Arion Therapeutic Farm seeks $100k to ‘raise the roof’

Arion Therapeutic Farm needs $100,000 to construct a covered riding ring in order to accommodate its clients on a year-round basis.

Eighteen-year-old Jonathan Biggs rides a horse at Arion Therapeutic Farm Tuesday

A covered riding ring is at the top of Arion Therapeutic Farm’s—and hundreds of its clients’—Christmas list.

Until now, the farm has used a barn next door, donated by Okanagan Equine Veterinary Services, for riding during the winter.

But using that facility has posed problems.

The horses can’t be left at the barn so volunteers are required to walk the horses back and forth during winter conditions.

“It’s a good 20 minutes there in ice, snow, wind and nasty conditions. It’s a heavy burden for our staff and volunteers,” said Heather Henderson, program director at Arion Therapeutic Farm.

Arion Farm is a nonprofit organization that utilizes 130 volunteers to provide a therapeutic environment where disabled and able-bodied clients can share in a common experience. The therapeutic riding program is the core of the operation.

With increasing demand from 150 regular clients, Henderson said its essential to raise $100,000 as soon as possible to ensure the facility can accommodate its users year-round.

“Our clients have come to rely on their time in the ring and it has been very difficult for Arion to meet that need in the winter months without a covered riding ring on the property,” said Henderson.

Suki Derriksan’s son, Jayes, is one of the farm’s regular visitors.

Jayes has Trisomy 21, better known as Down Syndrome.

Suki said riding helps support his weak ligaments, gives him a safe environment for physical exercise and offers something to look forward to.

“He loves coming here,” said Suki.

“When he’s in the car he’s (already) got his riding helmet on.”

She said many would benefit from the construction of a covered riding ring.

“To have that here (would) provide so many opportunities for the special needs community to have a physical activity and a social activity that they could utilize all year long.”

Logan Miller is another client who benefits from Arion Therapeutic Farm.

The 17-year-old has Neurodegenerative Disorder: A clinical term used to describe the inexplicable degeneration of his body.

He has been coming to Arion Therapeutic Farm for the last three years. Riding the horses is enjoyable for Logan, but it’s also an important form of therapy.

“Physically, it’s making him stronger,” said Debra Miller, Logan’s mother.

“He has problems with walking and problems with balance…when Logan gets on the horse, it strengthens the muscles he needs to walk properly.”

According to Laurisa Sherman, a recreation therapist with Mountainview Village, many seniors have also benefited from visiting the farm.

“No matter their ability, they can come here and get something,” said Sherman.

“They can sit under the tree and have a picnic and just remember the old days with the horses. That helps the memories come back for (those with) Alzheimer’s Disease.”

The farm also has a lift and special saddles that allow those in wheelchairs to have the experience of riding a horse.

“They would never dream that they could get on a horse…the whole picture is very holistic for them.”

Sherman added a covered riding ring would not only help bring more seniors to the farm in the winter, but also the summer.

“We can’t come here if it’s (too) hot because there’s no shelter…so for us, we would definitely be able to be here more and spend longer days here.”

Arion Therapeutic Farm is working with Pacific Apex Structure Inc. and has drafted plans for a building that is malleable enough to expand as programming continues to grow.

The farm’s goal is to raise the $100,000 to finish the project before the snow flies.

For more information on Arion Therapeutic Farm, visit arionfarm.org.

To donate, call Heather Henderson at 778-477-1006.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com