Jean Savoie closed her eyes and said she felt like a little girl again as she shared a moment on Wednesday with Queen, a 23-year-old Belgian mare.
Savoie was one of a handful of residents, staff and family at the Colville Manor seniors’ residence who was treated to a horse and sleigh ride through the community, complete with an RCMP escort, courtesy of Red House Stables in Fortune.
“Oh, this means the world to me,’’ Savoie told The Guardian after giving Queen a soft kiss.
“When I was living in the country as a young girl I was around animals all the time. I used to go horseback riding all the time. I’d hitch them up to the sleigh and off I’d go. I miss all that now. We’re living in a different time. Life was much simpler back then.’’
With Lucas Peters, who operates Red House Stables with his wife, Danielle, at the reins, Queen and Kelly, a 12-year-old percheron, led the wagon of residents on a half-hour wagon ride through the streets that lead to the Northumberland Strait.
It may have been a cold day outside on Wednesday but the sun was warm and the mood on the wagon was boisterous. The residents sang songs, shared stories about horses they had on their farms, and laughed together.
“I can remember I was nine years old the first time I drove a horse,’’ said Robert Jackson of Fortune who sat in his wheelchair and watched the horses from a window inside the manor. “We used to haul cords of wood, (as much as) 50 cords of wood in the early winter. The horses would haul it. We did everything with the horses.’’
Vivian Blaisdell of Fortune, another one of the residents who enjoyed the outdoor trek, said her family used to pack lunches, ride the horses three miles into the woods and go on sleigh rides.
“We would stay all day. It was beautiful. I just loved it,’’ Blaisdell said. “(When work had to be done) I would put on a pair of coveralls and a warm hat and we’d haul trees with the horse. I did everything with the horses on the farm.’’
It wasn’t Queen’s first visit to the manor. Peters, who also works as a paramedic, dropped by with the Belgian mare recently, walking the horse right through the front door so the residents could meet her.
“Horses are great for therapeutic stuff and most of the people here had horses growing up so it will be great for them to come and see the horse again,’’ Peters said. “Where else are they going to get a chance to do this?’’
Carole-Ann Matheson, recreation manager at Colville Manor, said they’re always looking for things to do to keep their residents participating with life outside the home.
“We try and organize things that will connect residents to the community and the people they lived with in those communities years before they came to the manor,’’ Matheson said, adding that it was Peters’ idea to bring Queen in for her initial visit. “It’s therapeutic with having the animals coming into the facility but socially our residents need engagement with the community.’’
More information about Red House Stables is available on the business's Facebook page.