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Free horsemanship experiences for people with disabilities

As part of the programs at the Abilitas Foundation, a non-profit focused on providing accessible opportunities for individuals living with disabilities, Jocelyn has been running horsemanship-based trail riding and lesson programs for guests, their families, and their caregivers for the past few years. Her team creates experiences for families that have individuals with disabilities where they can safely interact with horses and spend time at the ranch. Horses are social animals that like to have positive interactions with their human counterparts, and the experiences at Abilitas allow guests to spend time with the horses under the guidance and supervision of trained experts. Jocelyn and her team are able to create lovely and memorable horse experiences for families staying at the lodge.

The activities involving horses at the ranch are specifically designed for families with individuals who have physical and/or mental disabilities. Jocelyn’s group of equestrian experts conducts customized group sessions to provide an opportunity for people to get close to horses in a safe way where they can touch them, groom them, and develop a connection with them. The trained horses at the ranch have a calm energy that draws people towards them despite their initial nervousness about being close to the animals. The activities start with families getting to pet and groom the gentle horses – as guests get more comfortable around the horses and their confidence develops, they can ride the horses or choose to just enjoy sitting around at the corrals, marvelling at the beauty of nature, and watching the horses.

The sessions are completely customized to accommodate each group/family’s unique interests and abilities. Adults in wheelchairs with limited communication skills enjoy being close to the horses as they can reach out and interact in their own ways. Jocelyn’s team teaches young children and individuals with disabilities about horse care and riding over the weekend sessions. Families have been participating since this program started in 2019 and the kids are now trail riding along with regular riders. There have been multiple examples of young kids and disabled individuals from various families who have formed a connection with the horses and look forward to their visit at Cold Water Ranch each year. The horse program is family-inclusive to involve not only the guests with disabilities, but also their caregivers and family members without any financial barriers.

Abilitas Foundation has made every effort to make the Abilitas Lodge an accessible facility equipped to welcome children and adults challenged by differing restrictive physical, mental, and social conditions. In addition to a comfortable stay, the nature around the lodge offers a mellow and calming atmosphere. To help keep the lodge running at modest rates for people with disabilities, the foundation rents out the lodge for corporate events and board retreats with all rental proceeds and donations going towards funding the ongoing operations and expansion of the lodge.

The Abilitas Foundation was established in 2008 to create accessible opportunities for people living with disabilities, their families, and caregivers. The foundation opened Cold Water Ranch Lodge in 2013 to provide people with disabilities an avenue for vacation and new experiences. Families that have individuals with disabilities can book the Abilitas Lodge at Cold Water Ranch for vacations lasting up to four days between March and December every year.