Windrush Farm: The Beginnings and Now
Windrush Farm is a nonprofit, therapeutic horse farm that has been successfully helping children and adults with special needs since 1964. Located on 38 acres of woods and fields and surrounded by 160 acres of conservation land in North Andover, Massachusetts, we partner with our horses and the environment to expand the personal, emotional and physical abilities of children and adults with a broad range and combination of disabilities. Our diverse equine-assisted programs encourage and motivate our clients to realize their abilities, rather than focus on their limitations.
The Windrush story began in 1964, when Marj Kittredge, a lifelong horsewoman and nationally recognized dressage and event judge, was intrigued by the success of the Outward Bound program. If you could encourage young people to learn and grow by challenging them in new ways with activities like sailing and hiking, she wondered, why couldn’t you do the same thing with horses?
The horse, she was convinced, could be an invaluable educator and therapy partner. Horses are large, strong and gentle. They don’t care what you look like, or if you can see, if you just got out of a wheelchair, or what just happened to you at school or home. They respond to gentleness, kindness and patience, not appearances or expectations. Gaining the trust and respect of a 1000-pound animal takes self-control and builds self-esteem. Taking care of an animal, especially a large animal, teaches children and adults to accept responsibilities. Learning to ride a horse requires determination and perseverance. Horses encourage their riders to stretch, to improve posture, to correct balance, to work on coordination. Their rhythmic movement can soothe spasms and strengthen muscles. They can carry you outside to feel the fresh air, the sunshine, the breeze. Horses offer the opportunity to sit tall, feel powerful, have fun, be in charge, be free. Marj was sure that these lessons, which horses teach so effortlessly, could empower children and adults to achieve. Decades before terms like “experiential education” or “equine-facilitated learning” were even created, she knew horses and the outdoors could help.
So she used her family farm to make this happen. In 1964, equipped with the firm belief that “all of us, disabled or not, are capable of more than we think,” Marjorie V. Kittredge put six learning-disabled, emotionally challenged students from the Gifford School, then in Cambridge, on her own horses and founded Windrush Farm, one of the first therapeutic riding centers in the United States.
That was more then 50 years ago. Today, Windrush Farm, a premier accredited center through the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International, is a nationally recognized leader in the equine-assisted activities and therapies industry.
Now, at Windrush Farm, volunteer and riding opportunities are offered for many different populations including youth at risk, veterans, patients in rehabilitation, victims of human trafficking and more. Windrush Farm also employs adults with developmental disabilities to help with stable upkeep and maintenance, making them a part of the staff community. With a dedicated staff, including PATH-certified and licensed instructors, more than two dozen therapy horses and help from hundreds of volunteers from the local community, Windrush Farm annually provides services and therapeutic activities to thousands of children, adults, and their families each year. Every day we strive to help each and every one of our clients realize that they are always capable of more than they think.