My husband, Adam, and I are horse people. We met in college (in an equine diploma program) and knew from that point on what our priorities were in life- we wanted to have a family, live on a farm and do what we love. I found a great job working at Sunrise Therapeutic Riding and Learning Centre, a registered charity and riding centre for children and adults with special needs, shortly after graduating. Adam moved from Oshawa, we got an apartment and he got a job working at a local barn. We were struggling to make ends meet but, determined to work in the equine industry. Just a few months after moving in together, Adam got another job offer. I was excited for him until he told me that it was a requirement to live on site. We had barely unpacked and our lease agreement was for another 10 months! We decided it was a great opportunity and packed up again to make our new home at the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada.
The DSC is a registered charity that offers a lifelong home to abused, unwanted and neglected donkeys, hinnies and mules. The first residence we lived in was located just outside of the barnyard. We literally walked through donkeys with our groceries. My mom insisted on being accompanied from the parking lot to our front door as she is terrified of donkeys (and horses). Adam really enjoyed his role as Barn Manager and we both loved walking our dogs on the 100 acre property. We had ticked two boxes- we were both working in a field that we were passionate about and living on a farm. Life was good.
In 2012, I was hired on as the Foster Farm Coordinator. This part time position involved overseeing the Foster Farm program by doing inspections of prospective and active farms and communicating with farms while from home. We were married in 2012 and I got pregnant shortly after the wedding. When I was 6 months pregnant, we moved to the main Farmhouse which is divided into a private residence (our home) and the DSC office. Scarlett was born in 2013 and Hudson came into our lives in 2015. We checked the last box- family complete.
Adam and I are huge believers in living with a positive outlook on life and a strong sense of gratitude. We feel so overwhelmingly thankful for the life we are living. Adam has no commute- he walks out the door and down to the barn. We love our home- we can look out from any window and are greeted with rolling hills, trees and gardens and donkeys. We spend time together as a family outside (almost) every day of the year. Scarlett loves to walk down to the barns and pet the donkeys while Hudson enjoys when Daddy wears him on walks down the lane with the dogs. We are treated to special moments. For example, Scarlett met a new foal, Flint, when he was just hours old. I love my work/life balance as I continue to teach horseback riding lessons, coordinate the Foster Farm program and stay at home with my babies. Living here is beautiful.
There are some challenges as well. The DSC hosts events and is open to the public on Sundays from 10am to 3pm from May to October (plus Wednesdays in July and August). I always find it exciting to see Open Days getting busier as this means more support for the animals but, sometimes it’s challenging to explain to your 2 year old why there are so many people around or having the occasional visitor press their face against the windows to look into our kitchen and living room. Adam’s job sometimes requires extra work especially during hay season and when there are animal emergencies. We’ve cancelled plans and missed holidays. Adam has made arrangements with the OSPCA during family Christmas celebrations.
I am not complaining though- merely giving an inside perspective to this life. This is exactly the life we dreamed of. My favourite thing to do at the end of a busy day is to sit down with Adam, have a glass of wine and reflect on this unique opportunity. We are raising our kids in an environment that begs to be explored and respected; a place where they can learn about animal welfare and humane education. The donkey is often described as stubborn and difficult but the animal’s true nature of strength, calm and gentleness washes over the rolling acres and into our home and lives. We are lovers of all equines- horses, mules and donkeys. A great mentor to Adam once said that he believed there was a niche for everyone in the (equine) industry. I’m so thankful we found ours.
For more information about the Donkey Sanctuary of Canada please visit www.thedonkeysanctuary.ca or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter! Also- check out Sunrise at www.sunrise-therapeutic.ca and on Facebook and Twitter!