years, Henderson has been making seasonal pitches for funds from the community in an effort to provide an affordable place where people of all ages and all forms of disability—whether mental, emotional or physical—can benaefit from the horses, the outdoors and, as of recent years, the small hobby farm alongside.

She is helping one young woman, Vernita-Jane LaHue, make a bid for the 2012 Canadian Paralympic team in dressage and employs several mentally and physically challenged people with the help of federal grant money.

On Tuesday, she was fielding interviews from reporters between lessons with no time to shut her operations down.

She said the creek across the property the venture moved to in 2010, is normally just a trickle. No one saw this coming, even with the flood warnings due to the unusually high snowpack this season, she said.

Arion Therapeutic Farm currently includes a string of programs from farm discovery tours to birthday parties, school groups, parents’ mornings for those with disabled children, tutoring and healing groups in addition to the therapeutic riding lessons.

Henderson has also brought several horses onto the farm as boarders to generate revenue.

She said she needs to find the expertise and money to repair the damage quickly, as many people are now depending on the work done there. She is looking for engineers, donations of materials and money.

Information on the farm can be found at and Henderson can be contacted at 250-864-7756 or email


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