Endangered Newfoundland ponies a new therapy animal for frontline workers outside of Ottawa

PERTH — Tucked away near Perth is Willow Creek Farm, where 10 critically endangered Newfoundland ponies live.

“These ponies are just so docile, so intelligent,” says Korrine Affleck, the barn manager at Willow Creek. Affleck is considered an essential worker at her day job, and was finding the rigours and stress of the pandemic weighing on her.

“So coming home after a day of work, going to the barn, and doing the chores, you could literally feel the stress melt away,” says Affleck. That’s what gave her the idea for the farm’s new program “Help the Heroes Heal.”

“If you’re an essential worker of any kind, regardless of what the job title is, essentially we just welcome you here,” invites Affleck. “We’re hoping that something like this will really help mentally, just decompress, and take some of the stress away because they’re all doing a fantastic job.”

Visitors to the farm are able to get up close and personal with the ponies; petting, brushing, feeding, and even riding them. “Something about being outside, being near an animal, and just spending time at the farm most people just find it very relaxing,” says Affleck.

Kerri-Ann Giffin has been visiting Willow Creek Farm since 2019, and recently has been coming every other Sunday to decompress.

“It’s just very therapeutic, and this gives you peace,” says Giffin. “And with COVID and everything it’s just been really hard.”

Giffin says the quiet of the farm and calming qualities of the ponies clears her mind, “Just that feeling that you get, it’s like medicine.”

To protect the pony population, the Newfoundland government has recognized it as a Heritage Animal.

Affleck says it’s estimated that the current Newfoundland pony population totals less than 400 animals. Today, the Newfoundland Pony is used for riding, driving and light work.

Farm visits at Willow Creek are offered on evenings and all day Saturdays and Sundays. More information is available on the Willow Creek Stables Facebook page.

Farm visits can be booked via email at kaseykhanefan@live.com or over the phone at 613-464-1571. The non-profit rescue facility is located just outside of Perth at 2351 Christie Lake Road.

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