WETRA hosts March Break camp for children


By Ron Giofu


A group of area children headed to McGregor to get a taste of horseback riding over the March Break.

The Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association (WETRA) held its March Break Camp at their farm in McGregor. Volunteer co-ordinator Sydney Lemieux said there were activities both on horseback and off the horses including how to care and tend to a horse.

“They came from all over Windsor-Essex County,” said Lemieux. “Every day, there were activities on and off the horses. They learned to take care of our horses from saddling to riding and leading. Each day, there is a different theme.”

The Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association (WETRA) held a March Break Day Camp last week. The volunteers and staff worked with 16 children aged 5-14 that came in from across the area.

The group came daily with the week’s events capped with a horse show Friday afternoon. This year’s March Break Camp saw 16 children and youth attend, which is about an average number the camp attracts, Lemieux stated.

The camp is geared for children and youth ages five to 14, she added, with the youth being divided into two groups depending on age. The camp ran from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. each day.

WETRA also offers a summer camp, Lemieux added, and that they have seen campers return to the summer camp after having experienced the March Break Camp.

“It’s really fun,” Lemieux said of the camp, adding that some of the children had never been on a horse before.

The Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association (WETRA) is located at 3323 North Malden Road, just east of Walker Road. Their phone number is 519-726-7682. For more information on their programming, visit www.wetra.ca. They are also on Facebook at www.facebook.com/wetraca and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/WETRA_.

Farm Credit Canada assists WETRA in acquiring new tractor



By Ron Giofu


The Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association (WETRA) now has the funding for the acquisition of a new tractor.

WETRA was approved for one of 78 grants from Farm Credit Canada’s (FCC) AgriSpirit Fund and received $25,000 to help fund the purchase of a new tractor for the McGregor facility. An official presentation was made last week.

Becky Mills, executive director at WETRA, thanked the two FCC officials that attended the announcement for the contribution to the tractor fund.

Sina Naebkhil from WETRA, Debra Wadia and Anne Baldo from Farm Credit Canada, and WETRA executive director conduct a cheque presentation in front of the old tractor WETRA is replacing. Farm Credit Canada’s AgriSpirit grant program is funding a new tractor to the tune of $25,000.

“As you know, no farm is complete without a tractor, the workhorse of the agricultural and maintenance aspects of running a rural operation,” said Mills. “Here at WETRA, horses are the modality for which our therapy services take place and it brings a whole other aspect of running our programs when caring for the therapy horses. Maintaining pastures, stalls, manure piles and riding areas as well as fertilizing, cutting and harvesting our 22 acres of hay is essential to sustaining optimal health within our herd and it becomes a full-time job in and of itself.”

Mills added that the tractor “will not side idle for more than a few hours a week” and noted that it is absolutely necessary for WETRA’s operation.

“We simply cannot survive without a fully functional, updated tractor,” said Mills.

Mills added that WETRA has been providing services to people with disabilities since 1963 and thanks to the support of funders like FCC, “we are able to continue with our mission and ensure that those in need will have the opportunity to experience life on a horse farm and feel good about the environment in which they are warmly received by such gentle animals.”

FCC was represented by senior district manager Debra Wadia and relationship manager Anne Baldo. Wadia said the AgriSpirit fund has been around since 2004. In 2016, a total of $1 million was distributed through grants across Canada with that number upped to $1.5 million in 2017 in recognition of Canada’s 150th birthday.

Wadia said FCC has a rating system of how to look at grant applications and WETRA “hit all of them.”

Awarding grants to organizations such as WETRA “is the best part of my job,” Baldo added.

The FCC AgriSpirit Fund awards between $5,000 and $25,000 for community improvement projects. There were 1,214 applications received this year with proceeds going to rural, small town Canadian projects. Over the past 14 years, the FCC AgriSpirit Fund has supported almost 1,100 projects, an investment of more than $12 million.

WETRA throws 12th annual Spooktacular on the Farm



By Jolene Perron


Not a single person or horse was left without a costume during the Windsor Essex Therapeutic Riding Association’s 12th annual Spooktacular event.

From an assortment of treats when walking through the doors in the Witch’s Brew Café, to face painting, pony rides, and even a magic show, hundreds of attendees were able to get into the Halloween spirit.

The Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association (WETRA) held its 12th annual “Spooktacular on the Farm” recently. A wide assortmentof activities were held as part of the weekend event.

“In 2005 we were brainstorming different fundraising ideas to generate funds to sustain our Therapeutic Equine assisted therapies, and our team came up with this idea and over the years it has grown to become a tradition for families and the community to attend,” explained Sina Naebkhil, fund-development officer for WETRA. “At first the headless horseman was just a costume and now it’s a full on show becoming a attraction that brings the community to the farm. Really this idea came from a group of dedicated volunteers who wanted WETRA to grow and recognized that the work we were doing changes lives.”

Naebkhil explained the Spooktacular event has become their biggest fundraiser, with all the proceeds raised going right back into their programs, allowing them to provide equine related therapies to more than 200 clients each week.

The Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association (WETRA) held its 12th annual “Spooktacular on the Farm” recently. A wide assortmentof activities were held as part of the weekend event.

The goal is to continue to grow the event, because Naebkhil said, the more the event grows, the more WETRA grows, and the more they are able to help those within the community.

“I love getting ready for Spooktacular, we have so much support from different groups who show up the week before and help to set-up,” said Naebkhil. “It truly is magical to see the farm transform from the everyday to this spectacular Halloween paradise. It truly is one of my favorite events at WETRA.”


Hogs for Horses raises funds for WETRA for seventh straight year



By Jolene Perron

It started with a few raffles, and developed into a motorcycle ride, which has raised well over $70,000 since it began, allowing the Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association to continue to provide their programming in Windsor and Essex County.

Back in 2000, Ken St. Amand was working with General Motors when a friend of his asked if he could put together a pool tournament to raise money to replace one of WETRA’s deceased horses. With only two weeks notice, St. Amand decided to raffle off one of his collectors edition Q-Stick’s, and he was able to raise enough money to buy WETRA a new horse.

The Hogs for Horses event at the Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association brought together more than 150 riders this year to help raise funds for the organization, which serves more than 200 clients weekly.

When he retired from General Motors in 2010, he started Hogs for Hospice motorcycle ride.
“It was the people at work, it was their hearts who wanted this to succeed and it just carried on to the point where people were asking me when was my next raffle,” explained St. Amand. “I did that for 10 years at work until I retired and then I wanted to try this and see if it would work. I’m thrilled to be able to be a part of it and the cooperation that we get from the Iron Horse today, they deserve a lot of credit for this. They took this over from me.”

According to Sina Naebkhil, fund development officer for WETRA, for the first five years the entire event was hosted on their premises with live bands, chicken and pasta dinners and raffles.

It began with just 35 riders, and has since grown to include more than 150 riders this year. To ease the stress on the volunteers, The Iron Horse Motorcycle Club who helps to organize the ride decided to move the dinner to Good Time Charly in Windsor, which is where the ride finishes.

“We are really excited, we got good weather and have a pretty good turnout going on,” explained Kevin Telfer, coordinator of the event and member of the Iron Horse Club. “This is an event that our club takes a lot of pride in, we put a lot of time and effort into it. I can only imagine the kids who come out here, and the first half of the week all they talk about is going to see their horse and their trainer. Then the second half of the week they go home and tell everybody about what they did. It’s just something that is great in the community.”

Hogs for Horses brought out more than 150 riders this year. It began seven years ago, with just 35 riders, and has since raised well over $70,000 for the Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association.

Naebkhil explained events such as these are essential in allowing WETRA to continue to change the lives of “the most vulnerable people in our community.” They serve 200 clients each week, so community support is essential in helping them to survive.

“We are so grateful for the hard work that the volunteers of the this ride put in to make it such a success,” said Naebkhil. “The funds go directly to support our clients who receive services, allowing WETRA to provide our programs to over 200 clients a week who live with various cognitive/physical disabilities/diagnosis throughout the age continuum to benefit their physical, mental and emotional needs. The spectrum of conditions that benefit from our programs ranges from mental illness, visual impairment, Down Syndrome, Traumatic Brain Injury, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Spina Bifida, post stroke and learning disabilities.”

For more information on WETRA, their services, or to donate, visit wetra.ca.

WETRA hosts third annual “Strides for Stability” horse show



By Ron Giofu


Billed as “equestrians making a difference,” the Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association held a horse show over Labour Day weekend with a fun and fundraising twist to it.

WETRA presented the third annual “Strides for Stability” horse show Sept. 2-3 with executive director Becky Mills stating “local equestrians thought it would be nice to host a fun horse show” with friends helping to sponsor the divisions the riders participated in.

Jacob O’Neill and his horse Peak My Curiosity jump over an obstacle during the “Strides for Stability” horse show at the Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association (WETRA) over the Labour Day weekend.

Jacob O’Neill and his horse Peak My Curiosity jump over an obstacle during the “Strides for Stability” horse show at the Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association (WETRA) over the Labour Day weekend.

The event was held as a fundraiser for WETRA, which helps offer therapeutic riding lessons for those with disabilities. The weekend show allowed riders of all ages and abilities a chance to have fun and showcase their skills.

“They raise over $12,000 every year and they hope to do it again this year,” said Mills.

Jacqueline Chevalier, co-ordinator of the “Strides for Stability” horse show, believed the event actually surpassed the $12,000 mark this year. Noting she grew up around WETRA since she was younger as her mother was a board member, Chevalier said the idea was created a few years ago to have local barns from around Windsor-Essex County come together for a fun event.

Those who are part of WETRA’s program get to participate, Chevalier added, as it can be difficult for them to travel to other barns to compete. At “Strides for Stability,” the WETRA riders are on their own ring and familiar with the surroundings.

Tamara Kryway and her horse R. Kallisto compete at the third annual Strides for Stability horse show at WETRA last Saturday.

Tamara Kryway and her horse R. Kallisto compete at the third annual Strides for Stability horse show at WETRA last Saturday.

Horse barns from around the area are great in supporting WETRA, Chevalier said, as “WETRA is a huge part of the community.”

“We’re happy to have people support it,” she added. “It’s competitive but we want people to come out and have fun.”

The Border City Barkers were also on hand with the agility dog team competing with and against jumper horses in competitions. There were also awards, raffles and a chance to visit the therapy horses offered as part of the weekend.

WETRA is located at 3323 North Malden Road, just south of McGregor, and more information can be found at www.wetra.ca.