Yes, go ahead and listen to this lovely song “Farewell to Nova Scotia”, and it will set the scene to experience this piece of writing in the most perfect setting. A hidden jewel, far out to the east of Canada, Hinchinbrook farm greets you with Silverbell roaming the grounds, a 30 year old mare enjoying her retirement on the property of Patty McGill, therapeutic riding instructor, Horse Boy practitioner, and so much more. This is a place you want to keep on your radar if you are truly passionate about what you do.
We arrived on a Friday around noon, being welcomed by Peter, a board member and volunteer who is warm hearted, enthusiastic, very open minded and caring. Being greeted at a foreign airport like that is reassuring and helps to feel quickly at home. The stunning scenery with its typical Canadian lakes, pine trees, and surrounding rich greenery, was flying by the window while driving to the small town of Blockhouse. Natural wooden fences decorated with hidden natural letters guided us up the long driveway to the farmhouse.
No time to rest; we arrived at noon and Horse Boy camp families arrived at 3pm- off we went- no luggage to store away since it was lost somewhere in Montreal for a while- straight to work to set up camp...Literally! We pitched tents in the beautiful woods of Patty’s ten acre farm. She had prepared perfect campsites so they would not flood and make families miserable; mats were placed, and sleeping bags arranged. Some families enjoy this weekend as their only vacation, often as the only place where they are not being judged by society.
What an excitement! Every single volunteer was involved in setting up, using every second productively, and making sure everyone was using their strength of cooking, building, horse skills, people skills whatever they could contribute- Patty seemed to clearly understand where each one would be the most useful and comfortable.
The farm is highly organized without giving a feeling of being sterile and uninviting. After just a couple minutes, it was easy to jump in because the system of organization was self- explanatory, simple, with clear expectations, and safe. After many years, it felt like coming home, similar to the farm where I spent my childhood. We loaded and stacked hay, we mucked; animals were all around us- which made everybody more comfortable and relaxed. Kelly, her big newfoundland was there for anybody who got shy, insecure, or simply needed a hug- wished I could have taken her home with me…
And then the families arrived. It quickly became apparent to me as a total outsider, the talent Patty had to connect people and to connect with people. How come, in a room of co-workers and friends I feel often more alone and isolated than with these folks whom I had never met, most likely will never see again, and who are so so different from me in so many ways- Patty has a talent to make connections with animals and humans! She can build a tribe and make everybody feel validated and part of it. She is a character and certainly cares much more about her kids and animals than anybody else- but that makes me appreciate her big caring heart and priorities even more. She is at a point in her life where she says what she thinks- oh, how often I wished I could just do that (but I am not quite there) There are no mysteries to figure out, no reading between the lines, no 'I wonder what she thinks'…clear, simple, straight forward.
The camp was absolutely fantastic. Children were painting ponies, vaulting, riding, swimming in the pond, having campfires, doing Pokemon treasure hunts, bouncing endlessly on the large trampoline, enjoying life guitare music in the hay barn, while getting good night sleeps in cozy tents beside a gently moving creek. There was no downtime, there were no tantrums, no meltdowns, no huge fights- the environment was such a 'yes' environment, that the entire weekend I did not have to use the word “no” at all- if there was a situation where a child needed to be redirected, it was easily done because there were so so many options.
Even the local Canadian News found this valuable enough to do a short report for the evening news. When Sunday came and the end was near, it made my heart heavy to see families leave. The happiness was so contagious, that I could almost not get enough of it. We had some amazing breakthrough moments with kids, and it simply melted my heart to have had the chance to be part of it.
The clean up was quickly done. The moment I was able to sit down for a minute I could feel the absolute exhaustion creeping up on me- wow, we really did work quite a bit and the adrenaline rush, now gone, wore me out. What an experience! It was my first Horse Boy camp- I had heard about it, but seeing it in action, I think I am even more addicted to this work now, and how lovely it would be to allow more children and families access to an experience like this. I feel truly blessed to have been invited to join this camp and help out. It has made me a better person, and it will forever be in my memory and inspire me to do better for the folks I am working with.