A popular video from a Vancouver Island charity showing equine-based wellness programs for persons with special needs has gained over 350,000 views online.
The Cowichan Therapeutic Riding Association (CTRA) says the project is an answer to the Budweiser horse commercials, known for airing during the Superbowl.
The Facebook video shows a young girl in a wheelchair riding a “special horse” at the charity’s location on Providence Farm, east of Duncan.
Jennifer Barnes van Elk, a development officer at CTRA, says the video is aimed to bring awareness to their cause.
“We wanted to use this video to share the story of who we are,” she said. “What we wanted to do, similar to the Budweiser commercials, was to tell the story from the horse’s perspective, but also make it about the participants and showing the relationship between the horse and the participants and how much that matters, and can change lives.”
Some of the activities the charity provides are therapeutic riding, therapeutic horsemanship, stable management, adapted equestrian vaulting and horse camps for children of all abilities.
“We didn’t expect the reach to be as much as it was, we were hoping it would go around the Cowichan Valley, be shared amongst our network but it has gone much further than we expected,” said Barnes van Elk. “We have comments coming in, in different languages, people are posting that they are sharing it in New Jersey, Australia, Germany, Venusaula, it’s amazing to see not only the reach but these people sharing their stories.”
The main horse in the video is a Norwegian Fjord horse named Ember.
“It’s a very stocky and sturdy breed… Ember is not necessarily bred to be a showjumping champion… or the fastest horse in a race,” said Barnes van Elk. “But what Ember can do is be a therapy horse and change lives of people.”
The charity is sponsored by many groups such as British Columbia’s Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island, and Variety – The Children’s Charity, but also relies on donations and volunteers from the community.
Around 15 part-time employees work on the farm, but Barnes van Elk says many work as “Volen-ployees.”
They are also supported by a volunteer base of 125 active volunteers, contributing around 6,000 hours a year.
Individuals who are looking to donate the charity can visit www.ctra.ca/support/.
The video can be found here.