Samson is the biggest horse at Arion Therapeutic Farm. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Samson is the biggest horse at Arion Therapeutic Farm. (Twila Amato - Black Press Media)

Okanagan farm continues to offer natural, safe space during pandemic

Arion Therapeutic Farm in Kelowna has helped residents feel calmer during these difficult times

Many businesses have had to close, but a Kelowna animal sanctuary has been fortunate enough to stay open and offer a calm site for residents in the midst of the pandemic.

Arion Therapeutic Farm offers a variety of therapy programs as well as riding classes but founder and director Heather Henderson said they lost many of their students once COVID-19 peaked.

“Some of our clients, especially children with more complex conditions, require hands-on support from our staff and volunteers. But because of COVID-19, the volunteers didn’t want to be in close contact, and the same goes for the families,” she said.

“As a result, we did lose about 97 per cent of our student body. We do have a few that are still coming and because they’re more independent, they’re still doing weekly therapy.”

The sanctuary is mostly volunteer-run, but Henderson said they do employ some staff to run the therapy sessions, but they’ve unfortunately had to let the instructors go.

But despite those losses, Arion kept their gates open, which has given many people a place to go instead of being cooped up at home. The 12-acre farm offers plenty of chances for physical distancing, which Henderson said people recognize and use to their advantage.

“We’ve been very blessed that people are looking to do just what we’ve been offering for more than a decade here, which is therapeutic experiences with animals. And anybody can have that and enjoy that,” she said.

“This past month, we’ve been fortunate enough to have more than 500 families with children of all ages come through. It’s also helped us stay open during very tough times.”

Shyloe Fayad’s daughter signed up to adopt a horse at Arion. Since adopting a horse, Fayad said they’ve been at the farm every single day, not only caring for the horse but also volunteering their time to help around the property.

She said coming to the farm has helped her daughter.

“Before we started coming here, she spent a lot of time in her room and she was really grumpy. I would say that her coming out here has made her feel more confident, more relaxed and more capable of enduring this long time without her social network around her. She just seems to be in a better space than before,” she said.

“I’m a coach and I work with mental health a lot, so I know what it’s like when circumstances are happening in your life that are outside of your control. It’s often beneficial for you, particularly in trying times, to go somewhere and do something that might be outside of what you normally do and get into nature. Nature is a massive healer.”

Currently, Arion Therapeutic Farm is offering annual memberships, so people can come to the sanctuary as many times as they want.

For more information on classes, programs, tours and memberships, visit their website.

READ: New supportive housing project for Kelowna’s homeless skips usual rezoning process

READ: Kelowna-based community association helping seniors through pandemic


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Google Maps)
Osoyoos Credit Union staff member tests positive for COVID-19

The credit union made the announcement Dec. 1

Elkhart Gas Station, located on Highway 97C about 60 kilometres west of Peachland, opened in November 2020. (Google maps)
The Okanagan Connector now has a gas station

The highway previously ran for over 117 kilometres without a place to fuel up

A laboratory technician holds a dose of a COVID-19 novel coronavirus vaccine candidate that’s ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand. (Mladen Antonov - AFP)
Interior Health reports 66 new COVID-19 infections

570 cases are active; 18 in hospital

The Hughes’ Grinch was stolen from their front yard Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2020. The Santa suit the Grinch is wearing is 50 years old and has sentimental value. It was once worn by April Hughes’ dad. (Hughes photo)
Stolen Grinch ‘irreplaceable’

The Hughes have had a Christmas display for 25 years on Grandy Avenue in Penticton

Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread

An Enderby restaurant and pub was shut down Sunday afternoon, Nov. 29, 2020 as a precaution after a guest reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. (Howard Johnson photo)
North Okanagan pub reopens after COVID-19 scare

After a guest reportedly tested positive for the virus, staff test results came back negative

Alix Longland
Trauma resources ready for North Okanagan refugees

Family Resource Centre working with UBCO social work grad to reach out to local refugees

Midway RCMP’s Cpl. Phil Peters spoke at Greenwood’s city council meeting Monday, Nov. 23. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
B.C. Mountie builds fire to warm suspect with hypothermia prior to rescue

Cpl. Phil Peters said the civilian helped police track, apprehend and eventually rescue the suspect

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Revelstoke COVID-19 cluster linked to non-essential travel: Horgan

There have been 46 cases of COVID-19 in the community

Students at Lavington Elementary crammed a car full of non-perishables for those in the community facing food insecurity. Spearheaded by teacher January Peebles (left), the donations were picked up by Give LUCK founder Myrika Godard, who works to connect donors with donees in the North Okanagan. (Give LUCK photo)
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

Most Read