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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

WETRA’s fall open house shows off its programs

by Garrett Fodor

With the holiday season quickly approaching, one local organization recently opened its doors to give members of the public an up-close and personal look at its facility, while getting residents in the holiday spirit.

On Sunday, the doors of the Windsor-Essex Therapeutic Riding Association (WETRA) were opened to the public as part of its seasonal open house. The event offered the public a chance to see the grounds along with the horses and farm animals, while learning more about the programs offered. They also learned how they can become more involved.

  Visitors were also able to go for carriage rides around the snow, make crafts, pose for pictures, and enjoy hot chocolate and other seasonal treats. 

  Since 2011, WETRA has been based within the Municipality of Essex at its new state-of-the-art facility, which is situated on 73-acres of land. It is equipped with a 28,900 square foot riding area, 12,600 square foot stable, and 4,585 square foot office and lounge area. The organization serves nearly 200 people a week, many of which are children who have intellectual, physical, or emotional disabilities. 

“We get a lot of people [who] call or drop in and just want to visit with the animals, but that’s not always possible for the confidentiality of our clients,” Paige Shepley, WETRA’s Program Director, said. So, the local riding facility began to offer semi-annual open houses, one in the spring and one in the fall, that members of the public could attend. These opportunities allow visits with the animals on their own terms.

  WETRA is a non-profit organization that was formed over 50-years ago by Dr. Elmer Butt who observed horses being used in therapy by physically challenged individuals in England. WETRA was the first organization of its type formed in Canada. 

“This is our first time here and I’m with my Aunt Kristen, and she is on the waiting list here and she’s here to checkout the horses and see what it is all about,” Kayla Poulin said, who attended the event. “When we were coming here, she was a little nervous, but once she was here, all the horses were drawn to her it seems, so she’s loving it. We can’t wait for the next one in the spring and we hope to be back.”

Shepley said they are satisfied with the turnout at the open house and that WETRA and the horses love to open their doors to show the public their facilities during these times. She added WETRA is always looking for volunteers to help. Anyone interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer can visit 


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