Awakening the Spirit: A Horse Encounter Like No Other
With its wide green spaces, TJ Stables looks from the road like many farm properties in Southwestern Ontario. But walk in past the pretty white fence and striking red barn and you will be greeted by something quite extraordinary.
This farm is home to some of the last remaining Indigenous Wild horses on the continent. Known as the Walpole Island Ponies or the Anishinabe Ojibwe Spirit Horses, this unique breed once roamed wild in parts of Ontario and is believed to be the only existing breed of horse developed by Indigenous people.
Owners Terry Jenkins and John Basden share the power of the Spirit Horse by welcoming visitors to their property. We at Landsby recently stayed at this incredible property and were moved by the experience. The atmosphere here is one of openness and respect. Questions are encouraged, the goal is to learn about Indigenous culture and connect with the beauty and healing powers of this rare breed of sweet-natured horse.
Visitors can choose to stay for an afternoon or can spend the night as we did in an authentic, Indigenous-made tipi, treated to songs and stories by the fire and a traditional Métis dinner and breakfast. A guided walk through the surrounding maple sugar bush teaches visitors about traditional medicinal properties of native trees and plants. The horses are always close by and offer a calming presence to the entire experience.
It is hard to imagine that not long ago these majestic animals roamed the boreal forests of Southwestern Ontario freely and were an integral part of the Indigenous community. As a young child growing up on Walpole Island — which sits just about 40 kilometres from this property — Terry vividly remembers the horses and the eradication program that brought them to near extinction. She is now a big part of the effort to reestablish this breed in Canada and the Spirit Horse Encounter is one way to fund those efforts.
These horses are integral to the Ojibwe culture: The Creator asked the horses to bond with the heartbeat of Mother Earth, the horses heard the drumming of the First Nations people and interpreted the drumming as that heartbeat. Visitors are given a glimpse of this connection as traditional drumming mingles with the experience of walking amongst the horses, feeling the strength of not only the animal but the community that is working so hard to preserve them.