There was a festive atmosphere at Fernie’s Old Barn on Saturday as families gathered to celebrate the Thanksgiving long weekend and raise funds for a local charity.
The Fernie Therapeutic Horse and Pony Club partnered with developer Montane Fernie to host Thanksgiving at the Barn, which featured fall activities and games, turkey sandwiches and live music.
“We’re a not for profit organization, so we rely on events like this to help us keep going,” said Aaron Levesque, vice president of the Fernie Therapeutic Horse and Pony Club.
“Everyone is always very generous and it’s a way of getting everyone out on a beautiful day before winter hits.”
The first-time event was well supported by families, with a long line of cars along Coal Creek Road and hundreds of people milling around the Barn, roasting s’mores, playing chicken poop bingo, bowling with Daphne the miniature horse and getting family photos taken by local photographer Kyle Hamilton.
The club hopes to make Thanksgiving an annual event as it works towards its goal of hiring a full-time summer therapist.
Volunteers currently work with children with disabilities in one-on-one sessions, where they learn natural horsemanship with the miniature horses.
“Minis are ideal for teaching kids because kids are not super confident around horses to begin with, they’re actually really nervous around them and the little ones are approachable for them,” said Levesque.
“The work that we do is just teaching them what we know from having been around horses our entire lives.”
Levesque said the club was open to working with any family who feels their child could benefit from including horses in their treatment or rehabilitation.
“We spend time with them teaching them natural horsemanship – how to approach a horse, parts of the horse’s body, how to put a halter on, how to lead them around,” she said.
“The student I’ve had the longest, he’s now at the point where he is lunging the horse, he’s ground driving the horse and he’s just about ready to get on, and start riding.”
All money raised on Saturday will go towards the club’s operating costs, including feed for the horses and veterinary bills.
For more information, visit Facebook.com/fernietherapeutichorseclub.