Learning and Healing with Ojibwe Spirit Horses

Mādahòkì Farm in Ottawa’s Green Belt is Canada’s only Indigenous agri-tourism destination and working farm. It is dedicated to preserving Indigenous culture and heritage through projects, training programs, and cultural events.

As part of a pilot project to encourage land and culture-based teachings, the team at Mādahòkì Farm developed an innovative, Indigenized version of Equine Assisted Learning (EAL).

Named Mishdatim (horse in Ojibwe), the program promotes inner healing among Indigenous children, youth and families through land-based teachings and interactions with rare Ojibwe Spirit horses, Canada’s only known Indigenous breed of horse.

Funding from the Indigenous Reconciliation Fund supported the 7-week pilot, allowing Indigenous youth and families from local Indigenous social service organizations to participate. The grant covered care, feed and supplies for the Ojibwe Spirit Horses, salaries for workers, hosts and assistants, and program costs, including meals for the participants.

The program is designed to help Indigenous participants connect with their heritage and the land through the wisdom of the horses. The curriculum is based on the Seven Grandfather teachings, instilling valuable land-based skills while allowing the horses to teach participants honesty, patience, trust and respect. 

The program revives the cultural significance of horses through oral teachings and stories from Elders who remember living with the horses. It is also a powerful resource for community outreach, to educate the Farm’s many Canadian and international visitors about Indigenous culture, fostering understanding and a pathway to reconciliation.

With the pilot’s success, plans are underway to invite tour groups and corporate teams to participate. They will better understand Indigenous history and culture and build essential skills like leadership, communication and teamwork through working with and caring for Ojibwe Spirit Horses.

About Mādahòkì Farm and the Mishdatim EAL:

Mādahòkì Farm, an integral part of Indigenous Experiences, Arts and Culture, has a long history of successfully delivering Indigenous projects, training programs, and cultural events. 

The Mishdatim EAL program was developed by Rhonda Snow, a Spirit Pony Advocate, Artist and Knowledge Keeper. Certified leaders and facilitators lead the workshops, delivered in a culturally sensitive, safe environment for participants.

To learn more about the Mādahòkì Farm and their work, visit their website at https://madahoki.ca/

Archdiocese of Ottawa-Cornwall