A pas­sion for an­i­mals

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - FRONT PAGE - BY MIL­LI­CENT MCKAY

Heather Blouin has al­ways loved horses. Now she is hop­ing to in­spire oth­ers to draw on their pas­sion for an­i­mals by vis­it­ing the Grand River Ranch.

“It’s like I put two and two and two to­gether,” said Blouin, who started the Cow Girl Strong pro­gram at the ranch to help girls and women with spe­cial needs to learn life skills and ranch work. Blouin, who owns the ranch with her hus­band, Rick, says what helped with the de­ci­sion was see­ing how well her daugh­ter re­sponds and learns when she is with an­i­mals.

“You can see it when she comes into the barn. She’ll go see ev­ery an­i­mal, touch them, smell them; she uses all of her senses tak­ing in ev­ery bit nat­u­rally.”

Cur­rently there are about four par­tic­i­pants in the pro­gram, which runs Wed­nes­day evenings and Fri­day dur­ing the day.

Karen Chap­man is one of the par­tic­i­pants.

Through the pro­gram, Chap­man has seen the num­ber of mi­graines she suf­fers de­crease sub­stan­tially.

“I used to have about three mi­graines a week. Now I rarely have any.”

Chap­man’s favourite part about com­ing to the ranch is see­ing a horse named Cin­derella’s Fan­tasy.

“Cin­der is my horse. When I think of com­ing to the ranch and think of Cin­der, noth­ing else mat­ters,” said Chap­man, as she brushes the horse’s mane.

“Com­ing here makes me happy. I have a rou­tine and I know I’m com­ing to a place where I’m loved. It makes me feel like I have some­where where I be­long.”

This has been the best sum­mer ever, said Chap­man.

“I look for­ward to my time when I come here. It has re­ally helped me.”

An av­er­age day for the pro­gram’s par­tic­i­pants starts when the girls ar­rive and be­gin to clean the an­i­mals’ pens and food and wa­ter dishes.

“After the barn is ti­died, we’ll go in for our own treat and have a cup of cof­fee or a snack in the house.

“After that we’ll head back out and they’ll groom the horses and make sure they have ev­ery­thing they need.”

But the par­tic­i­pants take on other jobs as well.

“We man­age part of what was Cack­le­berry Farms Orchard.”

A farm up the road owns the other por­tion of the former Cack­le­berry prop­erty.

“The girls have helped me prune the trees and get the orchard pre­pared. In the fall they’ll help with pick­ing ap­ples.”

Chap­man says work­ing in the orchard is fun be­cause it al­lows them to drive the Ga­tor.

“We’ll load the bed up with branches and go for a ride. It’s a lot of work but a lot of fun.”

Blouin says what makes the ranch spe­cial is the abil­ity to share her pas­sion.

“It’s re­ally great when you can take your pas­sion, use it to help some­one and then see them de­velop their own,” she said mo­tion­ing to Chap­man and Cin­der.

“They get to build re­la­tion­ships and bonds, but also learn how to work with their hands. What’s more, they get the opportunity to think of some­thing other than them­selves.”

MIL­LI­CENT MCKAY/JOUR­NAL PI­O­NEER

Heather Blouin, left, owner of Grand River Ranch, Karen Chap­man and Kayla Ma­cLeod near the horses’ pad­dock with some of the other ranch res­i­dents.

MIL­LI­CENT MCKAY/JOUR­NAL PI­O­NEER

Karen Chap­man pets horse Cin­derella’s Fan­tasy at the Grand River Ranch. Heather Blouin and her hus­band run the ranch. They of­fer ser­vices for those with spe­cial needs to come to the ranch and learn new skills.

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