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Equine Wellness Workshops returning to On Eagles’ Wings farm

FAIRMONT — On Eagles’ Wings Therapeutic Horsemanship’s Equine-Assisted Wellness Workshops are back by popular demand to bring a day of fresh air, relaxation and time with horses to the community.

The program is designed to give participants a chance to enjoy the benefits of therapeutic horsemanship without ever mounting a horse. Casey Conaway, director of development, said the program initially piloted in the fall as the organization’s response to the pandemic.

“We were hearing that individuals were experiencing a lot of stress and turmoil,” Conaway said. “We felt like we needed to offer something to our community.”

Workshops are scheduled for March 13, April 10, July 10 and Aug. 14. Participants will spend the morning engaging all of their senses alongside therapy horses. The workshop aims to incorporate deep breathing, listening, vision and touch to reconnect with mind, body and spirit.

Isabella Dawson brushes Chip prior to her ride at Eagles’ Wings Therapeutic on Friday.

Nancy Parks, a resident of Clarksburg, attended the workshop last summer. She had almost no experience interacting with horses before attending the event. 

Parks does not regularly participate in meditation or deep-breathing exercises, and said she did not expect to enjoy the activities as much as she did.  

She said she especially liked how controlled the environment of the workshop was. The group is made up of no more than 10 people, and no one is expected to do something they are not completely comfortable with doing.

“The day was very relaxing,” Parks said. “I would tell people If horses make you nervous, don’t be fearful of that because it is such a controlled setting.”

Parks’ favorite part about the workshop was learning basic grooming techniques and spending time brushing the horses. 

The workshop as a whole requires participants to constantly stay focused and aware of their surroundings, which Parks said contributes greatly to the meditative aspect of the clinic. Eager to return, Parks has already registered to participate in part two of the workshop this summer.

“It’s a really nice way to spend a Saturday,” Parks said. “Even if you don’t think you have any interest in horses, it’s really not so much about the horse as much as it is taking the time to get into a more relaxed frame of mind.”

Isabella Dawson works with Chip at Eagles’ Wings Therapeutic on Friday.

Carol Petitto, executive director and founder, said the main component of the workshop is reconnect with oneself and with horses; however, the organization quickly discovered participants were also thrilled to have an opportunity to spend time together.

“It served a pretty great purpose during what was pretty harsh times, as far as socially,” Petitto said. 

The organization is taking COVID-19 precautions, and masks are required during the workshops. The workshops are also limited to 10 participants.

Many of the organization’s therapeutic programs are for participants with disabilities; however, the wellness workshops are open to all in the community. It is recommended for ages 16 and up, but younger participants may be considered with adult supervision.

The workshop is one of many programs offered at On Eagles’ Wings. The therapeutic riding facility was founded in 2007 with just two horses and five participants, and has since grown exponentially. The barn now houses 14 full-sized therapeutic horses and four miniature horses, and has been located at its current facility since 2016. 

The organization regularly offers therapeutic riding, hippotherapy, equine-assisted learning opportunities with school groups, and school and nursing home visits with miniature horses. 

Although the program continues to grow, its mission has remained the same — to provide a safe environment for individuals with disabilities, whether it be physical, cognitive, emotional or social. 

“Horses have a way of reaching into our hearts that humans really can’t reach,” Conaway said.

On Eagles’ Wings is always looking for volunteers, and appreciates donations. Those interested in contributing, or to sign up for the program’s Wellness Workshops can do so by visiting

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Director of Development Casey Conway works with a horse at Eagles’ Wings Therapeutic on Friday.