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Spirit’s Respite Ranch: A haven in Stettler of healing and empowerment

The ranch offers a sanctuary where individuals with special needs find deep connections with horses
Janelle Robinson owns and operates Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. The Ranch is an animal therapy ranch that helps those with special needs and conditions ranging from PTSD to anxiety. (Spirit Respite Ranch Instagram photo)

As a non-profit organization in Stettler has been using horseback riding and the like to uplift and empower locals in the community and surrounding area.

Therapeutic riding is at the core of Spirit’s Respite Ranch offerings. Participants with special needs and disabilities find joy and healing as they mount gentle horses, Robinson mentioned. With each ride, they build strength, confidence, and a sense of independence. The safety and well-being of participants are ensured through one-on-one support from staff members and trained volunteers.

Three years ago, Janelle Robinson founded Spirit’s Respite Ranch with her husband, driven by her personal experience with her son, who has severe nonverbal autism and developmental delays. The goal was to create a place where families with disabled children could heal and enjoy nature.

“Unfortunately, we live in a world that is always on the go and the loud. Sometimes that’s not really what people need. Many people enjoy being outdoors and having the time and space to be supported and go through things on their own time. That’s why we started everything. We wanted to provide families like us a place where they could be together,” Robinson said.

It started with Robinson managing the ranch along – since then growing to include five staff and 14 volunteers. The number of horses at the ranch has also increased from three to 24 to accommodate the growing number of visitors.

Robinson’s vision for the ranch extends beyond therapeutic riding. Recognizing horses’ profound wisdom and intuition, she became certified in Equine Assisted Learning (EAL) as a program to facilitate personal growth and learning. Through interactions with horses, participants discovered new facets of themselves, developing self-awareness, resilience, and valuable life skills.

The ranch also embraces the power of horses to foster literacy skills.

“I have been certified with Horse Powered Reading out of the United States. That allows me to now have programs here to help our early learners in their reading programs using horses as their partner,” Robinson said.

Robinson completed the certification for this program after training with Dr. Michelle Pickel.

As young learners read aloud, the horses listen attentively, creating a supportive and non-judgmental environment that nurtures their love for books and language, Robinson added.

“It’s a beautiful way to just have another asset to the ranch to be able to have young kids learning while they’re having fun with horses, which we’re really, really proud of.”

Spirit’s Respite Ranch is a sanctuary that welcomes people of all ages and backgrounds. Seniors, in particular, are invited to visit the ranch free of charge, providing them with an opportunity to reconnect with the farm and ranch environment while watching kids ride horses.

The impact of the ranch extends even further by offering work experience opportunities for individuals with disabilities, as Robinson understands that they often faced limited work prospects. Participants with disabilities are able to gain valuable skills and confidence as they engage in various tasks, from horse care to ranch maintenance. Through their involvement, they became an integral part of the ranch community, according to Robinson.

“We’re very, very proud to be able to offer anybody who wants to come out a place where they can be with us, work alongside us, and feel part of our team.”

To ensure the sustainability of Spirit’s Respite Ranch, they are actively seeking sponsorships. Those interested in supporting and helping the ranch can visit their Facebook page, reach out via email at, or call them at 403-741-5687.