Life

Girls Inc. partners with Foxwood Farm

By Miriam King, QMI Agency

The partnership between Girls Inc. of York Region and Foxwood Farm riding stables began last winter - with PA Day activities and a March Break camp for girls in the program.

Things stepped up a notch when Girls Inc. received Ministry funding for a summer camp program, for 2 weeks - and now, for an Equine Sponsorship Program, that basically gives Girls Inc. the funds to "adopt" a horse for a year, and will allow 8 girls to benefit from the riding lessons and instruction in horsemanship provided by Foxwood Farm.

The adopted horse is "Maverick", a 7 year old Quarterhorse gelding - "very easy-going, not too big," notes Foxwood owner Robyn Freer. In addition to their "own" horse, the girls also borrow "Blaze", for their lessons.

And in just two months since the Equine Sponsorship Program began, Freer has noticed a big change in the first four participants - "a huge change in their confidence level. This is something they're learning to do on their own."

Tracey Moore, Program Administrator, agrees - and explains that it's all part of the mandate of Girls Inc., an organization that provides gender-specific programs for girls between the ages of 6 and 18 in York Region and Bradford West Gwillimbury, that build self-esteem, a positive self-image, and a can-do attitude.

The goal is to inspire "all girls to be strong, smart and bold" - breaking through gender, economic and social barriers. In particular, Girls Inc. encourages girls to close the gender gap in sports. "It's about giving girls opportunities," Moore says, and the opportunities offered at Foxwood have proven to be very popular.

"The girls just love it," she says. "Robyn works 100% with us. She supports our mission and our mandate. It's just a great relationship - and her horses are phenomenal."

The girls in the new Equine Sponsorship Program learn more than how to ride. They learn what it takes to board and feed a horse. "They grab the horse, tack 'em, groom 'em, ride 'em, muck out the stalls - anything the horse needs," Moore says - and get a lesson in life-skills and budgeting, to make the dollars stretch.

The funds from the Ministry of Tourism, Sports and Culture, and an Adventure Sports Grant, only go so far. The girls in the program also carry out fundraising - and have received donations from the community, to make the partnership possible.

A private donation provided the funds to purchase riding helmets. Local tack stores have also stepped up to provide gear - including 2 safety vests from Tipperary Tack Co., 8 pairs of winter gloves from SSG Riding Gloves in Aurora, a saddle pad from Doonaree Tack Shop, grooming kit from Greenhawk harness & equestrian supplies in Barrie, a leather halter from Pony Up Equestrian Tack Store in Aurora, and horse treats from the Alliston Feed Store.

"The girls are loving it," says Moore, noting that the program has had an impact beyond the horse barn. "It's overflowing into school, friends... You can see the change in the group dynamic. Girls just flourish with the horses."

Right now, Girls Inc. is looking for more partners in the Bradford area, to be able to offer additional programs locally. "We have a lot of Bradford girls come to Newmarket for programming," she says - and a lot who are missing out, due to transportation issues.

For more information see www.girlsincyork.org or contact Tracey Moore at 905-830-0776 ext. 305 or volunteer@girlsincyork.org


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