It was a first for Carman Ford's Meals on the Farm Tuesday, when we visited the Dusty Ridge Equine Centre, located south of Osterwick. Alongside our partners from Meridian Manufacturing, this was the first time we delivered a meal to a farm that had an equine focus, along with growing barley, corn, wheat, oats and alfalfa.
Cheryl Harder owns and operates Dusty Ridge Equine Centre. The equine assisted learning facility focuses on developing life skills in young people through building a relationship with horses.
Reporter Robyn Wiebe and CFAM Radio 950 Morning Show co-Host Chris Sumner were part of the delivery crew.
"It started off about five or six years ago, people would come by, and they just wanted to interact with the horses," explained Harder. "We then facilitated with friends of ours with an equine assisted learning program. From there, it just escalated. We've been able to provide schools, Child and Family Services and Manitoba Public Insurance with different services and programs that we can offer to people. The biggest thing is to help people understand the tools they have within themselves to navigate life. We base it on the three R's, which are respect, responsibility and relationship skills, and hopefully the skills we can work on in the horse world can be carried over into the human world."
The Harder family has been around horses for years, and Cheryl saw firsthand the benefits of raising three children alongside them.
"In a horse's world, it's an action reaction world," she said. "We've seen the benefits, and we wanted to be able to share it with people, too. We had the horses, we had room for it, and it just took off from there."
Some of the people who have participated in Dusty Ridge Equine Centre's programming have never been anywhere near a horse in their life prior to walking onto the farm. With that in mind, what is it like watching those folks developing a relationship with the animal that can't easily be described in words?
"t's absolutely amazing," shared Harder with a big smile on her face. "Some of the people come in, and they're like, 'I have a best friend. This is my horse'. They take ownership of the horse, and for them a horse is a non-judgmental being, right? They don't care what shoes you're wearing, or what your hair is like and they take you for who you are. They can feel your heartbeat four or five feet away. It's amazing to to see the kids growing self-confidence, self-awareness, everything. It's really good."
What has it been like for the family to see those success stories? Some of the kids who come in are shy, perhaps having challenges in life, and they're growing every time they come into the barn.
"It's really, really humbling to be able to walk alongside, and to offer something they can carry for the rest of their life, that they can come back and say, 'You know what? I learned this. I figured it out. These horses helped me do it.'" said Harder as she held back tears. "It's amazing, and it's it's a Godsend. Years ago, we had dreamed about sharing this, and offering it to other people. It wasn't God's timing, (but since then) doors have opened, and so we just keep going where the doors are open."
Wednesday Morning Show Co-Host Zack Driedger and Saturday Morning Host Eva Heide are off to Maple Creek Farms near Halbstadt with another delicious lunch from Sun Valley Co-op Cafe, delivering with the Carman Ford F-150 and with the help of Buffalo Creek Mills.